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Immediate relatives and family preference categories

A foreign-born person in South Carolina may be able to obtain a green card if he or she is an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. People who qualify for one of four different family preference categories may also be able to immigrate to the United States with the help of their U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative.

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, an unlimited number of people may immigrate to the U.S. every year as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. For immigration purposes, an immediate relative is a spouse of a U.S. citizen, a U.S. citizen's unmarried child under the age of 21 or a parent of a U.S. citizen who is over the age of 21.

If a person does not qualify for a green card as an immediate relative, they may qualify under a family preference category. However, only 226,000 people are allowed to immigrate to the U.S. using a family preference petition each year. The family preference categories include people who are the son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, the spouse or unmarried son or daughter of a permanent resident or a U.S. citizen's sister or brother. Domestic partnerships are not currently recognized for these purposes under U.S. immigration law.

A family that is hoping to bring a number of relatives into the U.S. might want to work with an immigration attorney. An attorney may be able to help the family members ensure that all of their paperwork is completed correctly. If a family member does not qualify as an immediate relative, an attorney may be able to help to determine if the qualifications for other immigrant visas can be met.

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