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Immigration Information for Spouses or Children of Permanent Residents

A lawful permanent resident, or a Green Card holder, is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States of America.

If you are a lawful permanent resident in the United States, you can apply for a green card for your relatives (spouse and unmarried children) to also become  lawful permanent residents.

There are two subcategories in this immigration preference known as "second preference". Preference 2A is for spouses or unmarried children under age 21 of permanent residents, and preference 2B is set aside for unmarried children of 21 years of age or older.

A person married to a permanent resident can apply for a green card under the second preference category. On the other hand, to qualify as a "child" in this category, the person must be the son or daughter of a permanent resident, who is unmarried. An adopted child qualifies as long as the adoption was finalized before the child's 16th birthday, the adoptive parents have legal custody of the child for two years (before or after the adoption), and the child resides with the adoptive parents for two years (before or after the adoption). A stepchild qualifies as long as the marriage had occurred before the stepchild's 18th birthday.

The annual visa allotment available for the entire second preference group is 114,200, plus any visas not used by the first preference. 77% of these annual visas go to the 2A subcategory, and the other 23% go to the 2B subcategory. Please see Visa Bulletin for the latest information on usage of the visa quota.

There are two scenarios for spouses and children of permanent residents to apply for immigration:

  • The first scenario is that the alien spouse is already in the United States in a non-immigrant status. In this case, the permanent resident may only file an immigration petition (I-130) for the alien spouse. The alien spouse has to wait for the immigrant visa number to become current before he or she may apply to adjust to permanent resident status (Form I-485). During this waiting period, the alien spouse needs to independently maintain a valid non-immigrant status.
  • The second scenario is that the alien spouse is outside the United States. In this case, the U.S. permanent resident needs to file an immigration petition and request that the U.S. Citizenship & Immigrations Services (USCIS) notify a U.S. Consulate in the country where the alien spouse lives. Once the immigration petition is approved and an immigrant visa is available, the National Visa Center of the U.S. State Department sends a form and information package, "Packet 3", to the U.S. citizen. After the necessary forms are completed, the alien spouse goes to the U.S. Consulate overseas to apply for an immigrant visa. On the day that he or she enters the United States on an immigrant visa, he or she becomes a U.S. permanent resident.

Important things to keep in mind:

  • Turning 21 years of age: If you are an unmarried child of a permanent resident, turning 21 years of age may delay the process of becoming a permanent resident or obtaining an immigrant visa. You will no longer qualify as an “Unmarried Child of a Lawful Permanent Resident” (F2A) and will be converted to the category of an “Unmarried Son or Daughter of a Lawful Permanent Resident” (F2B). This change in categories may result in a significant delay in your immigrant visa becoming available.
  • The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA): In certain cases, the CSPA may allow you to retain the classification of “child” even if you have reached age 21. To determine if the CSPA applies to you and for more information, click here.
  • Getting Married: If you are the unmarried son or daughter of a permanent resident, and you get married prior to becoming a permanent resident, you no longer qualify for permanent residence through your permanent resident family member. There is no visa category for a married child of a permanent resident. You must notify the USCIS of any change in marital status after the Form I-130 has been filed for you and prior to becoming a permanent resident or obtaining an immigrant visa. [INA 203a]
  • Permanent Resident Relative Becomes a U.S. Citizen: If the permanent resident relative that petitioned for you becomes a U.S. citizen, your preference category would change and a visa may be available sooner; this is because you would be getting a green card through a U.S. citizen relative.

For more information regarding the spouses and children of permanent residents, please click on the following links: