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Is There A Difference Between A Family-Based Immigrant Visa And a Green Card?


An immigrant visa and a green card are the same things. Many people refer to the visa stamp that they get in their passport as an immigrant visa. This visa stamp is given to someone who applies for a green card at an American embassy while abroad, after a family member or employer petitions for them to come to the US. Until the applicant can arrive in the US and get their plastic card, they will only have the stamp in their passport, as the physical cards can only be received after they arrive in the US.

What Do The Terms “Unlimited” and “Limited” Family-Based Visas Mean?

The terms “unlimited” or “limited” refer to the number of green cards that can be issued each year by USCIS for specific visa categories, based on the family relationship with the petitioning US Citizen. Some categories have an unlimited number of green cards that can be issued each year, and some do not. There are an unlimited number of visas that can be issued each year to immediate family members, which are considered the spouse, parents, or children under age 21 of a US Citizen. These are the only individuals for whom there are an unlimited number of green cards.

For everyone else, there are a limited number of visas available each year, with different amounts of cards available for each category. According to USCIS rules, the child of a US Citizen who is over age 21 is not considered an immediate family member for immigration purposes, but instead as the son or daughter of a US Citizen. There are even separate categories for sons and daughters who are married versus sons and daughters who are single, with a married son or daughter waiting much longer for a green card, simply because of the number of cards that are available for this category each year. Siblings of US Citizens will wait the longest for green cards, usually about 13 years, and can only be petitioned for by a US Citizen. The same is true for the parent of a US Citizen, in terms of who may petition for them.

Spouses and children of green card holders, both under and over age 21, is another category of limited family-based green cards. These are the only individuals that green card holders are allowed to petition for—they are not allowed to petition for parents or siblings.

Who Is Considered Family For A Family-Based Immigrant Visa?

Despite the fact that we consider our aunts and uncles family, a US Citizen cannot petition for a green card for them, nor for our nieces or nephews. They may still come to the US as derivative beneficiaries of green cards, but this is a highly complicated immigration category. Unfortunately, the only family members that USCIS can extend immigration benefits to are spouses, children either under or over age 21, either married or unmarried, parents, or siblings of US Citizens, or children and spouses of green card holders.

For more information on Family Immigrant Visas Vs. Green Card, a free case evaluation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (202) 350-2571 today.

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