Family reunification is one of the key principles underlying U.S. immigration policy. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), specifies numerical limits for five (5) family-based admission categories, as well as a per-country limit on total family-based admissions.

Note that unlimited number of Immediate Relatives can acquire Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR or commonly called “Green Card”) status each year if they meet the standard eligibility criteria.

The term Immediate Relative includes:

  1. The spouses of U.S. citizens;
  2. The children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of U.S. citizens;
  3. The parents of U.S. citizens at least 21 years old; and
  4. Widows or widowers of U.S. citizens if the U.S. citizen filed a petition before his or her death or if the widow(er) files a petition within 2 years of the citizen’s death.

Each year, the number of foreign nationals petitioning for LPR status through family-sponsored preferences exceeds the supply of legal immigrant slots. This has resulted  in a visa queue of foreign nationals who qualify as immigrants under the INA but who must wait for a visa to immigrate to the United States.

Every month, the Department of State (DOS) releases its Visa Bulletin, which lists “cut-off dates” for each of the four numerically limited family-based admissions categories. Cut-off dates indicate when petitions that are currently being processed for a numerically limited visa were initially approved.


First: (F1): Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens

Second: (F2) Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent

  1. F2A: Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents
  2. F2B: Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens