Family immigration is the main way people can legally immigrate to the United States. Current immigration law dictates that U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are allowed to sponsor a family member for a visa that gives them permanent residency. This is known as a green card. Technically, immigration has always been based in family ever since the 17th century. However, it was the official enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1965 that formally outlined family ties as the primary method in which people immigrate to America. Today, family visas make up about 65 percent of legal immigration annually.

Chain Migration

Perhaps you’ve heard this term before. That’s because critics of family-based immigration use this word to describe how immigrants — who eventually become green-card holders and citizens — sponsor their relatives in a “chain” of migration. They raise concerns about “chain migration” as criticisms of the current legal immigration system and the ability of family members to sponsor their families for visas.

Family Visa Eligibility

Two main groups of people are eligible for family visas:

• Immediate relatives: This includes spouses of U.S. citizens, unmarried children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens, orphans who were adopted abroad, orphans to be adopted here by U.S. citizens, and parents of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old.
• Family preference categories: This includes unmarried children of U.S. citizens, along with their spouses and their children; spouses, minor children and unmarried children over the age of 21 of lawful permanent residents; married children of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minors, and siblings of U.S. citizens (over 21), their spouses and minors.


How many relatives does an immigrant usually sponsor? On average, 3.5 relatives (spouses and children).

How many visas are available for extended family members of sponsors? A maximum of 480,000 each fiscal year.

What are the requirements for family visas? You’ll need to meet these requirements:

• Have a sponsor in the U.S. who is over the age of 18 or 21, depending on your state’s requirements
• Fill out and submit an application
• Undergo screenings and background checks
• Be interviewed
• Pay a fee
• Undergo a medical examination

How long does it take to obtain visas for family members? Most immediate relatives receive their green cards right away after they have met all requirements, but the wait times are much longer for other family members. This can stretch years or even decades.

What are the benefits of family-based immigration? Immigrants require ethnic communities and families who can provide them with the support they need to integrate and thrive, gain employment or even start their own businesses. Having sponsors here who are family members can assist them in better understanding American culture, standards and institutions.

Immigrant family members and communities can add to the growth and development of human capital and support when they form businesses by providing capital or loans. The number of new U.S. businesses kick-started by immigrants has more than doubled in the past 15 years.

Also, adult children, siblings and parents play an important role in the care of children and family members as they get older, allowing other family members to work longer and contribute more to the local economy.

How many immigrants arrive here through family visas? Most new green card-holders.

Contact D&N Law Group

D&N Law Group is well versed in family-based immigration law and practices. Please contact us today at 972-252-0886 or fill out our online form. We are available 24/7 for your convenience.