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How citizens can help their family with a family preference visa

There are numerous different visa programs managed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Those who live in other countries can enter the United States because of work, education or even their family connections.

Legal permanent residents, visa holders and citizens alike have different programs that let them bring family members into the country. Citizens, obviously, have the most options for helping someone else immigrate.

Family preference visas allow both citizens and lawful permanent residents to help family members enter the country. While there are strict restrictions on which family members Green Card holders can sponsor, citizens have more options. What family members can a citizen help enter the United States?

The USCIS has 4 categories of family preference visas

Those married to a United States citizen and children under the age of 21 who have not yet married have multiple options for family-related immigration. They do not require family preference visas because they qualify for another program that gives visas to immediate family members.

However, not all of the children of citizens may qualify for those visas. Instead, they may need to apply to live in the United States via a family preference visa. Children of citizens are often included in the First Preference category. Provided that they are still unmarried, children of citizens over the age of 21 are eligible for  First Preference visas.

The next two tiers of the family preference visa program involved spousal and child visas available to lawful permanent residents. The Third and Fourth Preference categories apply to United States citizens.

The Third Preference category applies to the children of United States citizens who have married, while the Fourth preference category allows United States citizens over the age of 21 to help their brothers and sisters enter the United States.

There are more applications submitted than visas awarded every year

There are established limitations to the different categories of family preference visas. Most years, the USCIS will receive far more applications than it has available visas.

The higher your preference category number, the lower the chance of success when applying the first time. You may need to apply for multiple years in a row to help your older children, married children or siblings legally gain entry into the United States. Still, with the right paperwork and attitude, are you may be able to help your loved ones pursue family-based immigration.