Family reunification is one of the key principles underlying U.S. immigration policy.
Family-sponsored immigration laws divide non-U.S. Citizens into two groups—immigrants and nonimmigrants.
Most nonimmigrant (temporary) immigration categories have provisions for the spouse and minor child(ren) of a primary nonimmigrant. This allows these family members to immigrate to the United States on a temporary basis so the family can stay together.
Each nonimmigrant dependent category specifies specific restrictions as to whether dependent family member can work or study in the United States. Many dependent nonimmigrants are allowed to attend school. Dependent family members can temporarily live and sometimes work or study in the United States as long as the principal nonimmigrant maintains valid nonimmigrant status.
Some of the common nonimmigrant dependent visa categories include: H-4 [spouse and child(ren) of a professional holding H-1B nonimmigrant status]; L-2 [spouse and child(ren) of an intracompany transfer employee holding L-1 nonimmigrant status]; and F-2 [spouse and child(ren) of a student in F-1 status]
With regard to immigrant family members, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), specifies five (5) family-based admission categories, as well as a per-country limit on total family-based admissions.
Note that unlimited number of Immediate Relatives can acquire Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR or commonly called “Green Card”) status each year if they meet the standard eligibility criteria.
The term Immediate Relative includes:
- The spouses of U.S. Citizens;
- The children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of U.S. Citizens;
- The parents of U.S. Citizens at least 21 years old; and
- Widows or widowers of U.S. Citizens if the U.S. citizen filed a petition before his or her death or if the widow(er) files a petition within 2 years of the Citizen’s death.
Family-Sponsored Preference Categories
First: (F1): Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens
Second: (F2) Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent
- F2A: Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents
- F2B: Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents
Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens
Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens