Family Immigration & Other Visas

U.S. permanent residents and U.S. citizens may petition for certain family members to obtain permanent resident status.

K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa

The K-1 fiancé(e) visa allows a foreign national to apply for his or her green card if certain conditions are met. A U.S. citizen may petition for his or her fiancé(e) to obtain a K-1 nonimmigrant visa to travel to the United States. After being admitted to the U.S. as a K-1 nonimmigrant, the foreign national has 90 days to marry his or her U.S. citizen fiancé(e). The foreign national can then apply for lawful permanent residence (a green card). USCIS strictly scrutinizes these applications to ensure the marriage is bonafide.

Green Card

A Permanent Resident Card, commonly referred to as a “Green Card,” allows an individual to live and work permanently in the United States. There are several ways a person can become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) and obtain what is referred to as a “green card.” The most common ways to obtain a green card are either through sponsorship by a family member or an employer, although there are other avenues available to individuals who qualify for humanitarian programs such as asylum.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the wait time to receive a green card?

The wait time depends on a variety of factors such as how a person is applying for his or her green card, how he or she entered the U.S., whether he or she is applying from outside or from within the U.S., and whether that person is subject to a preference category.

What is a preference category?

U.S. immigration law for permanent immigration to the U.S.  is based on a classification system call immigrant visa preference categories. These categories, divided by family relationship, employment skill level, and country of nationality, are subject to annual quotas set by the U.S. Congress. Family-sponsored preference categories are allotted 226,000 visas per year, while employment-based visas are allotted 140,000 per year.

What are the different preference categories that exist?

Employment-based preference categories are divided into:

  • 1st preference: The employment-based first preference category is for individuals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics; or are outstanding professors or researchers; or are multinational managers or executives.
  • 2nd preference: The employment-based second preference category is for individuals who are members of a profession requiring an advanced degree; or have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business; or are seeking a national interest waiver.
  • 3rd preference: The employment-based third preference category is for skilled workers (minimum of 2 years training or work experience required); or professionals (minimum of U.S. bachelor’s degree or foriegn degree equivalent and you are a member of the profession); or an unskilled worker (unskilled labor requiring less than 2 years training or experience).


Employment-based preference categories are divided into:

  • First preference (F1) – unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of U.S. citizens;
  • Second preference (F2A) – spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents;
  • Second preference (F2B) – unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of lawful permanent residents;
  • Third preference (F3) – married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and
  • Fourth preference (F4) – brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older).

What if I am the spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen?

Spouses, children (under 21 years of age), and parents of U.S. citizens are considered “immediate relatives” and are exempt from the preference classification system explained above. This means that there is no visa backlog and a green card is immediately available to be applied for if you are an immediate relative.

What is the difference between visa wait times or “backlogs” and processing times?

Visa wait times or “backlogs” refer to the number of years individuals who fall into the preference classification system have to wait before they are eligible to file for their green card. Processing times, however, refer to how long it takes for USCIS to process and make a decision on your case once it has been filed.

What is a Permanent Labor Certification (PERM)?

Some of the employment-based categories of visas require an additional step which consists of filing for a permanent labor certification with the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL). The certification must be issued before the employer may petition for that individual and before the individual can file for his or her green card. This certification allows a U.S. employer to hire a foreign worker to work permanently in the U.S. and its purpose is to ensure that there are not sufficient U.S. workers able, willing, and qualified to accept the job offer in the area of intended employment and that employing the foreign worker will not impact the wages and working conditions of similarly situated U.S. workers.

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