More On Immediate and Relative Visas

Immediate relative visas are available to certain family members of U.S. citizens. Immediate relatives may be spouses, parents, minor children, adult children, including married children as well as siblings. Permanent residents may apply for their minor or adult unmarried and their children and spouses. Children of spouses who are under 18 at the time of the marriage or stepchildren are also available under this category.

Green card holders can also sponsor certain immediate relatives for a family preference petitions, but there will be a wait involved in obtaining a family preference visa. Minor and adult children and spouses of permanent residents are eligible. Family members are placed in priority categories. The time of finalizing the case varies depending on which immediate preference category the relative is in. Some categories, such as the sibling category, also allows minor children and spouses to apply.

Who Qualifies As An Immediate Relative?

Additional Immediate family members may be eligible for relative visas but are on the priority wait-list and include: Brothers, sisters, stepchildren, are all immediate relatives.

At Oltarsh & Associates, P.C., we are happy to discuss immediate relative visas and how they may apply in your situation. A responsive and experienced immigration lawyer, Jennifer Oltarsh will work with you to provide clear information and options about your case.

To speak with an attorney directly, schedule a consultation at 212-944-9420. You can also read more about the various options below. Many of the eligibility requirements are complex, so you are welcome to call for further information about how we can help.

Eligibility Requirements for Immediate and Relative Visas

Eligibility requirements include:

  • U.S. citizen applying for a parent, the petitioning U.S. citizen must be over 21
  • U.S. citizen applying for a child, all children are eligible including married, unmarried, over 21 and younger than 21.
  • If the child of the U.S. citizen is over 21 and unmarried, he/she is not an "immediate relative" but would be eligible under the first preference category
  • A married child over 21 is placed under the third preference category

Parents Applying For Stepchildren
To qualify for an relative visa, the stepparent and stepchild relationship must have been formed before the child reached age 18. A divorce does not necessarily end the stepparent-stepchild relationship.

For Children Born Out Of Wedlock
A father who has a child born outside of marriage may apply for the child before the child reaches the age of 21, provided that child is not married at the time of the application. A father may also legitimate a child to prevent a distinction between a legitimate child and illegitimate child provided that the father legitimated the child before age 18.

Adopted Children
In order to qualify as an immediate relative, the child must be adopted under the age of 16 and been under the legal custody of the parent(s) for at least two years and residing with the parent(s) for two years. The two years residency with the child may occur before or after legal custody or adoption.

The legal custody is necessary even if the child has not yet been adopted. If the adoption does not occur before the age of 16 the child's residency cannot be retroactively granted. A family that adopts a child under 16 may also adopt his or her sibling if the sibling is under age 18 at the time of his/ her adoption.

The USCIS recognizes adoption by same-sex parents.

Orphans have no two-year legal custody residence requirement. The orphan must be under the age of 16 and be an orphan by reason of death, abandonment, disappearance and/or desertion or loss of both parents. If there is only one parent, the one parent must be incapable of providing proper care and irrevocably in writing has released the child. If the child is born out of wedlock and if the father has had a relationship with the child, the child would not be designated an orphan unless the father has disappeared, abandoned or deserted the child. An adoption requires a husband and wife or if by a single parent, the parent must be at least 25 years of age.

The Immigration Service will investigate whether the child will be properly cared for and that the parents can afford to raise the child. There must also be no indication of substance abuse, sexual abuse or domestic violence by the adopting parents.

Brothers and sisters may petition for their siblings even if they are related through only one parent. For immigration purposes a brother or sister must be from the same birth family, and not siblings through adoption.


The above is by no means a complete summary of immediate relative visas. Your situation may involve unique issues. To schedule a consultation at our office in New York City, email us or call  212-944-9420.