family tree (3)

 by Christi Leveille

“We are a family like a giant tree; branching out towards the sky.” ~Dreamgirls Cast

It is often said that distance and time can never break the bond of family. “Ain’t no mountain high, ain’t no valley low, ain’t no river wide enough baby.” (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell) No matter how far the family branch extends, the love connection is everlasting. However, for some people, a mere emotional connection is not enough and they seek opportunities for close proximity with members of their expanding family tree. When those branches extend beyond waters and geographic territories, the family-based petition for permanent residency can serve as a pathway for family reunification.

The Family Petition

The family-based petition is the foremost and easiest path to becoming a permanent resident. But, it cannot be just any family member. Your aunts/uncles, cousins, and grandparents, for instance, cannot file a petition on your behalf or sponsor your application to become a permanent resident. It must be a spouse, child, or a sibling.

Application Priorities

In addition to limitations on who can file the petition, there are priority levels as to the order in which family-based applications will be considered. The first priority level, which has unlimited access to visas, is that of U.S. citizens, whether by birth or naturalization, who are seeking to assist specific immediate family members in obtaining a green card. Those family members include parents, spouse, and unmarried children under the age of 21. There are very few limitations placed on the ability of U.S. citizens to unite their immediate families. However, the process in doing so will vary depending on if family members are within or outside of the United States.

After this priority level, there are four additional levels in order of preference. Members who fall in these four categories will have to wait until a visa becomes available before they are able to file for permanent residency. These members include unmarried children of U.S. citizens over the age of 21, spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents under the age of 21, unmarried children of permanent residents over the age of 21, married children of U.S. citizens and their families, and siblings of adult U.S. citizens.  These family-based categories have additional limitations that are more stringent and usually extend the processing time depending on the allotted amount of visas available in a particular year for that specific preference level.


Sometimes the branches of your family tree extend too far and you want the opportunity to reconnect. The family-based petition for permanent residency may be the perfect solution for your family reunification. Seek an attorney to determine if this is the pathway for you and your family.

Disclaimer: This blog is written and published by The Law Office of Keven Leveille, PL for educational purposes only, not to provide specific legal advice. The information provided by this blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. The information in this blog should not be used to determine how your legal case would be resolved and it does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and The Law Office of Keven Leveille, PL. Such an attorney-client relationship can only be established by execution of a contract for legal services between our firm and a prospective client.

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