What happens if I get married when I am the beneficiary of a family based immigrant petition? Will my family-based preference category change if I get married or divorced?

Legal Permanent Residents and U.S. Citizens are usually able to submit immigration petitions for their children. The ability for parents to sponsor their children for green cards and length of time that they need to wait for a green card to be available ultimately depends both the child’s age and marital status, as well as the parent’s immigration status.

Legal Permanent Residents can submit immigrant petitions for

  • Unmarried children under 21
  • Unmarried sons and daughters 21 and older

U.S. Citizens can submit immigrant petitions for

  • Unmarried children under 21
  • Unmarried sons and daughters 21 and older
  • Married sons and daughters

The amount of time someone needs to wait for an available visa in these 5 categories is very different. For example, an unmarried child under 21 of a U.S. citizen will have a visa immediately available, whereas a married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen from Mexico or the Philippines may have to wait 22 years for a green card.


Please click here for more information about processing times for immigrant visas.


The category in which you initially file may change as time goes by while you wait for a green card. As beneficiaries continue to go about living their lives, important life decisions like marriage may come up before a visa is available. Both marriage and divorce will cause the beneficiary to automatically convert to another category, or even potentially cause the petition to be cancelled. Therefore, beneficiaries should investigate any potential immigration consequences of marriage before getting married.

For example, according to the most recent visa bulletin, green cards are currently available for unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens that are 21 and older and had petitions filed before October 2009 (excluding beneficiaries born in China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines). However, green cards for married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens are currently only available for petitions filed before January 2005, which is a difference of nearly 5 years. Therefore, if you were single when your U.S. citizen parent filed for you, and then you got married, the wait time to get your green card would increase significantly. At the same time, if you are married and then you divorce, you will be moved back into the unmarried category and be eligible for a green card much sooner.

Unmarried sons and daughters of Legal Permanent Residents with pending immigrant petitions should consult with an immigration attorney if they are considering marriage.


There is no immigration classification for married children of Legal Permanent Residents. Therefore, if you get married while waiting for the visa and your parent is still a Legal Permanent Resident at the time of marriage, your petition will automatically be revoked on the date of marriage.


Unlike U.S. citizens, who can convert to the marriage based classification, no such conversion exists for children of Legal Permanent Residents because there is no immigrant visa category for married children of Legal Permanent Residents. Once the visa is revoked, you lose your place in the visa line. Your parent will have to reapply for you if and when you fit into another immigrant classification in the future. No one wants to learn that their visa petition has been cancelled after years of waiting! Consult with an immigration attorney prior to getting married if you have a pending family based petition.

To make things even more confusing, family based visa classifications not only convert based on the child’s marital status and age, but also convert based on whether your parent remains a Legal Permanent Resident or naturalizes into a U.S. citizen. All of these changes have implications in how long you need to wait for a green card, whether you are still eligible for a green card, and whether you can provide derivative status to a child or spouse. If you are the beneficiary of an immigrant petition, you should consult with an immigration attorney.  The last thing you want is to think your years of waiting for a green card are finally over, only to learn that you have to wait some more time– or that you could have actually applied years sooner. Please click here to schedule a consultation for more information.

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For more practical information and legal advice on green cards, E-2 and other visas, contact Scott Legal, P.C. Call 212-223-2964 or email info@legalservicesincorporated.com for a consultation.

Amir Rasoulpour, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Scott Legal, P.C. He can be reached at 212-223-2964 or by email at info@legalservicesincorporated.com.


This website and blog constitutes attorney advertising. Do not consider anything in this website or blog legal advice and nothing in this website constitutes an attorney-client relationship being formed. Set up a one-hour consultation with us before acting on anything you read here. Past results are no guarantee of future results and prior results do not imply or predict future results. Each case is different and must be judged on its own merits.


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