Family-based Immigration is under the quota system. If the assigned quota has been exceeded due to the number of invitees of family-based immigration, the applicant must wait until the quota number is available. The date that the petition is filed becomes a priority date.

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens include parents of U.S. citizens, spouses of U.S. citizens, and unmarried children (under 21) of U.S. citizens. Since there is no quota restriction for inviting immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the process for the immigration is relatively fast. Thus, the immediate relatives have special priority.

First preference

The first preference includes unmarried children of U.S. citizens over the age of 21. The first preference is expected to wait about 6 years.


Second Preference

The second preference-2A includes spouses of permanent residents and unmarried children under 21 of permanent residents. The second preference-2B includes unmarried adult children of permanent residents. The second preference-2A is expected to wait roughly 4 years and the second preference-2B is expected to wait about 7 years.


Third Preference

The third Preference includes married children of U.S. citizens. The third preference is expected to wait about 9 years.


Fourth Preference

The fourth preference includes brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens. The fourth preference is expected to wait about 11 years.

All waiting periods may change depending on certain circumstances.


To bring the spouse, the U.S. citizen or green card holder must demonstrate the existence of a legitimate marriage. If a marriage took place in Korea, the applicant must prove his or her marriage is a legitimate marriage in accordance with the Korean law. If a U.S. citizen marries in Korea, he or she can register the marriage at the U.S. embassy. At the time of invitation, the marriage must be continuously maintained. If all conditions are met, the invited spouse may receive a conditional permanent residence with two years of validity. The conditional resident status can be removed by filing the application 90 days before the second anniversary as a conditional resident thereby obtaining a permanent, rather than conditional, green card.




Unmarried children under the age 21 of U.S. citizens are considered immediate relatives. Unmarried children of permanent residents regardless of the age can be the beneficiary of family-based immigration. Both legitimate children and illegitimate children are considered as children. To invite illegitimate children, however, natural parents must prove the existence of a parent-child relationship with evidence including marriage certificates, birth certificates, paternity test results and so forth. An adopted child qualifies as a child if the adoption was finalized by a court decision before the child’s 16th birthday and the adopted child had at least 2 years of physical custody under the adoptive parents. A step-child qualifies as a child if the marriage occurred before the step-child’s 18th birthday. Only a U.S. citizen can invite an orphan with proof that the child is an orphan.



U.S. citizens over 21 years of age are eligible to invite their parents to the U.S. A sponsoring U.S. citizen must prove that the invitee is his or her natural father or mother. A U.S. citizen may also invite his or her step-parents if the citizen’s natural parent married his or her spouse prior to the U.S. citizen’s 18th birthday. Grandparents of U.S. citizens are not included as parents.


Brothers and Sisters

U.S. citizens over 21 years of age are eligible to invite their brothers or sisters who have been born under the same parents. Both a sponsoring U.S. citizen and his or her invitee must have been children of at least one same parent. The spouse of brothers or sisters as well as their unmarried children under 21 years of age can also be invited.


The most important condition for immigration through adoption is that the adoption must be finalized before the child’s 16th birthday. The adopted child must have been in at least two years of legal custody under the adoptive parents. The two years includes periods before and after the court decision for adoption. Court decisions concerning adoption cases usually take from six months to one year, but there are variations among states.



The petitioner who invites an adopted child can be either a single person or couple, but must be a U.S. citizen(s). When an adoptive couple petitions for immigration through adoption, one of the parents must be a U.S. citizen. To qualify as adoptive parents, the prospective parents must fulfill the prior conditions for adoption required by a state government.


Adopted children

If all the conditions are met, the adopted child immediately becomes a U.S. citizen. However, an adopted child is not eligible to invite his or her biological parents as a sponsor since his or her parent-child relationship with biological parents is legally terminated.