The Immigration Procedures for Family Members of US citizens (F1, F3, F4) and for Family Members of Permanent Residents (F2A, F2B) are similar.
The difference is the waiting time for a visa for each category/preference.

The immigration procedure has two phases:

1. The I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative

  • The sponsoring Family Member must file this petition with USCIS. The date the petition is accepted by USCIS is your Priority Date.
  • After approval of the I-130 petition you must wait until your Priority Date becomes Current – meaning an Immigrant Visa becomes available for you. If a spouse and/or an eligible child/children immigrate with you, they will get (a) visa(s) too.
  • Once the visa becomes available, you must file your Visa Application within a year. You yourself must keep track of the Priority Dates – in the DOS Visa Bulletin – and take steps to timely file the Visa Application.

2. The Visa Application

  • You must submit the Immigrant Visa Application Form DS-260. Your sponsor must provide proof he/she has the financial means to do so and submit an Affidavit of Support. If he/she cannot meet the requirements, one or two co-sponsors can be added.
  • You must submit documentation, undergo a Medical Examination and appear for a Visa Interview in your home country. If you are approved you will be issued a visa.
  • An Immigrant Visa is valid for six months after it is issued. You must travel to the US within that time to activate it. Inside the US the visa becomes a Green Card.


  • An eligible child immigrating with you must still be unmarried and under 21 years when his or her visa is issued.
  • The time it took USCIS to approve the I-130 Petition after it was accepted for processing, can be subtracted from a child’s age under the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). The petition must have been filed before the child turned 21. His/her Visa Application must be approved within one year after a visa becomes available.

To see waiting times go to the USCIS website.
Search Visa Bulletin, add current year and month, scroll to Family Preferences.