What is the Advantage of Petitioning for Immediate Relatives Over Preference Categories?

Erick Widman

Navigating the intricacies of U.S. immigration can sometimes feel like wading through a maze of rules, deadlines, and waiting periods. One essential element to grasp for those hoping to reunite with their family members is the distinction between petitioning for an immediate relative and applying for a non-immediate relative under the Visa Bulletin preference categories.

Immediate Relatives vs. Preference Categories: A Breakdown

In the realm of family-based U.S. immigration, the legal system classifies eligible family members into two predominant categories: immediate relatives and preference categories.

Immediate Relatives: These are the spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens. One of the significant perks of being classified under this category is that there’s no cap on the number of immigrant visas issued to immediate relatives each year.

Preference Categories: This category encompasses adult children (both married and unmarried) and siblings of U.S. citizens, as well as spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents. The catch here is the annual cap on the number of visas issued, resulting in often lengthy waiting periods.

Why Prioritize Petitioning for Immediate Relatives?

The primary advantage of petitioning for an immediate relative over applying within the preference categories is time. Those falling within the preference categories can find themselves in long queues, sometimes spanning several years or even decades. This delay arises from the limited annual visa allocations and a stipulation that no single country can account for more than seven percent of the total number of family-sponsored and employment-based visas in a year.

Immediate relatives, however, enjoy an exemption from these constraints. Not being tied to numerical limitations means that they can avoid the visa bulletin’s prolonged waiting times. Once their petition receives approval, they are in the clear to apply for an immigrant visa or adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident, given they meet all other criteria.

Although each immigration case carries its unique nuances and challenges, it’s evident that petitioning for an immediate relative can often present a more streamlined and expedited route to securing an immigrant visa or green card. This approach can save applicants from the extended waits and additional prerequisites tied to the preference categories.

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