Sponsor a Loved One for Legal Permanent Residence
A US Citizen (USC) may petition for his/her immediate relatives and other family members for immigrant visas. Only immediate relatives of USC’s can qualify for family-based immigrant visas immediately with no wait time. The other, more distant relatives must wait for visa availability.
Immediate Relatives are defined as: Spouses of U.S. citizens, Children (unmarried and under 21) of U.S. citizens; or Parents of U.S. citizens (The petitioning citizen must be 21 or older.)
First, the USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition, I-130 Petition for Alien Relative for you. This petition is filed by your relative (sponsor) and must be accompanied by proof of your relationship to the requesting relative.
Second, the Department of State must determine if an immigrant visa number is immediately available to you, the foreign national, even if you are already in the United States. When an immigrant visa number becomes immediately available to you, it means that you can apply to have one of the immigrant visa numbers assigned to you. You can check the status of a visa number in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.
Finally, if you are already in the United States, you may apply to change your status, commonly known as adjustment of status (form I-485), to that of a lawful permanent resident after a visa number becomes available for you. This is one way you can apply to secure an immigrant visa number. If you are outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available for you, you must then go to the U.S. consulate servicing the area in which you reside to complete your processing. This is the other way in which you can apply to secure an immigrant visa number.
Frequently Asked Questions
- If you were born in the United States, a copy of your birth certificate, issued by the civil registrar, vital statistics office, or other civil authority. If a birth certificate is not available there may be several secondary forms of proof of U.S. Citizenship.
- A copy of your naturalization certificate or certificate of citizenship issued by USCIS.
- A copy of Form FS-240, Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States, issued by an American embassy or consulate.
- A copy of your unexpired U.S. passport.
- An original statement from a U.S. consular officer verifying that you are a U.S. citizen with a valid passport.
If you are a permanent legal resident (Green Card), you must submit your petition with a copy of the front and back of your permanent resident card. If you have not yet received your card, submit copies of your passport biographic page and the page showing admission as a permanent resident (I-551 stamp), or other evidence of permanent resident status issued by USCIS.
You have to prove that there is a family relationship between you and your relative when filing the petition. If you are filing for:
A spouse, submit the following documentation:
- A copy of your marriage certificate.
- Divorce certificate if either you or your spouse were previously married, submit copies of documents showing that all prior marriages were legally terminated.
- A passport-style color photo of yourself and a passport-style color photo of your spouse, taken within 30 days of the date of this petition. The photos must comply with the current requirements. Using a pencil or felt pen, lightly print the name (and Alien Registration Number, if known) on the back of each photograph.
A child and the petitioner is the mother: Submit a copy of the child’s birth certificate showing your name and the name of your child.
A child and the petitioner is the father: Submit a copy of the child’s birth certificate showing both parents’ names and your marriage certificate.
A child born out of wedlock and petitioner is the father: If the child was not legitimated before reaching 18 years old, you must file your petition with copies of evidence that a bona fide parent-child relationship existed between the father and the child before the child reached 21 years. This may include evidence that the father lived with the child, supported him or her, or otherwise showed continuing parental interest in the child’s welfare.
A brother or sister: Submit a copy of your birth certificate and a copy of your brother’s or sister’s birth certificate showing that you have at least one common parent. If you and your brother or sister have a common father but different mothers, submit copies of the marriage certificates of the father to each mother and copies of documents showing that any prior marriages of either your father or mothers were legally terminated.
A mother: Submit a copy of your birth certificate showing your name and your mother’s name.
A father: Submit a copy of your birth certificate showing the names of both parents. Also provide a copy of your parents’ marriage certificate establishing that your father was married to your mother before you were born, and copies of documents showing that any prior marriages of either your father or mother were legally terminated.
Stepparent/stepchild: If your petition is based on a stepparent-stepchild relationship, you must file your petition with a copy of the marriage certificate of the stepparent to the child’s natural parent showing that the marriage occurred before the child’s 18th birthday, and copies of documents showing that any prior marriages were legally terminated.
