Immigration and Citizenship

Read this in: Spanish / Español
Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid


Obtaining legal immigration status. The most common way that an agricultural worker and his/her family can obtain legal immigration status is through a family petition. Contracted laborers with low wages, for instance field workers or factory workers, normally do not qualify for employment applications for highly skilled jobs, except when an employer can’t find workers from the United States. 

Who can submit an application for legal immigration status for a family member? 

-A United States citizens can petition for his/her spouse, his/her children at any age, single or married, and his/her parents and siblings (if the United States citizen is 21 years or older.) 

-A legal permanent resident (LPR) can only petition for his/her spouse or children of any age as long as they are single. 

-No one can petition for his or her cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews, or any other distant relatives or friends. 

Note: Many people that have been in the United States illegally are not eligible for legal residency, even though they have family members as mentioned above. An immigration lawyer can review your situation and let you know if you are eligible. 

When my relative submits an application for me and it is approved, may I work legally in the U.S.?  

It depends. Most people have to go through a waiting period because immigration has a limited number of work authorization and green cards that they can give out each year. The only individuals that can qualify to immediately submit an application for a green card or a work permit are parents, spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of U.S. citizens. Other categories (including all relatives of LPRs) have to wait years until they can qualify for a work permit or green card. 

What should I do if I want more information about immigration? 

You should speak with an immigration attorney. Also, you can contact the Iowa state lawyer reference service, where they can give you the name and phone number of a lawyer who will give you a consultation at a cost that does not exceed $25 for the first 30 minutes.  For this service, visit or There are other resources, such as Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice which hosts free immigration clinics; their number is 515-255-9809. 

Last Review and Update: Nov 30, 2022
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