The United States may often be referred to as “the land of opportunity,” but there are a multitude of legal barriers that prevent non-US citizens from truly immersing themselves in the nation’s bustling economy as they so desire. For U.S. citizens and green card holders with foreign family members aspiring to legally live and work in the United States, family sponsorship can offer a streamlined solution toward sourcing that highly desired U.S. green card for parents and other close relatives, presenting the opportunity to bring beloved families back together on U.S soil.
Fortunately for many of these situations, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are given top priority for issuance of U.S. family based green cards, and there is no legal limit on how many green cards can be granted by the U.S. to immediate relatives in any given year. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen is defined as a legal spouse, parent, or unmarried child under the age of 21, allowing for a variety of family members to qualify for the coveted green card application with ease.
Despite popular misconceptions, these immigration opportunities are not only limited to citizens; U.S. green card holders can also sponsor immediate family members as permanent residents, namely their spouses and unmarried children.
Many non-immediate relatives can also obtain a family sponsorship green card to the United States, though these are in limited availability based on predetermined preference categories. First preference goes to U.S. citizen’s unmarried children over the age of 21 while second preference is given to the previously outlined close relatives of green card holders, followed by preference to citizen’s married children of any age and preference to citizen’s siblings at last.
However, U.S. family immigration does not allow for green card applications for citizens’ grandparents or any other relatives not previously outlined above at this time. Like with all immigration categories, sponsored family members and relatives must fall within ordinary requirements to apply for and receive their green card to the United States, meaning namely that they cannot be inadmissible to the United States. There are only very few exceptions to reverse inadmissibility.
To begin the application process, a form I-130 must be filed on behalf of or by the foreign relative to establish their relationship to their U.S. citizen or green card holding family member, which will go through a review process with the USCIS between a few months to a year for immediate family members. For family preference green card petitions, the I-130 approval process may take up to several years, if not decades, depending on the country of birth of the sponsored person. Once the relationship has received approval, U.S. citizens and green card holders can apply for their relative’s family sponsorship green card.
Though the green card application process may seem daunting and overwhelming if you go at it alone, with some professional assistance to walk you through the process, your close relatives could become legal U.S. residents sooner than you think.