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Navigating the Family Preference Category: How to Petition for a Sibling's Immigration to the United States


Navigating the Family Preference Category: How to Petition for a Sibling's Immigration to the United States

Family reunification is a cherished aspect of US immigration policy, allowing US citizens to bring their close relatives to the United States. While the process for sponsoring immediate relatives, such as spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21, is relatively straightforward, sponsoring siblings can be a bit more complex due to the family preference category. In this blog post, we'll dive deeper into the family preference category and explore the steps and requirements involved when a US citizen wishes to petition for a sibling's immigration.

Understanding the Family Preference Category

The family preference category is a critical factor to consider when petitioning for a sibling's immigration. Unlike immediate relatives, siblings fall into this category, which has limited visa numbers available each year. The family preference category is divided into four preference levels:

First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens.

Second Preference (F2A): Spouses, minor children, and (F2B) unmarried sons and daughters (over 21) of lawful permanent residents (green card holders).

Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of US citizens.

Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of adult US citizens.

The limited number of visas allocated to the family preference category each year creates waiting periods that can vary significantly based on the sibling's category and their country of origin.

Example: Maria's Sibling Petition from Mexico

Let's consider a hypothetical example to illustrate the process. Maria, a US citizen residing in Florida, wants to petition for her brother, Miguel, who lives in Mexico. Maria is over 21 years old and shares at least one common parent with Miguel, making her eligible to sponsor him for immigration.

The first step for Maria sponsoring her brother is to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes your relationship with your sibling and confirms your intent to help them immigrate to the United States.

The processing time for Form I-130 can vary, but you can check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date processing times for your specific situation. Processing Times (

This is where most people get confused and frustrated because they do not realize that processing times and visa availability are two very different things. Processing times refers to the time USCIS will take to decide or approve a petition. Visa availability refers to the number of visas that the U.S. consulates worldwide can issue per year per US immigration regulations.

Estimated Wait Times on the Visa Bulletin

Now, let's estimate the wait times for Miguel's immigration based on the Visa Bulletin. Keep in mind that these estimates are subject to change, and it's essential to monitor the Visa Bulletin regularly for the most accurate information:

Maria files Form I-130 for Miguel (F4 category, sibling of a US citizen).

Since Miguel is from Mexico, he falls under the "All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed" category.

Miguel's priority date is the date USCIS receives Maria's Form I-130 petition.

As of November 2023 the Visa Bulletin indicates the following priority date cutoffs for Mexico in the F4 category:

Priority date cutoff for Mexico (F4): 15th of September, 2000

Based on this information, Miguel can expect a wait time of approximately 23 years from the filing of the Form I-130 to the priority date becoming current. After that, he can move on to the next steps in the immigration process, including consular processing or adjustment of status.

Visa Bulletin

To track the availability of visa numbers and priority date cutoffs, you can refer to the Visa Bulletin published monthly by the US Department of State. The Visa Bulletin provides information on which family preference categories are currently eligible to apply for a visa. Once a visa number becomes available for your sibling's category and country of origin, they can move on to the next steps in the process. Visa Bulletin For November 2023 (


Sponsoring a sibling's immigration to the United States is a commendable but challenging endeavor due to the limitations imposed by the family preference category. The waiting period for visa numbers can be lengthy, and it's crucial to be patient and informed throughout the process. To navigate these complexities successfully, consider consulting with an experienced immigration attorney who can provide guidance and assistance tailored to the family preference category. While the journey may be long, the possibility of reuniting with your sibling in the United States is a powerful motivator to persevere through the immigration process.

At Hurtado Immigration Law Firm we frequently help families complete the consular process that was begun many years ago. Do not be discouraged by the long wait periods. The most important step is to start, and each day that passes you are one day closer to reaching the finish line and your family member immigrating to the United States.

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