An important objective of the immigration law is to reunite and/or keep
families in tact. The primary use of family relationships in immigration is through petitions of U.S. Citizens or permanent
residents for certain alien family members to become permanent residents. As a separate matter, the spouses and minor (unmarried)
children of aliens obtaining permanent residence often are accorded derivative permanent residence.
Citizens may petition for their spouse, unmarried or married children, parent, or siblings. Permanent Residents, however,
may only petition for their spouse and unmarried child. Additionally, stepchildren and adopted children may qualify under
U.S. immigration law specifies and limits the number of family-sponsored permanent residence
visas that may be issued annually accordingly to the nature of the family relationship between the petitioner and alien beneficiary.
Immediate relatives of United States Citizens (spouses, parents, and unmarried children under the age of 21) are immediately
eligible to apply for a green card. However, other family members of citizens or Permanent Residents must often wait
several years for their slot in the visa line to be reached. In that regard, “priority dates” and “cutoff
dates” are published monthly in the United States Department of State’s Visa Bulletin (www.travel.state.gov).
Obtaining approval of a family-based petition is the initial step in the family based immigration process while
the final step is either adjustment of status in the United States or immigrant visa processing outside of the United States.
Certain alien spouses and children receive conditional permanent resident status for a period of two years rather
than unconditional lawful permanent resident status.