Ukrainians who have specifically defined closely-related family members in the United States may be eligible to apply for an adjustment of status to permanent residence through family-based immigrant visas. The U.S. family members must be U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPR) (green card holders).
There are two types of family-based pathways to permanent residence:
- Immediate Relative visas
- Family Preference visas
Immediate Relative immigrant visas have no limit to the annual number of visas that can be issued. Processing time is faster, but the eligibility categories are narrow. Immediate relative Ukrainians are:
- The Ukrainian spouse of a U.S. citizen;
- The unmarried Ukrainian child under 21 years old of a U.S. citizen; or
- The Ukrainian parent of a U.S. citizen child (if the U.S. citizen child is at least 21 years old).
Thus, Ukrainians who have one of the following relatives in the United States may be able to qualify for an Immediate Relative visa:
- U.S. citizen spouse
- U.S. citizen parent (only if the Ukrainian child is under 21 years old and unmarried)
- U.S. citizen child who is at least 21 years old
Family Preference immigrant visas have a limited number of visas available each year. Processing takes much longer than for Immediate Relative visas — it could take years. Family Preference categories are:
- First preference (F1) – Ukrainian unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of U.S. Citizens;
- Second preference (F2A) – Ukrainian spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders);
- Second preference (F2B) – Ukrainian unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders);
- Third preference (F3) – Ukrainian married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens;
- Fourth preference (F4) – Ukrainian brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens (if the U.S. Citizen is 21 years of age and older).
Only U.S. Citizens at least 21 years old may petition their non-U.S. mother, father, sister, or brother. Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) may not petition to bring their Ukrainian parents or siblings to live permanently in the United States.
Neither U.S. Citizens nor Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) may sponsor a mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, or brother-in-law. As stated above, only U.S. Citizens (who are at least 21 years old) may petition non-U.S. parents or siblings.
Unfortunately, neither U.S. Citizens nor Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) may sponsor grandparents directly. A U.S. Citizen can sponsor their parent(s) for a green card, and if the parent later becomes a U.S. Citizen, then the parent can sponsor their parent(s).
Learn more details here: https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-eligibility/green-card-for-family-preference-immigrants
The first step in sponsoring a Ukrainian relative is for the U.S. relative to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This establishes the qualifying relationship between the petitioner (U.S. citizen/Lawful Permanent Resident) and the beneficiary (Ukrainian family member to be sponsored). Filing a petition creates a place in the visa queue for the Ukrainian family member.
After USCIS receives this petition, USCIS assigns a priority date in the Approval or Receipt Notice. The beneficiary family member will then have to wait their turn in the line for a visa to become available when their priority date comes up. If the Ukrainian beneficiary is a Family Preference relative, the number of visas per year will be capped at a certain number determined by Congress.
For example, the Fourth (F4) family preference category of “Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens” only provides 65,000 visas per year. Hence, it can take several years to obtain a visa. Current visas available for applicants in the Brothers and Sisters category have a priority date (i.e. sponsor petitions were filed) earlier than March 2007.
Once the beneficiary’s priority date is listed in the visa bulletin that is published each month, they can apply for a visa. If they are still in the U.S. at that time, they would file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to apply for a green card. They would include a copy of the Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice for the Form I-130 petition filed on their behalf, as well as all the required documents and affidavits listed here: https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-eligibility/green-card-for-family-preference-immigrants.
If the applicant is outside of the U.S. by that time, the National Visa Center (NVC) will notify the petitioner and the beneficiary when the visa petition is received, and again when an immigrant visa number is about to become available. They will also notify the beneficiary when they must submit immigrant visa processing fees and supporting documentation. The beneficiary will then schedule an interview at the U.S. consulate. The consular office will process the case and decide if the beneficiary is eligible for an immigrant visa. If they are granted a visa, they will be able to come to the U.S., be inspected, pay the processing fees for a green card, and receive a green card by mail.
Parolees may apply for both adjustment of status and other immigration statuses or protections. To learn more about other pathways for changing/adjusting status, visit our FAQs on Immigration Topics and scroll down to the section on “Immigrant Visas and Permanent Residence in the U.S.”
Please note that some applications for adjustment of status could take years to process and are not guaranteed to be approved. It is therefore recommended that Ukrainians whose parole expires within the next 1-2 years explore additional channels if they wish to remain in the United States.
Header image by kjpargeter on Freepik.