The preference relative category does not include every possible familial relationship. Congress has separated the category into four preferences. Unlike the immediate relative category there are annual quotas on the number of visas that can be issued in each category. Individuals should consult the Department of State Visa Bulletin to determine how long the wait will be.
The preference relative categories are:
First Preference. This category covers the unmarried sons and daughters (over age 21) of United States citizens. Unlike children of U.S. citizens, individuals who fall in this category are over age 21.
Second Preference. This category covers the spouses, children and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents. This category is split into two sections for visa quota purposes. The spouses and children of lawful permanent residents are considered 2A preference relatives and unmarried sons and daughters are 2B preference relatives. This makes a large difference, as the wait for a 2A visa is shorter than the wait for a 2B visa. Recently the difference between the two has been up to a six (6) year additional wait for a 2B preference visa.
Third Preference. This category covers the married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. The waiting period for these visas is substantial.
Fourth Preference. This category covers the brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens. The waiting period for this category is well over ten (10) years.
Affidavits of Support: Everyone coming to the U.S. is subject to inspection to determine whether they may be admitted to the country. If a person is deemed at risk of becoming a public charge then they cannot be admitted to the country or granted permanent residence. There is a requirement under the INA that U.S. citizens sponsoring an immediate relative complete what is called an affidavit of support in order to overcome the public charge grounds of inadmissibility. Congress specifically required that a U.S. citizen sponsoring an immediate relative for immigration benefits file an affidavit of support. In order to file an affidavit of support the sponsoring U.S. citizen relative must be over the age of 18, be domiciled in the U.S. and be able to guarantee the immediate relative they are sponsoring income equal to 125% of the federal poverty level (100% for members of the armed forces on active duty).
The affidavit of support issue is complex. Anyone considering filing an affidavit as either a sponsor or a joint sponsor should consult counsel regarding the implications of doing so.