Adoptive parent or adopted child: If you and the person you are filing for are related by adoption, you must submit a copy of the adoption decree(s) showing that the adoption took place before the child became 16 ready adopted, you must submit a copy of the adoption decree(s) showing that the adoption of the sibling occurred before that child’s 18th birthday. In either case, you must also submit copies of evidence that each child was in the legal custody of and resided with the parent(s) who adopted him or her for at least two years before or after the adoption. Legal custody may only be granted by a court or recognized government entity and is usually granted at the time the adoption is finalized. However, if legal custody is granted by a court or recognized government agency prior to the adoption, that time may count to fulfill the two-year legal custody requirement.
Beneficiaries are defined and one must meet the definition of its category at the time that the application of adjustment of status is approved. Those who do not meet the definitions cannot immigrate to the United States through family-based immigration.
An “immediate relative” of a U.S. citizen is the spouse, parent, widow, or child of the U.S. citizen. Specifically, a “child” is the son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, who is unmarried and under the age of 21. An adopted child qualifies as long as the adoption was finalized before the child’s 16th birthday. A stepchild qualifies as long as the marriage had occurred before the stepchild’s 18th birthday. A “parent” must meet the same test as for the “child”. One thing to point out is that a father-in-law or mother-in-law of a U.S. citizen are not “parents” of the U.S. citizen for immigration purposes. [INA 101 (b)(1), (b)(2), 203 (a)(4)]
A. There may be two scenarios:
(1). If the Beneficiary is already in the United States in a non-immigrant status and the alien is an immediate relative of a U.S. Citizen then he/she does not need to be in nonimmigrant status, but does need to have been admitted and inspected into the U.S. with a valid visa. In this case, the U.S. Citizen sponsor can file an immigration petition (Form I-130), and the Beneficiary can file an Application for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) simultaneously. If the Beneficiary belongs to one of the four Preferences, then only the immigration petition can be filed, and the Beneficiary has to wait for the immigrant visa number to become current before he or she may apply to adjust to permanent resident. During this waiting period, the Beneficiary needs to independently maintain a valid non-immigrant status.
(2) If the beneficiary is outside the United States, the Sponsor needs to file an immigration petition and request that the USCIS notify a U.S. Consulate in the country where the Beneficiary lives. Once the immigration petition is approved, the National Visa Center (NVC) sends forms and information package, called “Packet 3”, to the Sponsor. After the necessary forms are completed, the Beneficiary goes to the U.S. Consulate overseas to apply for an immigrant visa. On the day that the Beneficiary enters the United States on an immigrant visa, he or she becomes a U.S. permanent resident.
To be eligible to sponsor a relative to immigrate to the United States, a person must meet the following criteria:
- Petitioner must be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States and be able to provide documentation proving his/her status.
- Petitioner must prove that he/she can support his/her relative at 125% above the mandated poverty line.
- If he/she is a US Citizen, he/she may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the United States:
- Husband or wife;
- Unmarried son or daughter over 21;
- Married son or daughter of any age;
- Brother or sister, if he/she is at least 21 years old; or
- Parent, if he/she is at least 21 years old.
- If he/she is a lawful permanent resident he/she may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the United States:
- Husband or wife; or
- Unmarried son or daughter of any age
The following relatives fall into one of the following four 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), 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.
Since your spouse was a lawful permanent resident at the time of filing a petition for you, it is possible to upgrade or convert the petition to that of an immediate relative. He must send proof of his U.S. citizenship to the National Visa Center. Separate petitions need to be filed for minor children who are immigrating to the U.S. with you.
You may certainly try to apply for adjustment of status yourself. However, an experienced immigration attorney can help you prepare the forms and supporting documents with much less time involved and with much more accuracy. Furthermore, the attorney will be able to inform you of any potential problems in your particular case and how to deal with those problems. Lastly, the USCIS will usually send all documents and inquiries to your attorney. This is particularly important if you will be changing addresses in the future.