How Can a Relative Sponsor Someone to Immigrate to the United States?

In order for a U.S. citizen or LPR relative to sponsor a non-citizen to immigrate to the United States, the U.S citizen or LPR relative must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and be able to provide documentation providing that status.
  • Must prove that they can support the applicant at 125% above the mandated poverty line, by filling out an Affidavit of Support.

The relatives which may be sponsored as an immigrant vary depending on whether the sponsor is a U.S. Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident.

If the sponsor is a U.S. Citizen, he/she may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the U.S:

  • Husband or wife
  • Unmarried child under 21 years of age
  • Unmarried son or daughter over 21
  • Married son or daughter of any age
  • Brother or sister, if the sponsor is at least 21 years old, or
  • Parent, if the sponsor is at least 21 years old.

In any case, the sponsor must be able to provide proof of the relationship.

What are the Preference Categories?

If someone wishes to immigrate as a relative of a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, they must obtain an immigrant visa number based on the preference category in which they fall.

People who want to become immigrants are classified into categories based on a preference system. The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens include parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. Immediate relatives of US citizens do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number to become available once the visa petition filed for them is approved by USCIS. An immigrant visa number will become immediately available. The relatives in the remaining categories must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the following preferences:

  • First preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.
  • Second Preference: Spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents, their unmarried children (under twenty-one years old), and the unmarried sons and daughters of Lawful Permanent Residents.
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens.
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. Citizens.

You can find out more information at http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html.

Who Applies for an Immigrant Visa for Family Members of US citizens or Permanent Residents?

Generally, U.S. citizens or permanent residents file an immigrant visa petition on behalf of a close relative. US citizens can sponsor their parents, spouse, sons and daughters (minors and adults, unmarried or married), and siblings. Lawful Permanent Residents can sponsor their spouse, minor children and unmarried adult sons and daughters. You must be able to provide documentation proving the relationship and must prove that you can support your relative at 125% above the poverty line.

How Long does it Take?

There are a limited number of family-based immigrant visas available each year. Because of these limits, backlogs develop in the various categories of visas, and it can take many years to bring a relative to the US. See http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html to view the dates for which visas are available.

Are There Exceptions to who can Apply?

Under the Violence Against Women Act of 1995, if a spouse or child has been emotionally or physically abused by the relative who would file the visa petition, the spouse or child may self-petition for an immigrant visa without the abuser's knowledge. This applies even if the battered spouse has been divorced or widowed from the abuser for up to two years.

Are There any Other Ways to Become a Permanent Resident?

  • Anyone who has been in the US since 1972 can apply to be a permanent resident.
  • Each year 55,000 immigrant visas are available through the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery. The lottery is limited to countries that have had a relatively low immigration rate during the previous five years. Winners must show that they will not become public charges and that they have at least a high school education or a job that requires at least 2 years of training.