Question: I am a U.S. citizen over 21 years of age. My father is a foreign citizen and lives outside of the U.S. He and my mother are divorced, and my father is remarried. Can I apply for immigrant visas for my father and his wife?
Answer: You can apply for an immigrant visa for your father, but you cannot apply for a visa for his new wife. After your father immigrates to the U.S. and receives his green card, he can then apply for an immigrant visa for his wife.
Who is an “immediate relative”?
U.S. citizens who are over the age of 21 can apply for immigrant visas on behalf of their “immediate relatives.” The term “immediate relative” as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act includes the following relatives of a U.S. citizen:
- The spouse of a U.S. citizen
- The unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
- Parents of a U.S. citizen if the U.S. citizen is over the age of 21
Which family members are included in “preference categories”?
Family members who are not “immediate relatives” are grouped into what are known as “preference categories.” The preference categories for immigration are:
- Children of U.S. citizens who are married or over the age of 21
- Siblings of U.S. citizens
- Spouses of U.S. lawful permanent residents (i.e., green card holders)
- Unmarried children of lawful permanent residents
What are the advantages of applying for an “immediate relative”?
When applying to immigrate to the U.S., the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens have several advantages. First, there is no quota on the number of visas or green cards that can be issued to immediate relatives. Therefore, other than the normal amount of time required for the government to process applications, there is no visa backlog for immediate relatives’ immigration applications. Second, because there is no visa backlog for immediate relatives, immediate relatives in the U.S. can apply for adjustment of status by filing Forms I-130 and I-485 simultaneously. Third, immigration law is more lenient towards the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Therefore, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens can adjust status in the U.S. even if they have failed to maintain lawful status or worked in the U.S. without prior authorization.
What are the advantages of applying for a family member in a “preference category”?
A family member who belongs to a preference category has one primary advantage over the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen: the applicant’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can immigrate to the U.S. with him or her as “derivative beneficiaries.” Immediate relatives do not have this option.
The Bottom Line
In summary, if a U.S. citizen applies for an immigrant visa for his or her father, then the father’s spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 cannot immigrate at the same time as the father. Instead, the father would have to first immigrate to the U.S., apply for and receive a green card, and then submit visa applications for his spouse and child.
ImmiFree.Law is The Harrison Law Firm P.C.’s online platform to make the family immigration and naturalization process more efficient, accurate, and affordable. Baya Harrison, Esq. is an attorney licensed in New York, Florida, and California. Attorney Harrison has helped numerous individuals and families navigate the U.S. immigration process, specifically family-based petitions and naturalization.