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Updated: Apr 15, 2021

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (“green card holders”) who have family members living abroad can file petitions to help them immigrate to the U.S. However, not every relative of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can obtain a green card in the U.S. just based on familial relationship. Congress established strict categories for which family members can be sponsored for a green card:

· A U.S. citizen may sponsor their spouse, children, brothers and sisters, and parents.

· A lawful permanent resident (LPR or “green card holder”) may only sponsor their spouse or unmarried child (under or over 21)

Note that neither a U.S. citizen nor a permanent resident may sponsor an aunt, uncle, or cousin.

There are many different factors that impact the procedure a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident would take in sponsoring their loved one, and the timeframe in which their relative would have to wait before immigrating. Some factors that affect the procedure and timeframe include, whether the relative is considered an ‘immediate relative’ of a U.S. citizen or is classified in the ‘family preference category’, and whether the relative has any inadmissibility issues (grounds in which disqualify him/her for admission into the U.S.), and the immigration laws that govern at that time of filings (U.S. immigration laws often change).

For purposes of this article, it is assumed the relative in which the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident seeks to sponsor is living abroad, and will therefore be consular processing. Consular processing is the process in which the beneficiary – the green card seeking relative- must attend a consular interview to be processed and approved for an immigrant visa before arriving to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident.

Potential beneficiaries of family-based petitions are classified into two categories : “immediate relatives" of U.S. citizens and “family preference” relatives. Immediate relatives are spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of U.S. citizens. Immediate relatives are not subject to visa quotas and therefore do not have to wait for a visa to become available. Other eligible family members are classified as ‘family preference’ categories. Unlike, immediate relatives, family preference categories are subjected to annual visa quotas (only a limited amount of visas are available per year) which result in long waits for visa availability.

To begin the process of sponsoring a loved one, the U.S. citizen or permanent resident will file an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which establishes the relationship between the sponsoring relative and the intending immigrant relative.

After the I-130 is approved the application is sent to the National Visa Center for further processing. At that time, the applicant will need to complete a Visa application and submit a Financial Affidavit, along with other required documents, which require payment of fees.

Once all the forms have been submitted along with required supporting documentation, the case will be forwarded to the embassy or consulate which will be conducting the interview and deciding on the issuance of the visa. The embassy will schedule an interview date. Your loved one will be required to attend the interview. If your relative is approved for a green card, he or she will be issued an immigrant visa in his or her passport for entry into the U.S. The green card will be mailed at the intended address in the United States as indicated in his or her Visa application.

As of the time this article was written, the normal timeframe from start to finish for immigrant visa consular processing is about 9-12 months, with no additional considerations such as the filing of a waiver for an inadmissibility ground.

For years people nationwide have trusted us with their immigration matters. We understand that sponsoring a loved one is life changing and can be a very intimidating process. Our team is ready to help you get through this process with confidence and the security of having a dedicated and experienced legal team by your side every step of the way.

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