One of the easiest ways to obtaining a green card is through a family member as an immediate relative. 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. Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses and can be petitioned as immediate relatives. The immediate relative category has no annual quota restrictions, making this one of the faster routes to a green card. 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. The preference categories are as follows:
- Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any.
- Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of permanent residents. Same sex spouses of permanent residents fall under this category.
- Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
- Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age.