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Understanding Preference Categories

Family Immigration

Preference Categories Explained:

Except for immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens, relatives in the below referenced categories must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available in accordance to the following preferences:

1st Preference (F1):
  • Unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (21 years or older)
  • Quota 23,400 per yr plus any unused from F4
2nd Preference (F2):
  • Spouse (husband or wife) of legal permanent residents
  • Unmarried son and daughters (regardless of age) and their children of legal permanent residents
  • Quota 114,200 per yr plus any visas unused in F1
2nd Preference (F2A):
  • Spouses and unmarried minor children
  • 77% of the overall 2nd preference limitation
  • Of which, 75% is exempt from the pre-country limit
  • Granted conditional basis if marriage is 2 yrs old or less
  • If married to spouse before becoming an LPR, spouse may be eligible to receive following to join benefits. Which means the spouse will not have to submit a separate Form I-130, and spouse will not have to wait to immigrate to the U.S.
  • Adopted child, if the AC had lived with the adoptive parent (LPR) for 2 yrs he/she would be considered a child for immigration purposes, and will be allowed to get a green card at the same time the parents get a green card. Which means the child will not have to wait for a visa number to come available.
2nd Preference (F2B):
  • Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years or older)
  • 23% of overall 2nd preference limitation
  • As for married sons and daughters, there is no visa category for LPR. If an unmarried son or daughter get married before the LPR becomes a U.S. citizen, any petition filed for that son or daughter will be automatically revoked.
3rd Preference:
  • Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (of any age)
  • Their spouses, and
  • Their minor children (under the age of 21)
  • Quota, 23,400 per year plus any visas not used by F1 and F2 categories
4th Preference:
  • Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens
  • Their spouses, and
  • Their minor children
  • Quota, 65,000 per year

Benefits of Family Petition

Family Immigration

What Does Filing The Petition Do For Your Relative?

If your relative is an immediate relative, i.e. U.S Citizen’s spouse, unmarried children under 21 years of age and parents, special consideration is given to individuals in this category.

  • There is no waiting list for immediate relatives
  • Visas available are unlimited
  • They can apply for an immigrant visa as soon as the petition is approved
  • If the petition has been approved, and the relative is currently in the United States (after making a legal entry and meet other requirements) they may be able to file an application to adjust status to legal permanent resident status

For individuals in a “preference category”, the high demand for and supply of visa numbers, the per country visa limitations and the number of visas allocated for a particular preference category means your relative may have to wait several years in line before being allowed to immigrate to the United States.

Who Distributes Visa Numbers:

The U.S. Department of State is responsible for distributing visa numbers. Family sponsored categories are limited to a minimum of 226,000 per year. There are also limits to the percentage of visas that can be allotted to each country.

Because the demand for visas is generally higher than the supply of visas in any given year, a waiting list forms. In this instance visas are distributed based on the preference category and the priority date (date of filing). The priority date is used to determine an individual’s place in line. When the assigned priority date becomes current the individual will be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa