Family-Based Green Card Process

Family-Based Green Card Process

Family-based green cards are a way for US permanent residents and citizens to bring their family members to the United States. This post will discuss the process for obtaining a family-based green card.


  1. Overview
  2. Form I-I30
  3. Form I-485 or Consular Processing
  4. Conclusion




Family-based green cards are a way for US permanent residents and US citizens to bring their family members to the United States. It aids in reuniting families who are seperated following the immigration of one family member.


Immediate relatives of US citizens (spouses, unmarried children under 21, internationally adopted children, and parents when the U.S. citizen child is over 21 years of age) are eligible for the Immediate Relative Immigrant Visa. There is no cap on how many of these visas can be issued every year.  This means that their case can be processed immediately upon approval of the relative petition.


Preference categories are for other family members who are not classified as immediate relatives. The first preference family-based green card is for unmarried children of US citizens who are over 21 years of age. The second preference category includes visas for spouses and minor children of permanent residents, as well as unmarried children of US permanent residents who are over 21 years of age. Most of these visas will go toward spouses and minor children. The third preference is for married children of US citizens and their spouses and children. The fourth preference is for brothers and sisters of US citizens. Please note that US permanent residents are only able to bring spouses, children, and unmarried children to the US. They cannot bring siblings, parents, or married children. Also, there are caps on preference category green cards. This means that there may be a waiting time between when your Form I-130 gets approved and when you can submit your Form I-485 or go through consular processing.


There are several requirements for both the petitioner and the beneficiary. The petitioner is the US permanent resident or US citizen. They must be able to prove their status as a lawful US citizen or permanent resident, have the ability to financially support the beneficiary, and prove a qualifying relationship with the beneficiary. In addition to demonstrating that they will not become a public charge (financially unable to support themselves) and that they have a relationship with the petitioner, the beneficiary must demonstrate that they do not have a communicable disease, a serious physical or mental disorder, have a substance abuse disorder, or have a history as a drug trafficker, undocumented immigrant, terrorist, or criminal.


The family-based green card is a good option for many people because it allows you to bring your family who may not qualify for other green cards to the United States, and allows for family reunification. It also only has a two-step process:

-   Form I-130

-   Form I-485 or consular processing


If you think you or a family member would be eligible for a family-based green card, you should contact an immigration lawyer. My team and I would be happy to help you determine if this is the right visa for you and help you through this process.


Form I-130 


The first step for a family-based green card is to file Form I-130. Form I-130 is titled “Petition for Alien Relative”. You will file this with USCIS, either by mail or online (or in some cases, at your local embassy or consulate). More information about where to file your Form I-130 can be found by clicking here.


USCIS will mostly use Form I-130 to determine a qualifying relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary. Form I-130 will ask for information about the beneficiary, the petitioner, and the attorney/interpreter if applicable. If you are filing a Form I-130 for your spouse, you will also need to include Form I-130A. This is the “Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary” form.


Generally, you should complete one Form I-130 per beneficiary. However, with certain preference categories, some family members can immigrate as derivative beneficiaries under the principal beneficiary.  For example, a spouse of a lawful permanent resident can include his or her minor children as derivative beneficiaries on the same petition.


The cost per I-130 application filed with USCIS is $535. You may also need to include other documents, such as a copy of your birth or naturalization certificate, a copy of your passport or permanent resident card, and evidence of your relationship with the beneficiary.  When filing for your spouse, you must show that you are in a good faith marriage, in other words you did not just get married to petition for a green card.


Wait times for action on your Form I-130 will vary depending on where you submit, what your relationship with the beneficiary is, and the time of year. My team and I would be happy to provide more information about your specific case if desired. Your case status can be tracked by clicking here,


It is recommended that you work with an immigration lawyer to file Form I-130. An immigration lawyer can help you fill out Form I-130 accurately and effectively to increase your chances of a fast approval. If you do not fill out Form I-130 correctly, USCIS may request additional evidence, which will slow down the process. They could also reject your application if you fail to show a qualifying relationship with the beneficiary. My team and I are experienced with family-based green cards and would be happy to help you.


More information about Form I-130 can be found by clicking here.


Form I-485 or Consular Processing


Every applicant will need to submit a visa petition using Form I-130. However, the next step in getting a family-based green card will vary depending on your circumstances. There are two options - adjustment of status and consular processing. Adjustment of status is for beneficiaries who live in the United States. Consular processing is for beneficiaries who live outside the United States. Please note that an approved Form I-130 does not give you a green card. It only allows you to continue with the green card application process (adjustment of status or consular processing). An approved Form I-130 does not mean your adjustment of status or consular processing will be approved. You only have a green card once the adjustment of status or consular processing is completed and approved.


Some beneficiaries who are already in the United States can file Form I-485 as a request for adjustment of status. Form I-485 is known as the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”.  To be eligible, the beneficiary must have entered the United States lawfully, meaning they were inspected and admitted by an immigration officer.  Also, in some circumstances, in particular the preference categories, they must maintain lawful nonimmigrant status.   For immediate relatives of United States citizens, the I-485 can be filed at the same time at the I-130, without waiting for the I-130 to be approved. 


Form I-485 will ask about the beneficiary, the visa being requested, information about your family, and information about the interpreter/attorney, if applicable. More information about Form I-485 can be found by clicking here. You will submit this document either online or at one of the USCIS offices. More information about filing can be found here. The filing fee will vary depending on one’s age, but it will be anywhere from $750 to $1140, as well as an $85 biometric fee. You may also need to submit additional information, including passport photos, birth certificates, and police records. It is recommended that you work with an immigration lawyer for the filing of Form I-485 as well. In addition to filing Form I-485, you will also need to go to a biometrics services appointment at your local Application Support Center to provide fingerprints and a signature. You may also need to complete an interview or submit additional information. The amount of time it takes for your Form I-485 to be approved will vary depending on the USCIS office, your application, and the time of year. Your case status can be found by clicking here.


If the beneficiary does not live in the United States, consular processing must be used. When you receive a notice of approval for your Form I-130, it will also list a priority date. The priority date is the earliest date an interview will be scheduled with your local embassy or consulate. You will be scheduled for an interview with a consular officer. They will ask you questions to determine your eligibility for the visa and make a determination on whether you should be granted a visa. It is recommended that you consult with an immigration lawyer for this as well. An immigration lawyer can help you prepare for the interview and provide you with information about any documents or information the consular officer will want from you.


Additionally, the process is different for people seeking Immediate Relative immigrant visas. There is no limit on how many green cards can be granted to the immediate relatives of US citizens. This means that immediate relatives living in the United States can file their Form I-485 concurrently with their Form I-130. This will help expedite their process. Please note that this will not change your chances of getting approved. Immediate relatives living abroad will still need to wait for their Form I-130 approval before an interview will be scheduled at their local consulate or embassy. Other family members will need to wait until they receive their approval and their priority date passes before they can file Form I-485 or begin consular processing. Priority dates for some family members can vary  depending on the preference category and the country from which the family member is immigrating.  Sometimes the wait can be many years, so it is important to take this into consideration when beginning a case. 




You should now have a better understanding of the family-based green card, and the process for obtaining one. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact me. I can be reached directly at I am an experienced immigration lawyer, very responsive via email, and I would be happy to help you.



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Michael Ashoori, Esq.

U.S. Immigration Lawyer

I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.

Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.

Got a question? Send me an email.