Under U.S. immigration rubric, an immediate relative is the spouse of a U.S. citizen, an unmarried child under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen, an orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen, an orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen, or the parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old.
Immediate relatives have special immigration priority and do not have to wait in line for a visa number to become available for them to immigrate because there are an unlimited number of visas for their particular categories.
Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary
Although the common meaning of this is a close family relation, it has a more specific meaning in immigration law. Immediate relatives are a category of prospective immigrants who include a U.S. citizen's spouse, minor children (under the age of 21), and parents (so long as the citizen is at least 21 years old). Immediate relatives have an immediate right to apply for U.S. permanent residence (assuming their U.S. family member agrees to start the process on their behalf) -- unlike more distant relatives, they aren't subject to yearly limits on the numbers who can apply for permanent residence.
Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary.
August 19, 2010, 5:17 pm