Family-Sponsored Immigrants

Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

This category includes spouses and unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens; parents of citizens when the citizen is at least twenty- one years of age; and certain widows and widowers of citizens. There is no numerical restriction on the number of immediate relatives permitted to immigrate each year to the United States. Under the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986, when a foreign national spouse of a citizen or permanent resident is admitted to permanent residence at any time prior to the second anniversary of the couple's marriage, the foreign national will be granted conditional residence subject to review and possible loss of residence after two years if the marriage is not still intact. Spouses and children of foreign nationals qualified as immediate relatives of citizens cannot immigrate as derivative immigrants.

Other Family-Sponsored Preference Categories

A limited number of visas are available each year in each of the family-sponsored preference categories. As a result, there may be no waiting period or a waiting period of up to ten or more years before a visa number becomes available, depending on the category and the country of citizenship of the beneficiary. Each month, the U.S. Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin showing the current priority date for each of the family- sponsored categories. The "priority date" is the date indicated on the beneficiary's visa petition approval notice, reflecting the date the petition was filed/accepted for processing.

The first family-sponsored preference category is set aside for unmarried sons and daughters of citizens who are twenty-one years of age or older. The second family-sponsored preference category is reserved for spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents. The third family-sponsored preference is married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, over or under the age of twenty- one.

The fourth family-sponsored category is brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens when the citizen is at least twenty-one. Waiting periods for a visa of ten years or more are typical in this category.

Spouses and children of a foreign national qualified for immigration in one of the four family-sponsored preferences can also immigrate in that preference as "derivative immigrants."

Employment-Based Immigrants

First Preference Category: Persons with Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Professors and Researchers, and Certain Multinational Executives and Managers

This category is allotted a total of 40,000 visas annually, plus any unused visas from the Special Immigrant and Employment Creation visa categories.


Persons with Extraordinary Ability. The person must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Eligibility is established through extensive documentation showing that the applicant is at the very top of his or her field. Additionally, the person must present evidence that he or she plans to work in the United States in his or her recognized field. However, no full-time, permanent job offer is required.


Outstanding Professors and Researchers. To qualify, a person must be internationally recognized as outstanding in his or her field. The applicant must document at least three years of experience teaching or performing research in the field, and must be offered a tenured or tenure-track teaching position or a permanent job offer as a researcher. To qualify as a researcher for a private employer, the employer must employ at least three researchers and have documented acclaim in the field.


Multinational Executives and Managers. The future employment must be in a managerial or executive position. To act in a managerial capacity, the employees supervised by the foreign national must be professionals. The petitioning employer or subsidiary must have employed the beneficiary for at least one year in the three years preceding the petition.


Second Preference Category: Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees or Foreign nationals of Exceptional Ability in Sciences, Arts, or Business

This category is allotted a total of 40,000 visas annually, plus any unused visas from the EB-1 category. Foreign nationals in this category must have employer sponsorship and generally must undertake the labor certification process, although this requirement may be waived for foreign nationals in business, science, or the arts on the ground of national interest.


Professionals with Advanced Degrees. This category encompasses members of the professions holding advanced degrees or their equivalent. An advanced degree is a degree which requires at least one academic year of graduate study following completion of four years of undergraduate study. The equivalent is defined as an undergraduate degree plus five years of progressive experience in the profession. The job offered must require an advanced degree.


Exceptional Ability in Sciences, Arts or Business. Exceptional ability is generally defined as "a degree of experience significantly above the ordinary." The applicant must show that he/she will substantially benefit the national economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States.


Third Preference Category: Skilled Workers, Professionals and Other Workers

This category consists of three subcategories: professionals with bachelor's degrees in their fields but not necessarily any experience; skilled workers, defined as foreign nationals capable of performing a job requiring at least two years of training or experience; and other workers, who are capable of filling positions requiring less than two years of training or experience. Labor certification is required.


Permanent Employment Certification

Under the PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) process, the Application for Permanent Employment Certification (Form ETA9089) is filed electronically on a dedicated DOL website on a multi-page application form, ETA 9089. PERM is an attestation-based and audit system where employers who wish to file permanent labor certification(s) on behalf of their foreign national employee(s), must conduct very specific advertising and recruitment prior to filing the labor certification with DOL. However, some cases will be selected for audit - either randomly or because of a suspicion of fraud or because the responses to certain questions on the form trigger a need for additional information or supervised recruitment. Once the case has been approved, the employer can move on to the next step in the process and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker with Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) on behalf of the foreign national employee. The approved application for permanent employment certification certifies that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are willing, able, qualified and available for the position and that the employment will not adversely affect the wages or working conditions of U.S. workers in similar positions.


Upon approval of the PERM application, an immigrant visa petition must be submitted to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is USCIS policy to require verification of the employer's ability to pay the wage offered to the foreign national in the labor certification application as of the original date of filing.


Visa Bulletin - click here to check priority dates for employment-sponsored categories

Investor Visas

If you are a Foreign National from any country and make a cash investment of between $500,000 - $1,000,000 in a "qualifying" United States business, and creates a minimum of ten (10) full time positions/jobs, the you and your immediate relative dependents may be able to obtain conditional Lawful Permanent Resident status if the business survives for two (2) years.

There are two investor programs in the EB-5 category, the Regular Program and the Regional Center Program. The most significant difference between the two are that while the regular program requires investment in an active business that creates 10 jobs, the Regional Program substitutes the less restrictive “indirect employment creation” criteria and may be better suited to those not interested in day-to-day business management.

Adjustment of Status to Lawful Permanent Residence

When a family or employment based petition has been approved and an immigrant visa is available, the foreign national may apply for adjustment of status in the United States or for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. If the foreign national is inside the United States and has an immigrant visa immediately available to him or her, the petition may be filed concurrently with the foreign national's adjustment of status application.


Visa Bulletin - click here to check priority dates for adjustment of status purposes