Family Based Immigration
There are 6 categories of family-based immigration. The most common category comprises immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens. Immediate relative includes spouses and children under 21 years of age as well as parents of a U.S. Citizen child who is at least 21 years of age. As an immediate relative, the immigrant family member is not subject to a visa number and could immediately apply for permanent residence in most cases.
Currently, visa numbers are backlogged from 4 years (spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents) to 23 years (for siblings of U.S. Citizens who are nationals of the Philippines). In order for immediate relatives to apply for permanent residence, the foreign nationals must have entered the U.S. lawfully, be grandfathered under Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act or apply for immigrant visas at the U.S. Consulate in their home countries.
For the other 5 categories, the foreign national must have entered the U.S. lawfully and continue to maintain their lawful status upon the availability of the visa number in order to apply for permanent residence in the U.S., be grandfathered under Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act or wait outside the U.S. until they qualify to apply for an immigrant visa.