The term “immediate Relative” is applied to: the spouse of a United States citizen (USC), the parent of an adult USC (over 21), or the minor unmarried child of a USC (under 21).
Immediate relatives receive several kinds of special treatment under the United States immigration laws:
- There are no quotas in this category. Therefore, there are no backlogs in processing times other than the usual paperwork processing times.
- As long as an immediate relative has entered the United States with a visa (except as a crewmember, or J-1 subject to two-year home residency requirement), s/he can adjust status to that of lawful permanent resident (LPR) without having to travel to his/her home country. This is a particularly important advantage for someone who has been unlawfully present in the United States and who would otherwise trigger the 3-year/10-year bar when s/he left the United States to apply for an immigrant visa at a consulate abroad.
- A person who enters the United States on the Visa Waiver Program is usually prohibited from changing status or extending the stay. Immediate relatives are exempt from this prohibition.
There seems to be only one significant limitation on immediate relatives that is not imposed on preference categories. There are no “derivatives” of an immediate relative. Thus, an adult USC filing for his/her parents must file one petition for his mother and a separate petition for his father. The USC’s siblings, although named on the petitions of these parents, cannot derive any immigration benefit from these petitions, even if the siblings are minors. The parents must file separate petitions for these siblings of the USC once they, themselves, become Green Card holders. Similarly, a USC who marries someone with children must file a separate petition for each step-child; these children cannot be included in their parent’s case.