Last updated on October 29th, 2018
A family-based green card is a green card obtained through a close relative that already has lawful status in the United States. If you have a close family member in the United States who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, they may be able to help you get a green card.
Can My Relative Help Me Get a Green Card?
If your relative is a United States citizen, he or she can help you get a green card if you are his or her:
- Child (married or unmarried)
If, on the other hand, your relative is a permanent resident, he or she can only help you obtain a green card if you are his or her spouse or unmarried child.
How Do I Begin the Process?
To begin the process of obtaining your green card, your relative must file a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative to prove that you have a qualifying relationship. Once the petition is approved, you will receive your place in the waiting line based on the date that the application was filed, or Priority Date.
Note that immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens–spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents–are immediately eligible for a green card and will not have to wait in line.
If the Family Member Currently Lives Outside the United States
Once your priority date is current you will have the opportunity to request an immigrant visa through the U.S. consulate or embassy closest to you. You may receive notification from the National Visa Center (NVC) when your priority date is current, or you may need to contact your local consulate to take action on your approved petition.
It may also be necessary for the U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member to file Form I-824, Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition to jumpstart the consular process.
Either way, the family member outside the U.S. must work with the local consulate to file appropriate paperwork and forms, schedule an interview, and ultimately arrange to travel to the U.S. Upon the family member’s arrival in the United States, the green card will be mailed to the address you provided.
If the Family Member Currently Lives Inside the United States
Once your priority date is current, you may file your green card application, Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence. You will be required to attend an interview, pass the necessary background checks, and have a medical examination before coming to the United States.
Waivers are available in limited circumstances for immigrants who are unlawfully present within the U.S.
Because adjustment of status and the issuance of a green card to a an immigrant living in the United States can be a complicated process, it may be a good idea to discuss with an attorney prior to filing your application.
How Long Does the Process Take?
Processing times vary depending on the basis for a green card application, the number of available green cards in a given year for your preference category, and other factors outside of your control.
As a rule of thumb, expect delays and a processing time of at least 6 months (or more) per application. You may check with USCIS, the NVC, and your local consulate for up-to-date information on processing times for your applications.