U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (“green card” holders) may sponsor the following relatives for immigration into the United States subject to a quota set by the terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) to no more than 226,000 individuals per fiscal year.* Four family-sponsored preferences exist: First, Second, Third, and Fourth and signify the following familial relationships and are limited to the following numbers:

1.) First: Unmarried Sons and Daughters (i.e., age 21 or older) of U.S.Citizens. 23,400 per year.

2.) Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Lawful Permanent Residents “LPRs.” 114,200 per year. Family-sponsored second preference is divided into A and B.

    A. Second preference A for Spouses and Children; and

    B. Second preference B for Unmarried Sons and Daughters (i.e., age 21 or older) of LPRs.

3.) Third: Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens. 23,400 per year.

4.) Fourth: Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens. 65,000 per year.

The INA also sets an annual maximum on the number of preference relatives who may immigrate from any one country. The current per-country limit is 25,620.There is particularly heavy demand from China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines. Due to the low quotas, a large waiting list exists resulting inconsiderable delay between the filing of a petition and the relative’s turn fora green card. For example, in the family-sponsored fourth preference, the waiting period approaches 10 years for countries of most favorable immigrant visa availability and even longer for the oversubscribed countries (Mexico& Philippines).

Recently, however, there has been a significant improvement in the waiting period in the family-sponsored second preference A for spouses and children of lawful permanent residents. This time last year, the waiting period was 4 years; It is now 5 months.

*Note that “Immediate Relatives” are not subject to numerical limitation and include spouses, unmarried children [i.e., under age 21], and parents of U.S. citizens.

Please contact Bill Flynn if you have questions about:

  • sponsoring relatives in one or more of these categories;
  • your pending or approved petition and subsequent eligibility to apply for adjustment to permanent resident status from within the U.S. or immigrant visa consular processing;
  • relative petitions that may have “upgraded” or “downgraded” into a different category;
  • the legal definitions of familial relationships under immigration law (e.g.,stepparent/stepchild, half siblings, derivative beneficiaries, legitimation requirements);
  • current wait times or possible recent or prospective improvement in wait times in other categories.