Suppose you are a legal permanent resident of the U.S., which is commonly known as having your “Green Card”. In that case, you can sponsor some of your immediate relatives so that they can enter the U.S. While you do not have the same privileges to sponsor relatives as if you were a U.S. citizen, you may be able to help bring some relatives to the U.S. as permanent residents.
As a green card holder, you can petition for the following relatives:
- Spouse (husband or wife)
- Unmarried son or daughter
Only U.S. citizens can petition for parents, married children, and siblings. Therefore, the rights of green card holders to sponsors relatives for green cards are more limited than for U.S. citizens.
Filing for Permanent Resident Status of a Qualified Relative
You can start the process of filing for permanent resident status for one of the relatives listed above by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Along with your petition, you must include:
- Proof of your Permanent Legal Resident status
- Evidence of your qualifying relationship with the relative whom you want to sponsor
- Proof of any legal name change for you or your relative
The next step in this process depends on whether your relatives are already in the U.S. legally or are outside the U.S. For example, if your relative is already legally in the U.S., then your relative could apply to adjust their status as soon as a visa number becomes available. On the other hand, if your relative is not in the U.S., your petition goes to the National Visa Center for processing. Once a visa becomes available, the National Visa Center will forward the petition to the appropriate U.S. consulate for processing (Consular Processing).
Keep in mind you can have more than one Immigrant Petition filed on your behalf. For example your U.S. Citizen sibling may have applied for you in the past and once your parent becomes a U.S. Citizen they too can apply for you. This is particularly useful in cases that a original petitioner may unfortunately pass away before your Immigrant Visa is processed.
Immediate Relatives and Preference Categories
The length of time it takes for a visa to become available for your relative depends on your family member’s relationship and repective preference category.
For Immediate Relatives, which incude a U.S Citizen’s:
- The unmarried child under 21 years of age;
- The parent of a U.S. citizen (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older).
there are no numerical limitations for visa availability each fiscal year. Therefore, these petitions are processed without a need to wait for an Immigrant Visa to become available based on a preference category.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the following are the family preference categories:
- First Preference: Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens
- Second Preference (2A): Spouses and unmarried children of green cardholders
- Second Preference (2B): Unmarried adult children of green cardholders
- Third Preference: Married children of U.S. citizens
- Fourth Preference: Siblings of U.S. citizens
How Citizenship Affects Your Petition
Depending on your situation, you may have a long wait before a visa is available to bring your relative to the U.S. If you become a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process, then your relatives may be able to immigrate to the U.S. sooner. In addition, your changed status from a Green Card holder to a U.S. citizen could change your relative’s preference category and move them up on the list of people waiting for visas to become available.
How Marriage Affects Your Petition for Your Child
Legal Permanent Residents only can petition for their unmarried children. As a result, if your child marries while waiting for a visa, then your petition is automatically revoked. Legal permanent residents cannot sponsor married children of any age for green cards. However, if you have become a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process before your child marries, you can continue with the process of getting a green card for your child. As a U.S. citizen, you will become eligible to sponsor a married child for a Green Card.
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