If you are a U.S. citizen who wants to help your relatives immigrate into the U.S. and receive a green card, you must first sponsor them by petitioning for their immigrant visa.
Immediate Relative (IR) immigrant visas are available for certain close relatives of a U.S. citizen, including their spouse, unmarried children under 21, and parents. This means that these close relatives do not need to wait for a visa number to become available; their visa number becomes available immediately. There are 5 categories of IR immigrant visas that a U.S. citizen can use to help bring their loved ones into the U.S. They include:
- IR-1: U.S. citizen’s spouse;
- IR-2: U.S. citizen’s unmarried child under 21;
- IR-3: U.S. citizen’s child adopted abroad;
- IR-4: U.S. citizen’s child adopted in the US; and
- IR-5: U.S. citizen’s parent over 21.
To help immigrate more distant relatives that do not classify as immediate relatives, a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident can still sponsor them under a “family preference category,” but there will be a delay in getting a visa number. Family preference categories apply to a U.S. citizen’s unmarried children over 21, married children, and siblings (F1, F3, and F4 visas) OR a U.S. permanent resident’s spouse and unmarried child (F2A and F2B visas). Visa numbers are doled out annually in the following preferential order:
- F1: U.S. citizen’s unmarried child over 21;
- F2A: U.S. permanent resident’s spouse and unmarried child under 21;
- F2B: U.S. permanent resident’s unmarried child over 21;
- F3: U.S. citizen’s married child any age; and
- F4: U.S. citizen’s (themselves over 21) sibling.
Keep in mind, the lower a relative is on the family preference categories, the longer it takes to get an immigrant visa.