Immediate Relative Visas

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers

When the immediate family member of a U.S. citizen is seeking a visa, there is a much different route than other applicants. In fact, they have a distinct advantage, as the path to citizenship is much shorter through an Immediate Relative Visa. This can include spouses, children, parents and, in some specific cases, widowers. The categories under immediate family members don’t have a limited number of available visas, unlike other applicant types.

Immediate Relative Visas

Those who qualify under this umbrella are not subject to spend time waiting for their priority date to come up after the USCIS approves their petition, making it much easier to get into the country. Understand who qualifies under this type of visa is vital. If they do not qualify, you may waste important time that could have been better spent on their journey to citizenship.


In order for a spouse to be eligible for an immediate relative visa, the marriage must be legally valid, proven to not be fraudulent and must actually still exist. In the first requirement, the two spouses must have been able to legally get married. If one of them was previously married and the divorce was never processed, the marriage is not valid. Holding a ceremony and not having a marriage license is also not valid and they must be of legal marrying age under the jurisdiction in which they were married.

In the second requirement, a marriage for a green card does not count as valid. While only the two spouses can know for sure if they married for the right reasons, suspicion may arise if the spouses do not live together, have only just met, do not have a common language to communicate or other factors that come off as red flags. In the third requirement, if there is a legal separation agreement or divorce, the marriage is not recognized. Further, permanent residence is granted conditionally for two years under this rule. If the couple separates or divorces before that amount of time, it is considered a “sham” marriage and residency is revoked. However, all other aspects during those two years are identical to full residence and does not affect aspects such as work and travel.


Only children of U.S. citizen parents that are not married and under the age of 21 fall under this category for immediate relative visas. This includes when one parent marries a U.S. citizen but under specific circumstances. If the child is born while the sponsoring parent is married to the partner, it can be the mother or the father. However, this status changes if the child is born when the two are not married. If the sponsoring parent is the mother, the child is eligible to become a citizen. However, if the father is the sponsoring parent, there must be evidence the father is financially supporting or living with the child and has legal custody before their 18th birthday. Step-children, adopted children and “eligible orphans” may also be eligible under certain circumstances.


For U.S. citizens that are 21 years of age or older, they are able to sponsor their parents for immigration as long as the child falls under the same requirements described above. If both parents are looking to be sponsored, they must each file a separate petition. Younger children also cannot be sponsored. Instead, the U.S. citizen will have to apply for their siblings under another category. However, if the parents are approved, they can then apply for a green card for the children in the higher priority category.

If your family is struggling with immigration status, contact us at the Law Office of Jensen Bagnato, P.C. today at (215) 546-4700 during business hours or (888) 551-7149 after hours. Our team will help determine eligibility for immediate relative visas for clients located in Delaware, Southern New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania from our offices in Center City Philadelphia.