"Immediate Relatives" of a U.S. Citizen
"Immediate Relatives" refers to the parents, spouses and children (who are unmarried and under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen. Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen can immigrate to the United States without being subject to any numerical restrictions, unlike other close family members of U.S. citizens and/or permanent residents. Namely, they can apply for the permanent resident status without having to deal with any waiting time. Other close family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents are divided into several groups called "Preferences". Each Preference is given a numerical quota per year to limit the number of immigrants admitted into the United States.
Other Close Family Members of a U.S. Citizen
Other close family members of a U.S. citizen can qualify to immigrate to the United States, but unlike the immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, they are subject to a numerical limit of immigrant visas available to them each year. Close family members are divided into several groups called "Preferences". The higher the Preference, the quicker the alien will be eligible to receive a green card.
Family Members of Permanent Residents
Spouses and unmarried children of a permanent resident can also apply for a green card. They are categorized as the “Second Preference” group of people who are eligible for immigration to the United States.
Same-Sex Marriage & Immigration
On June 26, 2013; the United States Supreme Court held in United States v. Windsor that the federal interpretation of ‘marriage’ and ‘spouse’ as legislated in Section 3 of ‘DOMA’ to that of strictly heterosexual unions was unconstitutional because it denied legally married same-sex couples their due process under the Fifth Amendment. This landmark decision removed a decades old ban on the federal recognition of same-sex marriages, and effectively opened the door for married same-sex couples to be recognized by the federal government and thus to receive federal benefits that are also conferred to opposite-sex married couples; including the privilege for US Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents to sponsor their foreign born spouses for immigration to the United States.