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Family Based Immigrant Visas

What are family-based petitions?

They allow green card holders and U.S. citizens to sponsor family members to become permanent residents of the U.S.

What is a "sponsor"? What is a "beneficiary"?

The sponsor is the family member who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who files the petition on the behalf of another person, known as the beneficiary.

Understanding differences between two groups of petitioners

U.S. citizens can file for:

  • fiancée
  • brother or sister
  • children (unmarried, any age)
  • parents
  • spouse

U.S. permanent residents can sponsor:

  • spouse
  • unmarried child of any age
How long do family-based immigration petitions typically take?

The processing time depends on a number of variables, including: the group you belong to, and the category you're filing under.

U.S. citizens generally get faster responses. For instance, for a citizen sponsoring a spouse, approval may only take six months or a year. For a permanent resident filing for a spouse, however, approval could take up to five years or longer.

What is Adjustment of Status (AOS)?

Adjustment of status (AOS) is a process that enables eligible foreign nationals to become U.S. residents without having to apply for an immigrant visa. AOS is closely related to consular processing.

What is the difference between consular processing and AOS?

The main difference is where the processing occurs. AOS involves applying for status while inside the United States. Consular processing involves applying for status at a U.S. consular office abroad.

Who might be eligible for adjustment of status?

If you currently reside in the United States, you might be able to apply for AOS, provided that you are a member of one of these categories:

  • You have an employment-based or family-based immigrant visa approved or currently filed.
  • You have a K1 fiancée visa, and you've married a U.S. citizen within 90 days of coming to the United States.
  • You have refugee or asylum status to reside in the United States.
  • You have resided in the United States since prior to January 1, 1972.
  • You won a green card lottery sponsored by the Department of State.
  • Other factors may make you eligible as well.
Where can you find help with questions and concerns about AOS and family-based petitions?

The legal team here at Howard Law (based in Northridge, California) can provide clear, coherent guidance for your immigration law related concerns. Call us at 1 (800) 872-5925 for a free, zero obligation consultation, or explore our resources and immigration law credentials at