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Home » From Relatives to Residents: A Deep Dive into the Family Preference Immigration Path

From Relatives to Residents: A Deep Dive into the Family Preference Immigration Path

Family Preference

The family preference category in U.S. immigration refers to a specific set of family-based visas that are allocated to certain relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders). These visas are subject to numerical limits, and the preference system determines the order in which they are allocated. There are four family preference categories:

Preference Categories

  • F1 – First Preference (Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens): This category is for unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and it has the highest priority.
  • F2 – Second Preference (Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents): This category is divided into two subcategories:
    • F2A: Spouses and children (unmarried and under 21) of permanent residents.
    • F2B: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of permanent residents.
  • F3 – Third Preference (Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens): This category is for married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  • F4 – Fourth Preference (Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens): This category is for siblings of adult U.S. citizens.

The waiting time for visa availability varies based on the specific category, the relationship, and the country of origin of the beneficiary. The U.S. Department of State issues a Visa Bulletin each month, which indicates the availability of immigrant visas in each category.

How to apply for a family preference immigrant visa

Applying for a family preference immigrant visa involves several steps. Here is a general overview of the process:

  • Petition Filing:
    • A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (sponsor) must file a family-sponsored immigrant petition (Form I-130) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
    • The petition establishes the qualifying family relationship between the sponsor and the intending immigrant.
  • Approval of the Petition:
    • Once USCIS approves the immigrant petition, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing.
    • If the petition is approved and the visa category is oversubscribed, the intending immigrant may have to wait until a visa becomes available.
  • Wait for Visa Availability:
    • The availability of visas is determined by the Visa Bulletin published monthly by the U.S. Department of State.
    • Applicants should monitor the Visa Bulletin to know when a visa becomes available for their category and priority date.
  • NVC Processing:
    • The NVC will notify the petitioner and intending immigrant when the visa becomes available.
    • The NVC will provide instructions on submitting visa application forms, supporting documents, and fees.
  • Visa Application and Supporting Documents:
    • The intending immigrant must complete the required visa application forms, pay the necessary fees, and submit supporting documents to the NVC.
  • Medical Examination and Vaccinations:
    • The intending immigrant is required to undergo a medical examination by an authorized panel physician.
    • Necessary vaccinations must be administered as part of the medical examination.
  • Consular Interview:
    • After completing the required steps, the intending immigrant will attend a consular interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
    • During the interview, the consular officer will determine the applicant’s eligibility for the visa.
  • Visa Issuance:
    • If the consular officer approves the visa application, the immigrant visa will be issued to the intending immigrant.
  • Arrival in the U.S.:
    • Upon receiving the immigrant visa, the intending immigrant can travel to the United States and will be inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the port of entry.
    • After inspection, they will be admitted as a U.S. permanent resident.

Details about Bulletin

To check if a visa number is current, you can refer to the monthly Visa Bulletin published by the U.S. Department of State. The Visa Bulletin provides information on the availability of immigrant visas in different preference categories and for various countries. Here are the steps to check if a visa number is current:

  • Visit the Visa Bulletin Website:
    • Go to the official website of the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin
  • Select the Current Visa Bulletin:
    • The Visa Bulletin is updated monthly, so you will need to select the most recent bulletin.
    • Look for the “Current Visa Bulletin” link, and click on it to access the latest bulletin.
  • Check Family Preference Category:
    • Find the specific family preference category for which you are checking the visa availability (e.g., F1, F2A, F2B, F3, F4).
    • Each category will have information about the priority dates that are currently being processed.
  • Find the Country of Chargeability:
    • Identify the country of chargeability, which is usually the country of birth of the intending immigrant.
    • Check the corresponding chart for the relevant preference category and country.
  • Check Priority Date:
    • Look for the priority date on the chart. The priority date is the date when the immigrant petition (Form I-130) was filed with USCIS.
    • Compare the priority date with the date listed in the Visa Bulletin. If the priority date is earlier than or matches the listed date, the visa is considered current.
  • Understanding the Chart:
    • The Visa Bulletin chart may have different columns representing different categories and chargeability areas.
    • Check the “Dates for Filing” and “Application Final Action Dates” columns, as they may have different dates based on the stage of visa processing.
  • Note Any Changes:
    • Be aware that the Visa Bulletin can change from month to month based on visa availability and demand.