Most people are at least somewhat aware of the fact that the United States government allows for direct family members of citizens to seek a visa of their own and enter the United States. However, the actual details of this program confuse many people.

In order to qualify, you will need to pass a background check and follow the proper protocol for obtaining a visa, including filing all necessary paperwork and paying certain fees. If you have a family member or loved one in the United States, learning whether you qualify for a family-based immigration visa could be the first step toward a new life.

Which family members qualify?

The United States has two separate forms of family-based immigrant visas. The first offers potentially unlimited visas available for the immediate family members of a United States citizen. There is no federal limit for the number of visas, nor is there a limit for a specific individual or family.

Provided that the applicant meets certain criteria, spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, adopted children, children about to undergo adoption by a U.S. citizen or parents of a U.S. citizen who is 21 or older can all theoretically qualify for an Immediate Relative Immigrant Visa. Spouses, in particular, may be subject to special requirements or scrutiny to prevent immigration fraud via marriage.

There is a second category for those with a more distant relationship with a U.S. citizen. The Family Preference Immigrant Visa allows people with relationships to legal permanent residents in the United States to seek a visa, as well as certain other family members of citizens.