How fitting that just before the Thanksgiving holiday my studies begin on the topic of legal permanent residency based on family relationships. There are two parts to every case: the petition by the family member who is in the United States and the application for residency (or an immigrant visa) by the person who wishes to become a legal permanent resident. In addition, there are two types of family relationships in Immigration-speak: immediate relatives and others. Immediate relatives can apply for residency as soon as the family members file a petition. These include the parent, spouse, and child (under age 21) of a U.S. citizen.
Everyone else who is eligible to become a permanent resident based on a family relationship must wait until there are enough visa numbers available. There are several "preference categories" determined by law and country. A European child of a legal permanent resident might wait five years to become a permanent resident. Surprise: a Philippine sibling of a U.S. citizen would wait about 22 years.