Relative/Family Based Immigration:
The majority of immigrant visas are given to people based upon their familial relationship with United States Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents. Except for immediate relatives, the time a person has to wait to receive a visa based upon a family relationship depends upon their visa category. Even though the petition for a visa may be approved, a potential immigrant must wait until their priority date is processed. (The priority date is the day that the application is accepted for processing by the US Immigration Service.) Each month the US Immigration Service may process applications that were submitted on or before a specific priority date.

Family Based Petitions:
Spouses of US Citizens, minor children of US Citizens, and parents of US Citizens are considered Immediate Relatives and not subjected to quotas on number of immigrants to the US, and are eligible to enter the US immediately, subject of course to Visa Processing times.

Spouses of US Permanent Residents, unmarried children of US Permanent Residents and siblings of US Citizens are know as Preference Aliens and are eligible to immigrate but are all subjects to long wait times because the number of worldwide applicants exceeds the quota available for them.

Application is made in the US by the Petitioner US Citizen or Permanent Resident. Upon approval, papers are sent to the National Visa Center, State Department. Once papers are successfully completed and filed, the National Visa Center notifies the foreign US Consulate. The Alien is then interviewed at the Consulate and Visa issued.

Immediate categories:
Spouses of US Citizens, children under the age of 21 of US Citizens, and parents of US Citizens.

Preference categories:
Spouses of permanent residents, unmarried children any age of US permanent residents, married children any age of US citizen parents, and brothers and sisters of US Citizens.  Categories backlogged, quotas applicable to different countries, long periods of waiting time, longest period of waiting time, brothers and sisters of US Citizens.