If you are in the immediate relative category, it means the green card is current and you do not have to wait to apply for it.
For the Family Based Preference Category, the Department of State publishes a chart known as the visa bulletin which details the relevant waiting period based on the filing date of the initial petition, known as the priority date further based on the family member subcategory and the region of the world or specific country if identified which can be viewed here. When viewing the visa bulletin, you look for the current month’s bulletin where you identify the final action date chart. In the chart you then identify your country or region of the world on the top of the chart and then identify the Family Preference subcategory on the left side of the chart. The date indicated is the date the Department of State or United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, (“USCIS”) uses to allow the processing of the next step of the Green Card Process.
As an example, let us say you were born in India and have an LPR Spouse who petitioned for you on June 6, 2017. When looking at the visa bulletin for May, 2020 you notice that I-130 Petitions filed under the F-2A category which includes LPR Spouses show that such petitions from all regions and countries on the top of the chart including India are current, meaning that there is no back log or waiting period allowing the Green Card to move to the next steps after the I-130 is approved. Let us say instead of an LPR Spouse it was a USC sibling that petitioned for you. Then you look at the F-4 category under India and notice a date of January 5, 2008. This date means that USCIS or the Department of State are allowing petitions filed on or before that date to commence to the next steps in the process. Petitions filed after that date will need to continue to wait until either their Petition Priority date which is your I-130 filing date appears on the chart or a date later than the Petition’s Priority date appears on the chart.
Another distinction from Immediate Family Petitions is that Family Preference Petitions can have a spouse or a child under 21 years of age accompany the beneficiary family member petition, while the Immediate Family Petition will not allow any family members accompany the beneficiary’s petition. Therefore, in Family Preference Petitions an LPR Spouse Petition will include the Spouse and any child under 21 years of age in the same Petition. In comparison, a USC Spousal Petition will only include the Beneficiary Spouse and not any child. In order for the Child to obtain a Green Card either the natural parent will first need to obtain the Green Card and then turn around and Petition the Child or if the marriage to the child’s parent occurred before the child turned 18 years of age, then the USC Petitioner can file separate Immediate Family Petitions for both the Spouse and the Stepchild.
As stated, the family preference categories involve a waiting period that depending on the family member subcategory and the region of the world can require a waiting period of a substantial period of years before proceedings to the last step of the process. The publication announcing the priority date for every family preference category known as the visa bulletin can be viewed here.
In this family based series of immigration blog posts you can find information on the following:
- Can my Family Members file a Green Card Application for Me? Can I get a Green Card through Family?
- How long will I have to Wait for My Green Card? What is the Visa Bulletin?
- How do I Begin a Family Based Green Card Case? What Do I have to Do to Get a Green Card Through Family? Adjustment of Status
- How do I Begin a Family Based Green Card Case? What Do I have to Do to Get a Green Card Through Family? Consular Processing
- What happens to child who turns 21 years old while waiting for a priority date? My Child is Waiting for a Green Card – What if my Child turns 21?
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