Preference Categories for family immigration

When applying for people who are not the parents, spouses, or unmarried minor children of United States Citizens, the term “preference category” is bound to come up. This refers to the quota system by which USCIS apportions visas. This being said, it’s possible to have an APPROVED petition, and still have to wait for years before the green card application can begin.

The categories are divided as follows.

First : Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens

Second : Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent

  • A. Spouses and Children
  • B. Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older)

Third : Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens

Fourth : Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens


Looking at the preference categories from the visa bulletin for April, 2007 (see below), we see that USCIS is working on applications received on or prior to the dates listed.

For example, if the petition you filed is for a married (Brazilian) son of a U.S. Citizen, and it was filed on April 25, 2001 — prior to the 245i date — look at the current visa bulletin to see what date USCIS is working on. First, identify the category. In this case, that would be third preference. Next, as we’re not talking about a Mexican, Indian, Philippine or Chinese person, we see that the date USCIS is working on is March 22, 1999. Assuming that cases continue to be processed at a constant rate, there should be a 2 year wait for the next phase of the process.

If, say, a U.S. Citizen filed for his Mexican brother on June 1, 1994, then that person would be in the fourth preference category — and as the priority date for Mexicans in that category is June 8, 1994, the beneficiary could be eligible for consular processing if outside the U.S., or to adjust status, if here.

Family All Charge- ability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
1st 08MAY01 08MAY01 08MAY01 01JAN94 22FEB92
2A 01APR02 01APR02 01APR02 01DEC00 01APR02
2B 15AUG97 15AUG97 15AUG97 01MAR92 01OCT96
3rd 22MAR99 22MAR99 22MAR99 08FEB88 01JAN85
4th 01MAY96 15OCT95 01JAN96 08JUN94 01NOV84
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