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Family preference visas explained

For the naturalized citizens or legal permanent residents living in Chicago, their ultimate goal may be to have the remainder of their families join them in the U.S. Immigrating can be a complex legal process, yet the good news for those who already have family living in America is that they have a built-in advantage when it comes to gaining legal admission. 

The Immigration and Naturalization Act caps the number of worldwide immigrants to the U.S. at 675,000 every year. However, no restrictions are placed on the number of immigrants that are immediate relatives of citizens ("immediate relatives" have been determined to be spouses, minor children and parents). Adult children of U.S. citizens as well as relatives of lawful permanent residents count towards the annual immigration limit. However, these parties' family qualify them for preferential treatment.

A certain number of family preference visas are allocated each year. Per the American Immigration Council, that number is determined by starting at 480,000, then subtracting the number of family preference visas given out in the previous year along with the number of aliens paroled in the U.S. during that same time frame. The number of unused employment preference visas from the prior is then added to come up with the final number. The law stipulates that it cannot be lower than 226,000. The allocation breakdown for each family preference visa category is as follows: 

  • Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens: 23,400
  • Spouses and minor children of lawful residents: 87,900
  • Unmarried adult children of lawful residents: 26,300
  • Married adult children of U.S. citizens: 23,400
  • Siblings of U.S. citizens: 65,000

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website points out that geographic quotas still apply to family preference visas. No more than 7 percent of the total number of available visas for a given year can be issued to residents from a single country. 

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