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Eligibility For A Green Card As A “PREFERENCE RELATIVE”


            American immigration law is complex, detail oriented and often overwhelmingly confusing.  There are many traps that a petitioner or a beneficiary could get caught by.  Making a mistake can be very costly to try to fix.  Seeking the advice of a qualified and competent professional before taking any action is the best decision you can make. 

            One way for immigrants to seek permanent legal residence status in the United States is to have a relative in the United States file a petition on their behalf. 

            You may qualify for a Green Card through your relative if you fall into one of the following categories: 

            Family First Preference:       These immigrants are defined as the unmarried children, regardless of age, of a citizen of the United States. 

            Family Second Preference/2A:         These immigrants are defined as the spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years old) of green card holders. 

            Family Second Preference/2B:         These immigrants are defined as the unmarried children of green card holders who are at least 21 years old. 

            Family Third Preference:     These immigrants are defined as the married children of a United States citizen regardless of age. 

            Family Fourth Preference:   These immigrants are defined as the sisters and brothers of a United States citizen.  Note that the United States citizen must be at least 21 years old. 

            The fundamental difference between obtaining a Green Card as a “Preference Relative” vice an “Immediate Relative” is the length of time it takes for the petition to be approved.  Petitions for “Immediate Relatives” are much faster.  A “Preference Relative”, depending upon demand and the country of origin, may have to wait in line for a Green Card for many, many years. 

            In fact, the wait for a Green Card as a “Preference Relative” can be so long that the intending immigrant’s life circumstances can change, and thus change his preference category.  For example, if the child of a United States citizen gets married while he is waiting for a Green Card, he would drop from first preference to third preference, (but would still keep the same priority date).  Using the same example, but instead being the relative of a United States citizen relative, the intending immigrant’s relative is a Green Card holder.  In that circumstance, the intending immigrant would lose eligibility for a Green Card. 

            If the intending immigrant is eligible for a Green Card as a “Preference Relative”, and is married or has unmarried children under 21 years of age, his spouse and children are also eligible for Green Cards as “Accompanying Relatives” by proving their familial relationship.  This is another fundamental difference from being an “Immediate Relative”.  Only “Preference Relatives” can bring “Accompanying Relatives”.  Of course, this can present problems when familial relationships are created by marriage and not by blood. 

            As you can see, the issues are cloudy and become murkier and murkier.  In all cases, it is best to seek the advice of a qualified professional.  If you have questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to contact us (via this website or our telephone number) to schedule an appointment.