US welcomes 480,000 family members each year

How Family Based Immigration System Works in the USA?

The complicated immigration law of the United States of America leaves most of the people confused. The current immigration policy is currently governed by The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA). The immigration Act of 1990 changed American immigration law, allowing more people to enter the country each year. Based on the INA, the US welcomes up to 675,000 permanent immigrants and these immigrants are selected upon four major principles. They are: reunification of families (family-based), allowing immigrants with skill values to the country (employment-based), refugees and promoting diversity (DV-system). This fact sheet provides basic information and guidelines about how the family-based immigration system works in the US.

Family-based Immigration System
Family unification is one of the important principles in the immigration policy. Under this, the family-based immigration category allows US citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to immigrate their certain family members to the US. Each year 480,000 visas are granted to certain people who have close ties with the citizens or permanent residents of this country.

(a) Immediate relatives of the US citizens
There are two systems at place which allows people to immigrate through family unification immigration policy. The first kind of system only allows the immediate relatives of US citizens to immigrate to the US. These immediate relatives can only be the spouses, the unmarried minor children (under 21 years old) and parents of the US citizens (21 years old and above). The quota for immigrants for this system is unlimited. However, petitioners should fulfill certain legal procedures including financial requirements to enter through this system.

(b) Family preference system
The other kind of system is called Family Preference System. This system is placed for the LPRs to be able to bring their spouses, minor children, and unmarried adult children to this country. In case of the US citizens, they can bring their adult children and siblings to this country through this system. Unlike the immediate relative system, family preference system allocates a limited number of visas for each ‘preference’ every year. The Congress has a complicated system to calculate this number, but the important thing to know is that the number cannot go below 226,000. However, this number often exceeds 480,000. There are certain legal and financial requirements that should be fulfilled by the petitioner in order to bring their relatives through this system. Due to various complications and loopholes in the immigration policy, sometimes people have to wait for a long time (several years) to enter the United States through this system.

Anuj Agarwal
Anuj Agrawal completed his Master’s Degree in Computer Science from NJIT, USA, and is currently the CEO of a successful software company in Nepal ( He immigrated to the USA on a F1 visa in 2007. While pursuing his MS degree, he was a research assistant, and was lucky enough to secure himself a job in HMG America, as a Software Consultant, even during the recession of 2007-2010.  Having studied, and worked for reputed Software Company, as in immigrant in the USA, he loves to share his experiences. Apart from articles for immigrant’s issues, he also writes on financial matters, and ways on becoming a successful entrepreneur. His writings are not only limited to the USA, but are also popular among readers in Canada, London, and India. When not writing, he loves to explore new places and meet people. He is fluent in English, Spanish, Nepali, Hindi, and Bengali, and has visited the USA, Dubai, London, Nepal, and India, so far.


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