Obtaining a Green Card Based on a Familial Relationship to a

U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S.

Stage 1 – I-130 Filing



Lawful permanent residents (either through marriage or through employment) and U.S. citizens may choose to petition for certain family members to also become lawful permanent residents of the U.S.  The amount of time it would take for the sponsored family member(s) to actually obtain their lawful permanent resident status is dependent upon the familial relationship between the petitioner (either a lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen) and the sponsored family member(s). Different familial relationships fall under different family-based preference categories, which may be subject to priority date backlogs.   Certain family members, classifiable as Immediate Relatives, are not subject to the family-preference categories and are not subject to any priority date backlogs. 

Applicable Familial Relationships

A U.S. Citizen petitioner may petition for the following relatives:

A Lawful Permanent Resident may only petition for the following relatives:

  • Husband or Wife
  • Unmarried Child under age 21
  • Unmarried son or daughter age 21 or older

Neither type of petitioner may petition for grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, or in-laws. 

Applying to Petition a Family Member

For a U.S. Citizen (USC) or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) to petition for a family member, they must first submit a comprehensive package to USCIS emphasizing the legitimacy of the familial relationship.  The main form is: I-130 – Petition for Alien Relative.  This is the first stage of the green card process. The second stage, either Adjustment of Status or Immigrant Visa Processing, is dependent on various factors. 

What form and supporting documents are necessary to apply for Relative Status?

Form I-130 – Petition for Alien Relative

The I-130 is the form that the U.S. Citizen/LPR (Petitioner) must file for their foreign national family member (Beneficiary).  Depending on the Petitioner's location, the form is either filed with USCIS in the U.S. or at an overseas location.  If the Petitioner is a resident of the U.S. or is temporarily abroad, the form must be filed with the appropriate USCIS Service Center in the U.S.  However, if the Petitioner s overseas, they may be able to file the form with either a USCIS International Office or a U.S. Consulate, as appropriate. 

The purpose of the form is to establish the legitimacy of the familial relationship.  It is therefore imperative to submit evidence of the bona fides of the relationship such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, proof of termination of previous marriages, etc. It is also necessary to include documentary evidence of the Petitioner’s status as a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident. 

Expectations After Filing

Receipt Notices

After all of the paperwork is filed, the Petitioner will receive a Receipt Notice within 2-3 weeks of filing.  The Receipt Notice will assign the foreign national an Alien # (if they do not have one already), as well as a Priority Date and which family-based preference category they are subject to.  The Receipt Notice is also important for following up with USCIS in the future on this matter and checking the case status online. 

Request for Evidence

If USCIS determines that the information/documentation submitted is inadequate to satisfy the petition requirements and further information is needed, they will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE).  The Request for Evidence will specifically state the documents/information they are seeking and a timeline under which they need to be submitted (all requested information should be submitted at the same time).  Failing to respond to the RFE may result in the denial of the petition. 


Depending on processing times, (assuming no RFE was issued), if the statutory requirements were met and the familial relationship established, USCIS should issue a favorable decision within 4 to 6 months. 

Adjustment of Status or Immigrant Visa Processing

Once the I-130 is approved, the Petitioner and Beneficiary should monitor the Visa Bulletin released monthly by the U.S. Department of State.  When the assigned Priority Date becomes current, the Beneficiary may proceed to the second stage of the green card process.  Please note that for certain categories, this wait could be for several years. 

If the Beneficiary is residing in the U.S., and meets certain statutory requirements, they may be able to apply for Adjustment of Status

If the Beneficiary resides abroad, and meet certain statutory requirements, they may be able to pursue Immigrant Visa Processing (IVP)


Rev. March 2017