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Sponsoring Your Family Members for Immigration to the United States: A Step-by-Step Guide

Jun 21, 2022 | Featured, Immigration, Permanent Residence

It is possible for you, as an American citizen, to assist a family member living in another country to become a legal permanent resident of the United States via the acquisition of what is often known as a “Green Card.”

It is possible for you, as an American citizen, to assist a family member living in another country to become a legal permanent resident of the United States via the acquisition of what is often known as a “Green Card.” To successfully sponsor your relative to become a U.S. resident, you need to prove that you have enough assets or income to support their stay once they arrive.

Are you still looking forward to helping your relative become a permanent U.S. resident? This article covers the types of family-based immigrant visas available and the steps you need to follow for a successful family immigration process.

Categories of Family-Based Immigrant Visas

Family Preference and Immediate Relative are the two types of family immigration visas available. Immediate Relative visas are limitless, while Family Preference visas are limited to a particular number each year.

Immediate Relative Visa

These visas are based on a strong connection with a U.S. citizen. They are:

  • IR-1: A U.S. Citizen’s Spouse
  • IR-2: A U.S. citizen’s unmarried child below 21 years of age
  • IR-3: An orphan that a U.S. citizen adopted outside of the United States
  • IR-4: Adoption of an orphan by a U.S. citizen in the United States
  • IR-5: eligible for parents of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old

Family Preference Visas

It is eligible for particular, more distant family relationships that are defined by a lawful permanent resident (LPR).

  • Family First Preference (F1): LPR’s unmarried sons and daughters, together with their young kids, if any, qualify.
  • Family Second Preference (F2): minors, unmarried children (age 21 and above), and spouses of LPRs are eligible.
  • Family Third Preference (F3): citizens’ married sons and daughters, as well as their spouses and minor children, are eligible
  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): citizens’ brothers and sisters and their minor children (under 21 years) and spouses are eligible for F4 preference.

Steps to Obtaining a U.S. Family Visa

There are several steps involved in the application process to reunite foreign-born individuals with their American family members. In some cases, the “petitioners” (also known as “sponsors”) are U.S. citizens, while in others, it is the prospective immigrants themselves who take the lead. For an outline of the actions required, please continue reading below.

Step 1: Visa Petition is filed by a U.S. citizen or an LPR

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires the sponsor to begin the process by notifying them of their intention to sponsor an immigrant and demonstrate the existence of a familial link.

USCIS Form I-130, with supporting documentation often sent to the agency along with the required fee. However, a U.S. citizen’s child, widow, or abusive spouse may self-petition by submitting Form I-360.

Step 2: A decision is made by the USCIS

You should be prepared to wait many months (or perhaps years) for USCIS permission if that is required before going further. When this happens, it’s preferable to find out what went wrong and resubmit a fresh petition if it can be corrected.

The National Visa Center (NVC) will receive the immigrant’s case file after USCIS approval.

The NVC will promptly provide further papers to the U.S. petitioner in situations of immediate relatives (usually requesting proof of financial capacity to sponsor the immigrant, in the form of USCIS Form I-864). Then, the case file will be sent to the consulate of the United States in the immigrant’s native country.

“Preference relative” instances need another stage of processing that might take years at the National Visa Center, as stated below.

Step 3: (Only for preference Relatives) Wait for Visa availability.

Family-based green cards are not automatically granted to “preference relatives,” since there are yearly limitations on how many may be allowed by law, the supply seldom keeps up with demand.

In some instances, the wait can last up to several years. Priority Date, or the date on which USCIS received the I-130 petition, ensures an immigrant’s spot on the waiting list. It is why you are advised to apply as soon as you can.

For instance, if you file a petition for your unmarried daughter who is 23 years old and it gets approved, it will give her a place on the list with people of the same category in the same country. Immediate relatives such as unmarried children under 21 years of age, parents, and spouses have no waiting time.

Step 4: Application for a Green Card or Immigrant Visa by the immigrant

The immigrant must file an application for permanent residence as soon as USCIS has granted the visa petition and a visa has become available.

A consulate outside the United States is the most common place to apply for an immigrant visa. The NVC and the consulate will provide different papers and documentation to be filled out, along with directions on where to receive the requisite medical examination and an appointment for in-person interviews. The process is known “as consular processing.”

Step 5: Obtaining a Green Card

An immigrant visa is required for entry into the United States and obtaining permanent resident status for those who apply at a U.S. consulate. If approved, it will be mailed to you.

An Immigration Lawyer Can Help

Although the above steps seem straightforward, many details are involved when applying for family-based green cards, and some can be complex. Imagine how painful it can be if you spend your time providing such details, and in the end, you end up with an ineligible status? That is what missing out on a single detail can do.

We recommend working with an experienced immigration lawyer for a successful sponsorship. Some of the questions that lawyers can answer include:

  • How long does it take to get a U.S. immigration Visa?
  • Is it necessary to have a job offer before you can immigrate to the U.S.?
  • Which document do I need before I can apply got a green card?
  • Does my relative qualify for an immigrant visa application?

You can contact us to learn more about what you need before making your dream move a reality.

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