How do US citizens bring foreign relatives to live in America?

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U.S. citizens who have relatives abroad can often sponsor those relatives for lawful permanent residence in the U.S. (a green card). This is true for both natural born and naturalized citizens.

The relative you sponsor must be:

  • Your spouse
  • Your child
  • If you are 21 or older, your parent
  • If you are 21 or older, your sibling

Getting a green card for a foreign relative is a two-step process. The first step is to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This petition establishes your relationship for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and reserves a spot in line for your relative, if applicable.

Once your Form I-130 is approved, your relative can apply for an immigrant visa, which is the type of visa they need to qualify for a green card later.

Some relatives will not have to wait in line

According to the USCIS, U.S. law gives special consideration to your immediate relatives – your spouse, your unmarried children who are under 21, and your parents. There is no waiting list or limit on immigrant visas for these relatives.

Once your Form I-130 is approved by the USCIS, the U.S. Department of State will invite immediate relatives to apply for an immigrant visa right away.

For other relatives, there are numerical limits on the number of immigrant visas allowed each year. Demand for these visas is high, and there are generally not enough visas for everyone who applies.

As a result, your children who are married or over 21 and your siblings may have to wait several years before a visa becomes available. Once your relative reaches the front of the line, the Department of State will contact them and invite them to apply for the immigrant visa.

Does my petition commit me to anything?

Yes. When you sponsor a relative, you are committing to financially sponsor that person. If you do not meet the financial qualifications to financially sponsor your relative, you will need to find someone else who will commit to doing so.

Can my relative bring their family, too?

In many cases, yes. Once your relative reaches the point where they are applying for an immigrant visa, their spouse and unmarried children under 21 can be added to that application.

For example, you might be sponsoring a married child. You cannot directly sponsor your child’s spouse and children but, once your Form I-130 is approved, your child can add their spouse and children to their immigrant visa application.

If you would like to sponsor a relative for a U.S. immigrant visa, which can lead to a green card, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping families reunite in the U.S.