Sponsoring an Immediate Relative to the US: Family Sponsorship

Many people in the United States have family members living in other countries, and wonder whether they can bring them here. To promote family unity, U.S. immigration law allows U.S. citizens to petition for a spouse, child or parent to come and live permanently in the United States.

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Who Is Eligible to Sponsor a Family Member

If you are a U.S. citizen, you can file a petition for your immediate relatives. Immediate relatives are defined by immigration law as a U.S. citizens who are a:

  • Spouse
  • Child, unmarried and under age 21
  • Orphan adopted abroad by a US Citizen
  • Orphan to be adopted in the US by a US citizen
  • Parent, if you are age 21 or older

If you are interested in sponsoring a sibling, check out our page on US Family Preference Page.

How to Sponsor an Immediate Relative

To establish your family relationship, you as the U.S. citizen petitioner, must:

  • Complete the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Refer to Form I-130 instructions for further details. If your relative is inside the United States (through lawful admission or parole) your relative can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, at the same time.
  • Submit the Filing Fee(s). Include the appropriate filing fee with your Form I-130. Refer to Form I-130 instructions for details.
  • Submit Evidence. Include all supporting documentation.
  • Evidence to show you are a U.S. citizen,
  • If you were born in the United States, a copy of birth certificate, issued by a civil registrar, vital statistics office, or other civil authority.
  • A copy of your Naturalization certificate or Certificate of citizenship issued by USCIS or the former INS.
  • A copy of Form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), issued by a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate;
  • A copy of your unexpired U.S. passport or passport card.
  • An original statement from a U.S. consular officer verifying that you are a U.S. citizen with a valid passport.
  • Sign and File the Form I-130. File the petition at the correct filing location according to form instructions.

Filing a Petition

As the first step, a sponsoring relative must file a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

In certain circumstances, a U.S. citizen living abroad can file an immigrant visa petition outside the United States.

Fees, Affidavit of Support, and Visa Application

After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once received, the NVC will assign a case number for the petition. For family preference immigrant visa cases, when an applicant’s priority date meets the most recent qualifying date, the NVC will instruct the applicant to complete Form DS-261. The NVC will begin pre-processing the applicant’s case by providing the applicant and petitioner with instructions to submit the appropriate fees. After the appropriate fees are paid, the NVC will request that the applicant submit the necessary immigrant visa documents, including the Affidavit of Support, application forms, civil documents, and more.

Required Documentation

In general, the following documents are required:

  • Passport(s) valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States, unless longer validity is specifically requested by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your country.
  • Affidavit of Support Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.
  • Two (2) 2×2 photographs. See the required photo format explained in Photograph Requirements.
  • Civil Documents for the applicant (and petitioner in F4 cases). See Documents the Applicant Must Submit for more specific information about documentation requirements, including information on which documents may need to be translated. The consular officer may ask for more information during your visa interview. Bring your original civil documents (or certified copies), such as birth and marriage certificates, as well as legible photocopies of the original civil documents, and any required translations to your immigrant visa interview. Original documents and translations can then be returned to you.
  • Completed Medical Examination Forms – These are provided by the panel physician after you have completed your medical examination and vaccinations.

Required Medical Examination and Vaccinations

In preparing for your interview, you will need to schedule and complete your medical examination and any required vaccinations before your visa interview. Before an immigrant visa can be issued, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination which must be performed by an authorized panel physician. NVC provides applicants instructions regarding medical examinations, including information on authorized panel physicians. See Medical Examination for more information. See Vaccination Requirements for IV Applicants for the list of required vaccinations and additional information.

Ineligibility

Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities include: drug trafficking; overstaying a previous visa; and submitting fraudulent documents. If you are ineligible for a visa, you will be informed by the consular officer and advised whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility available to you and what the waiver process is.

Green Card Interview

Once the NVC determines the file is complete with all the required documents, they schedule the applicant’s interview appointment. NVC then sends the file, containing the applicant’s petition and the documents listed above, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant will be interviewed for a visa. The applicant, attorney, and third-party agent, if applicable, will receive appointment emails, or letters (if no email address is available), containing the date and time of the applicant’s visa interview along with instructions, including guidance for obtaining a medical examination.

Each applicant should bring a valid passport to the interview, as well as any other documentation above not already provided to NVC. A consular officer will interview the applicant, and the consular officer will determine whether the applicant is eligible to receive an immigrant visa in accordance with U.S. immigration law. Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken on the day of the interview. Generally, an applicant receives original civil documents and original translations back at the time of interview.

Why Legal Help for Family Sponsorship is Important

Although the concept of family sponsorship seems straightforward, there are many exceptions and details of which to be aware. Instead of risking having your efforts rejected due to a missing detail on a document or an ineligible scenario, we recommend consulting with an experienced legal attorney who knows how to properly prepare successful family sponsorship applications.

Why Hire Us to Assist Your Family Sponsorship Case?

Since there are a limited amount of visas available under the Family Preference category, getting the application right the first time is vital. Even though there are unlimited visas available for immediate relatives, an application needs to be prepared properly. We have helped thousands of individuals to successfully get U.S. permanent residence through family-based petitions, and we can help you too!