How to Get Green Card – Family Based Green Card

There are two primary ways regarding how to get green card.  This post will cover how to get green card through family.  This is the easy way.  If you have members of your family who are US permanent resident or US citizens then this is likely your easiest route regarding how to get green card.  While getting a green card through a family member may be the easiest method, it may not be the fastest.  US immigration laws split up the family based green card categories into five preference categories.  The higher the preference, the faster it will be regarding how to get green card.  The highest preference is called immediate relative.  Immediate relatives are spouses, parents (if the US relative is 21 or older), and unmarried children under 21.  It is important to note that dependents of immediate relatives cannot file derivative applications!  This means that separate applications must be filed for other family members and they may fall into a lower preference category.  If you fall into this high preference category then the time it takes to get your green card is just the time it takes for USCIS to process your application.  USCIS processing times are in constant flux but generally run from 3 – 12 months which includes the time it takes to conduct an interview.  If you are outside of the US during this process, it will likely be longer than that though.

How to Get Green Card – F1

The second highest preference category is called Family First Preference or “F1.”  The F1 category includes unmarried children of US citizens and their children as well.  The immediate relative category also covers unmarried sons and daughters but only those that are under 21 so this category is for those that “age out.”  The Child Status Protection Act provides some methods to avoid this aging out problem but its impact is limited.  If you fall into this preference category then the time it takes regarding how to get green card is the time it takes for USCIS to process your application plus the time it takes for an immigrant visa to become available.  Immigration visa availability is governed by the visa bulletin.  It is a bit tricky to read but vital to understanding how to get green card.

The November 2016 Visa Bulletin looks like this

Family-
Sponsored 
All Chargeability
Areas Except
Those Listed
CHINA-
mainland
born
INDIAMEXICOPHILIPPINES 
F101JAN1101JAN1101JAN1101JUN9501MAY06
F2A22NOV1522NOV1522NOV1522NOV1522NOV15
F2B08FEB1108FEB1108FEB1101JUN9601FEB07
F322AUG0522AUG0522AUG0501MAY9501JAN95
F401JUL0401JUL0401MAY0401DEC9701APR94

When an application is filed with USCIS, a “priority date” is established.  So let’s say your relative filed an application to sponsor you on November 1, 2016.  This sets your priority date as 11/01/16.  Unless you were born in China, India, Mexico, or the Philippines then we see that visas are currently available in the F1 category for those who filed on January 1, 2011.  This date gives us an estimate how the time it will take for you regarding how to get green card.  November 1, 2016 minus January 1, 2011 is roughly 5 years and 10 months.  So we take the current USCIS processing times which is about 3 – 12 months and add 5 years and 10 months which is about 6 1/2 years.  Pretty slow isn’t it?  But it gets worse!  You generally cannot wait in the US for your case to be processed.  Most likely you will have to wait outside of the United States or obtain some type of nonimmigrant work visa or family visa to be in the country.

How to Get Green Card – F2

The next preference category for how to get green card is F2.  F2 is split into sub categories such as F2A which includes spouses and children of US permanent residents (green card holders) and F2B which includes unmarried sons and daughters (21+) of permanent residents.  Looking at the visa bulletin above it looks like it will be about 15 – 24 months for F2A and roughly 6 1/2 years for F2B.  If you fall into this preference category or lower there are likely better options for you regarding how to get green card so we recommend you contact us to see if there is something better for you.

How to Get Green Card – F3

The next preference category for how to get green card is F3.  F3 includes married sons and daughters of US citizens.  Looking at the visa bulletin above it looks like it will be about 12 years for F3.  Again, if you fall into this preference category or lower there are likely better options for you regarding how to get green card so we recommend you contact us to see if there is something better for you.

How to Get Green Card – F4

The final and lowest preference category for how to get green card is F4.  F4 includes brothers and sisters of US citizens.  Looking at the visa bulletin above it looks like it will be about 13 years for F4.  If you fall into this preference category there are likely better options for you regarding how to get green card so we recommend you contact us to see if there is something better for you.

At this point you may be thinking that you have an aunt or uncle that is a US citizen so how does that work for you.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t.  US laws have established these as the only family relationships that allow immigrant visa sponsorship.  Relationships such as cousins, aunts, or other relationships are just too distant.