How Can I Sponsor a Family Member?

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Sponsoring Family Members for Entry Into the U.S.

Do you want to bring a spouse or family member to the U.S.? If you are a U.S. citizen or a green card holder, you can. According to the National Immigration Act (INA), U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) can sponsor their foreign family members to obtain green cards. Green card holders can legally live and work in the U.S. permanently.

However, sponsoring a family member depends on the following factors:

  • Your status as a U.S. citizen or a green card holder

  • The type of visa that your family member can get

  • Whether your family member is in the U.S. or abroad

  • The number of visas and the waiting times for each type

Ahead is everything you need to know about sponsoring your family members to get a green card.

How to Sponsor a Family Member to Become a Permanent Resident?

The first step to sponsoring a family member is to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form is used to establish the relationship between you and the person you are sponsoring. You need to file one form for each person you want to sponsor.

You also need to show that you have enough money or assets to support them by filing Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA.

When your I-130 petition is approved, your family member must apply for a visa at their local U.S. consulate or embassy or adjust status.

Who Is Eligible for Family Sponsorship?

Family sponsorship is a popular immigration route available only to family relatives of U.S. citizens and LPRs. However, not all family members can be sponsored for a green card, and this depends on your family relationship and the type of visa they can get.

There are two types of family-based immigrant visas:

  1. Immediate Relative Visas

Immediate relative visas are for close or immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. These include:

  • Spouses

  • Unmarried adult children

  • Parents of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old

There is no limit on how many immediate relative visas are given each year.

Family Preference Visas

Family preference visas are for other relatives of U.S. citizens and LPRs.

If you are a U.S. citizen, you can sponsor your married children, siblings, and cousins for a family preference visa.

If you are a lawful permanent resident, you can sponsor your spouse and unmarried children under 21.

There is a limit on how many family preference visas are given each year. This means that your family member may have to wait for a long time to get a visa if they are in one of these preference categories. The waiting time depends on their priority date and how many visas are available for each category and country.

Is There a Difference Between Sponsoring a Family Member Inside the U.S. versus Abroad?

The process of sponsoring a family member is different depending on where they are at the time of filing the I-130 petition. Here are the steps you should take for each situation.

Family Members in the U.S.

If your family member is in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa, they may obtain a green card by filing for adjustment of status without leaving the country.

Note, however, that this is only available for those with legal status. If your family member came to the U.S. illegally or overstayed their visa, they may not be able to adjust their status.

After you file Form I-130 on their behalf, they can apply for status adjustment by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. However, they can also file Form-485 simultaneously with your Form I-130.

You must submit all the supporting documents requested by the USCIS and follow their filing instructions. Working with an experienced immigration attorney can help you avoid any mistakes that can delay your case or cause a refusal.

Family Members Outside the U.S.

If your family member is outside the U.S., they need to go through consular processing. This means they need to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. After the USCIS approves your petition, it will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC), which will notify you and your family member (the beneficiary of the I-130 petition) when a visa is available. It will also notify you of when to pay the visa processing fees and send the required documents.

Once a visa is available (only in the case of family preference visas), an interview appointment at the embassy or consulate is scheduled for your family member. They will need to:

  • Attend the interview

  • Bring their passport and other documents that show they qualify for a visa

  • Get a medical exam

If their visa is approved, they will receive a visa packet, which they must show at the port of entry into the U.S.

How to Check the Priority Date and Visa Availability for a Family Member

Your priority date is when the USCIS received your petition for your family member. This date shows your family member’s place in the queue for a visa. You’ll find it on your receipt notice (Form I-797) that the USCIS sent you when they approved your petition.

The visa availability is when your family member can apply for a visa or a green card. The visa availability depends on the following:

  • The type of visa

  • The country of origin

  • The demand for visas

The Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin that shows the visa availability for each category and country. To check the priority date and visa availability for your family member, you need to:

  • Find your family member’s preference category and country of origin

  • Open the Visa Bulletin and find the chart for “Final Action Dates for Family-Sponsored Preference Cases.”

  • Compare your family member’s priority date with the date on the chart for their category and country

If your family member’s priority date is before or on the date on the chart, then their visa is available. Generally, the NVC will notify you when the availability date is close.

Still have questions? Our green cards FAQs may have an answer.

How Can an Attorney Help Me Sponsor a Family Member?

An immigration attorney can help you in the following ways:

  • Find the best visa type and plan for your family member

  • Fill out and send your family-based petitions to USCIS

  • Get and send the evidence and documents you need

  • Represent you before the USCIS

  • Get you and your family member ready for the interview

  • Deal with any issues or challenges that may come up

  • Appeal or ask for a waiver if your petition or application is denied

Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, Can Help

Take the first step towards successfully sponsoring your family member’s entry with Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law. Our team offers professional and confidential assistance, ensuring you receive experienced legal immigration advice and support tailored to your needs.

With a proven track record in helping many families achieve their immigration goals, we have what it takes to successfully guide you through the process.

Contact us today for a free consultation!