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Options for Relatives of US Citizens


The K-1 visa permits the fiancée of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States for a 90-day period to marry the U.S. citizen and apply for conditional permanent residence. The classification also allows eligible children of the foreign fiancée to accompany their parent to the United States as K-2s. To be eligible for the K-1, the couple must prove that they have met in person within the two years preceding the filing (unless a waiver is granted); that they have a bona fide intention to marry; and that they are legally able and willing to conclude a valid marriage in the United States within 90 days of the foreign fiancee's arrival. If the couple does not marry within 90 days, the K-1 fiancee and any K-2 dependents will be required to depart the U.S.

Spouses and Minor Children

K-3/K-4 option: U.S. citizens who marry foreign nationals outside of the U.S. must apply for a visa that allows their spouse to enter the U.S. One option is the K-3 visa (and K-4 for spouse's unmarried children under 21 years of age). The K-3/K-4 visas allow the beneficiaries to enter the U.S. and file for permanent residence after being admitted. While the green card application is pending, the K-3 visa and K-4 visa beneficiaries may remain in the U.S., as well as apply for temporary employment authorization until becoming permanent residents.

Immigrant Visa option: Another option for spouses and children of U.S. citizens living abroad is to apply directly for permanent residence, bypassing the K-3 option completely. The first step in this process is for the US citizen to file an I-130 Immigrant Petition for the spouse or child, accompanied by proof of a bona fide relationship. Once the petition is approved, the foreign relative can apply for an immigrant visa at the US Embassy in his/her home country and if approved, enter the US as a permanent resident.

Adjustment of Status: If the foreign spouse or minor child is already in the United States in another status (even if it already expired), he/she may apply for permanent residence without leaving the United States as long as he/she entered the United States lawfully and there are no other bars to adjustment, such as fraud, criminal issues or previous deportation orders.

"Conditional Residency" and Marriage: If, at the time of the adjustment of status interview or application for admission to the United States, the underlying marriage is less than two years old, the foreign spouse will be granted immigrant status for a conditional two-year period. The conditional residence subsequently expires on the second anniversary of the date the residency was approved. To convert to unrestricted permanent residence status, the couple must submit a petition to remove the conditions on residence (Form I-751) together with supporting documents that prove the marriage was bona fide. If a joint filing is not possible due to divorce or abuse, the foreign spouse may apply for a waiver of the joint filing under certain circumstances.


The US citizen must be at least 21 years old to petition for parents to live in the United States as permanent residents. To start the process, the US citizen must file Form I-130, Immigrant Petition which establishes the family relationship. If the parent is already in the US, he/she may apply for permanent residence without leaving the United States as long as he/she entered the United States lawfully and there are no bars to adjustment. Otherwise, the parent will need to obtain an immigrant visa through consular processing at the US Embassy in the home country.

Preference Categories

US citizens can also petition the following relatives for permanent residence: (1) unmarried sons or daughters (i.e., those who are 21 years of age or older); (2) Married sons or daughters; and (3) brothers and sisters. However, these three categories are subject to annual limitations on the number of immigrant visas allocated in any fiscal year. This means that relatives in these categories often wait years for their immigrant visa number to become available.

The immigrant visa process can be lengthy and full of obstacles. Immigration Law Associates, P.C. has years of experience in assisting clients in overcoming challenges along the way. We are more than ready to support you through the steps of your case until you are reunited with your family members. Please contact us at 847-763-8500 to schedule a consultation today!