Determine the qualifying family relationship.
The first step is to determine whether the qualifying relationship exists to submit a family petition. Qualifying immediate relatives can be either spouses, minor children, or parents of U.S. citizens. Preference categories include unmarried sons or daughters of U.S. citizens, spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents, unmarried sons & daughters of lawful permanent residents, married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.
File the immigrant petition, Form I-130
Once the qualifying family relationship is established, the family-based immigrant petition must be filed with the immigration service. This petition is filed on Form I-130, which establishes the qualifying family relationship. Note, the filing and approval of Form I-130 does not grant an immigration benefit, visa or status that allows the person to remain in the U.S. It establishes the qualifying family relationship that is the basis of the application for permanent residence.
File the application for Adjustment of Status
Once the Form I-130 is approved and a visa is available, the application for adjustment of status may be filed. Filed on Form I-485, the application requests that the immigration service "adjust" the person's status to that of permanent resident. The immigration service will review the application packet filed, along with medical examinations, affidavit of support and other supporting documentation, and will conduct an in-person interview with the applicant and the petitioner. Once the immigration service is satisfied that the qualifying relationship between the petitioner and applicant exists, and that the applicant meets the eligibility requirements for permanent residence, the application is then approved and the immigrant receives permanent residence status, proven by the issuance of a permanent resident card "green card," which is valid for 10 years. Note that permanent resident status is valid indefinitely, subject to certain special exceptions for some applicants.