Family Based Green Cards
The purpose of a Family-based green card is to bring certain relatives to live and work permanently in the U.S. If you are a U.S. citizen, you can petition for your spouse, child, stepchild, daughter/son (married/unmarried), parents and brother/sister. If you are a permanent resident, your petition is limited to your spouse, child, stepchild and unmarried son/daughter living abroad.
Greencards Based on Marriage
Engagement/Fiance visas (available to U.S. citizens only)
If you are engaged, you may have the option to bring your fiance to the U.S. on a fiance visa so that you can get married in the U.S. Once you get married, your spouse may be eligible to apply for her/his green card while in the U.S.
Marriage Abroad and Spouse is outside the U.S.
If you married abroad and your spouse is outside the U.S., you may file an immigrant petition for your spouse and stepchild, if any, by showing, among other things, that you have a bone fide marriage relationship and that the intending immigrant(s) will not be a public charge to the U.S. government. Once the petition is approved, your spouse and child, if any, will have an interview at the U.S. Consulate abroad which will ultimately issue an immigrant visa. Once your spouse is admitted in the U.S. her green card will be mailed to her/him afterwards.
Married and Spouse in the U.S.
This situation is very common as many individuals meet and marry their spouse while in the U.S. Your spouse and children, if any, may be able to apply for a greencard while in the U.S. depending on their legal status in the country and how they entered the U.S.
Note that if you are a permanent resident you can also petition for your spouse; however, there is a limited number of visas available each year and you may have to wait years before your spouse can immigrate and get permission to work while in the U.S.
Greencards for Other Family Members
Your Parents (available to U.S. citizens only)
If you are a U.S. citizen, you may bring your parents to live in the U.S. permanently. The law considers your parents to be immediate relatives; therefore, a visa number will always be available for them and visa quotas are not applicable.
Unmarried Child Under the Age of 21
Unmarried children under 21 years of age are also considered immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and a visa number is always available for them to immigrate. However, if you are a permanent resident, then there is a quota and usually a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available so that your family member can immigrate.
Son/Daughter Over the Age of 21 & Married Children
These family preferences are subject to quotas and are subject to a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available before they can immigrate. However, if you are a permanent resident, you will only be able petition for your son/daughter over the age of 21. Permanent residents are not able to petition for their married children of any age.
Brother/Sister of Any Age (available to U.S. citizens only)
This family preference is only available to U.S. citizens and is subject to visa availability and priority dates.
Greencards Based on Adoption
There are two separate processes which apply only to children adopted by U.S. citizens. The child may immigrate immediately after the adoption or may immigrate to the U.S. to be adopted here.
The Hague Process: if the child habitually resides in a country that is a party to the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention. The process is complex because it is governed by federal and state laws if the adoptive parents live in the U.S. and the laws of the country where the child resides. Additionally, if the child’s home country is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, the Hague processes of both countries must be followed.
The Orphan Process: if the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention does not apply because the country where the child resides is not a party to the convention.
A third process is available to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who may petition for his or her adoptive child through an Immediate Relative Petition.