The term “Immediate relatives” is defined under U.S. immigration law as the spouse, minor child or parent of a U.S. citizen. There is no limit on how many immediate relative may become permanent residents of the U.S. each year. Thus, when a U.S. citizen files a family visa petition for their immediate relative there is a visa immediately available. In other words, there is no wait list so immediate relatives can proceed right away to either consular process or file for adjustment of status.
In order to qualify as the spouse of a U.S. citizen the marriage must be legally valid in the place it was performed. In order to be considered a minor child of a U.S. citizen the child must be unmarried and under 21 at the time of filing (though there are some exceptions). Stepchildren will be considered children if the marriage took place before the child’s 18th birthday. Adoptions must take place before the child’s 16th birthday in order for the person to qualify as a child of a U.S. citizen. The parent of a U.S. citizen will be considered an immediate relative if the U.S. citizen is over 21 years of age.
All other qualifying family relationships, including siblings, married sons and daughters or those over 21, as well as spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, fall into the “preference” categories.