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What types of family immigration visas are available?

Immigration Services

Residents of Kentucky who have loved ones who live abroad may wish to have their loved ones become lawful residents of the United States. When it comes to family-based immigrant visas, there are two categories of visas: immediate relative immigrant visas and family preference immigrant visas. Which visa is available is dependent on the relationship between the immigrant and the U.S. citizen sponsoring him or her.

An immediate relative immigrant visa is available to the husband or wife of a U.S. citizen, unmarried children under age 21 of a U.S. citizen, orphans adopted by a U.S. citizen, both in and out of the country, and the parent of a U.S. citizen, who is age 21 or above. There is no limit to the number of immediate relative immigrant visas issued each fiscal year.

Family preference immigrant visas are available to more distant relatives of U.S. citizens, but they are limited to a certain number each fiscal year and there are categories of preference. The first is the family first preference (F1). This includes unmarried children of a U.S. citizen and their minor children.

Second is family second preference (F2). This includes husbands and wives, minor children and unmarried adult children age 21 or older of lawful permanent residents. Of these visas, at least 77 percent of them will be issued to husbands, wives and minor children. The rest will be issued to unmarried adult children.

Third is family third preference (F3). This includes married adult children of U.S. citizens, and the married adult child's husband or wife and minor children. Fourth is family fourth preference (F4). This includes siblings of U.S. citizens who are age 21 or above, and the sibling's husband or wife and minor children.

Note that not every U.S. citizen can sponsor an immigrant. For example, in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles are not included in the above categories as those who can sponsor an immigrant. Moreover, the family immigration process can be very complex and one wrong move could impede a family member's goal of obtaining lawful residency in the U.S. Those who wish to sponsor a loved one for immigration may want to work with an attorney to ensure all proper steps are taken.

Source:, "Family-Based Immigrant Visas," Accessed Aug. 13, 2017

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