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Most Family-Sponsored Immigrants Are Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

Nov 26, 2019

If you are a U.S. citizen, you may sponsor your spouse, your parents, and any unmarried children under 21 years old for a green card. These close family relationships make up the great majority (69%) of the family-sponsored green cards issued each year, and are unconstrained by annual caps.

All of the other family-sponsored green cards have to fit within a cap of 226,000 per year, including all of the following categories (where “adult” means 21 or older, and “minor” means under 21):

  • Relatives of U.S. citizens:
    • Unmarried adult children and their minor children (“F1”)
    • Married children and their spouses and minor children (“F3”)
    • Siblings and their spouses and minor children (“F4”)
  • Relatives of lawful permanent residents:
    • Spouses and unmarried minor children (“F2A”)
    • Unmarried adult children (“F2B”)

No other family relationships — cousins, aunts, uncles, or grandparents — can lead directly to a green card.

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About half the spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens are already in the United States when they become permanent residents, typically because they first arrived on a temporary student or work visa.

Other family-sponsored immigrants, however, are much more likely to be waiting abroad for their green cards.

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Learn more in our 2019 family-based immigration report.


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Spouses and Children of Green Card Holders Sometimes Wait Years to Live Together In U.S.

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Majority of Immigrants Obtain Green Card Through Family

Wait Times for Family-Sponsored Green Cards Have Nearly Doubled

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