If you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder), you may want to sponsor a relative to live in the United States. Both citizens and permanent residents can do so, although the rules are somewhat different. The first step, however, is sponsoring your relative for an immigrant visa. An immigrant visa is the type that can ultimately result in lawful permanent residence.

The U.S. currently allows an unlimited number of immigrant visas for the close relatives of any U.S. citizen. Close relatives include:

  • Spouse (including same-sex spouses)
  • Unmarried children under age 21
  • Orphans adopted abroad or within the U.S.
  • Parent of a citizen who is at least 21

There are a limited number of visas available for close relatives of permanent residents and for more distant relatives of U.S. citizens. These are divided into groups by preference, which refers to the order in which such visas are offered. The preference categories are:

First preference: U.S. citizens’ unmarried sons and daughters and their minor children

Second preference: Lawful permanent residents’ spouses, minor children, and unmarried children over age 21. Note: At least 75 percent of second-preference visas go to spouses and minor children.

Third preference: U.S. citizens’ married children and their spouses and children.

Fourth preference: Siblings of U.S. citizens who are at least 21, along with the siblings’ spouses and children.

More distant relatives: Under U.S. law, grandparents, uncles, aunts, in-laws and cousins cannot sponsor relatives for immigrant visas.

There are generally more qualified applicants for preference-based visas than there are visas available. In such cases, the applications are ranked by preference and then issued in chronological order based on filing date, which is called the priority date. Applicants for immigrant visas will not receive those visas until their priority date is reached. This may mean the applicant waits for several years or longer.

Sponsoring a relative begins with a Form I-130

Whether you’re a citizen or a permanent resident, if you want to sponsor a relative for immigration to the U.S., your first step is to file a “Petition for Alien Relative,” or Form I-130. It’s very important to get this form filed correctly, so we recommend working with an immigration lawyer.

Take a look at the green cards through family members page of our website and then contact the Yew Immigration Law Group, P.C., for an appointment.