By: Jean S. Tinsay, Esq.

I recently received a query from a client, a U.S. permanent resident, who wanted to file an immigrant petition for her mother. I had to explain to her that there is no immigrant visa category for a U.S. permanent resident petitioning for a parent and that we had to wait until she is a U.S. citizen before we can file an immigrant petition for her mother. There are certain basic immigration facts that are worth knowing. This article provides some basic information relating to family-based immigrant petitions.

U.S. permanent residency or naturalization brings with it certain benefits, one of which is that it allows the individual to bring his or her family from abroad. Who you can bring to the United States however, depends on whether you are a U.S. permanent resident or a naturalized U.S. citizen. A U.S. citizen can bring her or his spouse, parents, siblings and unmarried and married children (adopted, legitimate and illegitimate). U.S. permanent residents can only file immigrant petitions for her or his spouse and unmarried children (adopted, legitimate and illegitimate).

Once an immigrant petition has been filed and approved on behalf of the alien relative what follows next depends on whether the alien is an "immediate relative" or a ""family-based preference immigrant." An immediate relative is a parent, spouse or child under 21 years old of a U.S. citizen. For these relatives, an immigrant visa is immediately available. Once the immigrant petition is approved, the USCIS forwards the case to the National Visa Center for visa processing. After the National Visa Center receives the visa fees and all required documents, it will then send the relative alien an appointment for his or her immigrant visa interview.

"Family-based preference immigrants" are other classes of relatives who are not "immediate relatives." These are unmarried children over 21 of a U.S. citizen, married children of a U.S. citizen, siblings of a U.S. citizen and the spouse and unmarried children of a U.S. permanent resident. For these relatives, immigrant visa are not immediately available and are subject to numerical limitations. The total annual immigrant visas allotted for family-based preference immigrants is 226,000 which is distributed to the different categories of relatives. For example, married children of U.S. citizens are allotted 23,400 immigrant visas per year. In addition to a fixed quota for each category, there is also a per country limit which is set a 7%.

The Visa Bulletin which is published by the U.S. Department of State provides a monthly update of what priority dates are being processed and explains how immigrant visas are allotted. All preference immigrants are assigned a priority date. The "priority date" is the date when the immigrant petition on behalf of the alien relative was filed. Once the alien's priority date is earlier than the cut-off date as it appears in the Visa Bulletin that means an immigrant visa is now available to that alien relative.

The Visa Bulletin for November 2011 shows the following cut-off dates for the Philippines and other countries. First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents B. (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.

On the chart below, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed (see paragraph 1); "C" means current, i.e., numbers are available for all qualified applicants; and "U" means unavailable, i.e., no numbers are available. (NOTE: Numbers are available only for applicants whose priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed below.)

Family- Sponsored All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA - mainland born INDIA MEXICO


F1 22JUL04 22JUL04 22JUL04 APR93 08FEB97
F2A * 15FEB09 15FEB09 15FEB09 01DEC08 15FEB09
F2B 01AUG03 01AUG03 01AUG03 22NOV92 15JUL01
F3 22SEP01 22SEP01 22SEP01 08DEC92 22JUN92
F4 15JUN00 15JUN00 15JUN00 22APR96 22AUG88

To view a complete copy of the monthly Visa Bulletin you can go to the Department of State website at

Atty. Jean S. Tinsay is a partner in The Law Firm of Chua Tinsay and Vega (CTV) - a full service law firm with offices in San Francisco, San Diego and Manila. The information presented in this article is for general information only and is not, nor intended to be, formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship. The CTV attorneys will be holding regular free legal clinics at the Max's Restaurant in Vallejo, California. Call or e-mail CTV for an in-person or phone consultation to discuss your particular situation and/or how their services may be retained at (415) 495-8088; (619) 955-6277;
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