Family-Based Immigrant Visas (sometimes called Family Petition)
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (also called the INA or The Act) there are two basic groups of family based applications that are allowed to emigrate to the United States: 1) immediate relatives and 2) preference immigrants.
This is what we mean by Immediate Relatives.
Immediate relatives include spouses of U.S. Citizens; minor children (those under 21) of U.S. Citizens; parents of U.S. Citizens (if the petitioner is at least 21 ); and certain other spouses of deceased U.S. Citizens.
This is what we mean by Preference immigrants:
First Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens over the age of twenty-one years.
Second Preference: Spouses or children of aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence; or Unmarried children of aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence;
Third Preference: Married children of U.S. Citizens;
Fourth Preference: Brothers or sisters of citizens of the United States, if the Citizens are at least twenty-one years of age.
Preference category immigrants are permitted to have derivative beneficiaries; immediate relatives are not permitted to have derivative beneficiaries. Derivative beneficiaries are the spouse or child of the principal alien in any of the family preference categories. Limits are placed on the number of immigrants permitted to enter the United States through preference category immigration each year. Immediate relatives have no numerical limitation. A monthly Visa Bulletin is published by the U.S. Department of State that establishes the priority dates that are being admitted in each preference category that month. Priority dates are the date of receipt by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of an immigrant petition. Until a priority date becomes current in a preference category, the prospective immigrant must wait for his or her priority date to become current to enter the United States as a permanent resident either through consular processing or, if the immigrant is already in the United States, through adjustment of status. The U.S. Government Visa Bulletin with current priority dates can be found at http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html
Family Based Removal of Conditions
If someone gets permanent resident status through a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident spouse and the marriage was not two years old at the time the individual obtained permanent residence, the permanent residence is conditional for two years. In the ninety day period prior to the two year anniversary of the grant of conditional permanent residence, the couple must file a joint petition to remove the conditional basis of the permanent residence. If the marriage ends in divorce the conditional permanent resident spouse can file a petition to waive the joint filing requirement. This petition must be filed after the divorce is final. It cannot be filed while the couple is still married but in the process of obtaining a divorce. Abused spouses may also file for a waiver of the joint filing requirement and conditional residents who would suffer extreme hardship if the joint filing requirement is not waived may also file for a waiver of the joint filing requirement.