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Preference Categories

The United States grants families the chance to stay together by allowing family-based immigration. Through family-based immigration family members in a foreign country can apply for a green card based on their relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

The visa a foreign citizen applies for will depend on the preference category they fall into. If you are planning to apply for a family preference visa, you should consult with an immigration attorney. An immigration attorney can help you decide which preference category you fall under and if a family preference visa is right for you.

Houston, TX Immigration Attorney

The Gonzalez Law Group understands how important it is you stay with your family. That is why we want to help you acquire a family preference visa. The immigration process in the United States is not simple. It will require mounds of paperwork, interviews and medical examinations.

We will ensure all the necessary steps are taken so the process can go as smooth as possible. The Gonzalez Law Group has over 70 years of collective experience assisting clients with immigration issues in communities across Harris County including Houston, Channel View, Pearland, Webster and many others

To schedule a time to speak with the immigration department at The Gonzalez Law Group call (832) 530-4070 or submit your information in the online contact form.


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What is a Preference Category?

Family preference immigrant visas are reserved for specific relatives of United States citizens or unlawful permanent residence. There are four preference categories under this visa. The category you fall under is determined by the relationship you have with the U.S citizen sponsoring your visa.

The categories for a family preference visa includes the following:

Family first preference (F1): This visa is reserved for unmarried sons and daughters of United States citizen who are over 21. It also includes the children of the unmarried sons or daughters, if any. The United States government only issues 23,400 visas a year under this category.

The reason unmarried sons and daughters over 21 are eligible for an immediate relative visa is their age. To qualify for an immediate relative visa, the unmarried son or daughter must be younger than 21.

Family second preference (F2): The F2 preference category is divided into two subcategories that include:

  • F2A: This is reserved for spouses and unmarried minor children of a lawful permanent residence. Nearly 77% of the 114,200 F2 visas issued each year are reserved for these relatives.
  • F2B: This family-based visa is for unmarried sons and daughter over 21 of a lawful permanent residence. There is no visa category for married children of permanent residents. Because of this, unmarried children should not marry if they plan to migrate to the U.S. until the permanent resident becomes a U.S citizen.

Family Third Preference (F3): The unmarried children of U.S. citizens along with their minor children can petition for an F3 visa. The United States government allows 23,400 F3 visas to be issued each fiscal year.

Family Fourth Preference (F4): Sibling of U.S. citizens, along with their spouses and children, are eligible for an F4 visa. The U.S. government issues 65,000 F4 visas each fiscal year. Unfortunately, permanent residence cannot petition for their siblings until they have become U.S. citizens.

The United States does not allow you to sponsor relatives such as nieces, nephews, in-laws or grandparents for a family-based visa. They are not barred from acquiring a United States visa, but they will have to do so on their own and not through family-based immigration.


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Immediate Relative Visa vs. Family Preference Visa

To promote family unity, immigration laws in the United States allow citizens and green card holder the opportunity to petition for foreign relatives to migrate to the states. This can be done through an immediate relative petition or family preference petition.

While both visas are based on the relationship between family members, there are a few factors that set them apart from one another. As the name implies, an immediate relative visa is reserved for immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen. This can include a spouse, unmarried children under 21 and parents.

Immediate relatives of United States citizens take top priority in the immigration process. This means the United States government issues an unlimited number of green cards for foreign citizens seeking an IR visa.

While immediate relative visas are only reserved for family members of U.S citizens, family preference visas are available for both citizens and green card holders. Like an IR visa, a family preference visa is reserved for certain relatives, most of whom need to be over 21. As mentioned in the previous section, the United States government limits the number of family preference visas issued each year.

If the number of qualified applicants exceeds the available number of family preference visas, you may be required to wait. In this situation, the visas will be issued in the order the petitions were filed. Depending on the number of applicants, you may have to wait several years for a family preference visa.


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Additional Resources for Preference Category

Family-based Immigration Visas | U.S. Department of State– To learn more about preference category visas, visit the official website of the U.S. Department of State. You can gain access to information regarding immigration interviews, how long the process takes and vaccination requirements.

Allocation of Immigrant Visas | Immigration and Nationality Act– Read the full text of the section of the INA that governs how many family preference visas are issued each year. You can also learn about immigrants with extraordinary abilities, and visas for skilled workers. This section of the act can be read on the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services website.


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Harris County Immigration Lawyer

If you or someone you know is seeking a family-based visa, contact The Gonzalez Law Group. Our immigration department is experienced in dealing with the United States immigration process.

The Gonzalez Law Group wants to help you achieve your immigration goals. Call (832) 530-4070 or submit your information in the online contact form to schedule a free consultation. We assist clients with immigration issues in all communities across Harris County.


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