I AM A US CITIZEN. HOW DO I HELP MY RELATIVE BECOME A PERMANENT RESIDENT
(i.e., GREEN CARD HOLDER)?
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An attorney in our office would be happy to assist you.
Millions of people want to come to the United States to live. To manage
this process the law sets eligibility standards and also limits how
many people can immigrate each year. One of the most common ways people
immigrate is based on a relationship to a US citizen. If you want to
help a relative immigrate, start the process by filing an Immigrant
Petition for Alien Relative. Sometimes the relative petition can be
combined with a permanent resident application (i.e., green card) by
the relative as discussed below.
Who are the relatives that I may file for?
Any US citizen can file for the following relatives:
• Husband or wife
• Children, and sons and daughters
A US citizen who is 21 or older can also file for the following
• Brothers and sisters
In your relative petition, you will have to prove your relationship
to the person for whom you are filing.
What does the immigrant petition do for my relative?
Filing a relative petition and proving a qualifying relationship gives
the relative a place in line among others waiting to immigrate based
on the same kind of relationship. When the place in line is reached,
the relative may be eligible to apply to immigrate.
For example: You file a relative petition for your sister. If
the USCIS approves it, your petition gives her a place in the line of
people from the same country who are also brothers and sisters of US
citizens. Your relative’s place in line will be based on the date
you file your petition. So, there is an advantage to filing as soon
as possible. There is no waiting line for a US citizen’s parent,
spouse, or unmarried child under age 21.
What about other relatives?
The law limits eligibility to the relatives listed above.
What about my relative’s family?
In most cases, when your relative’s place in line is reached
and he or she applies to immigrate, his or her husband or wife and unmarried
children under 21 can apply as dependents.
For example: You file a relative petition for your sister. You
cannot directly petition for her husband and children. However, they
can apply for immigrant visas with her, when her place in line is reached.
On the other hand, a separate relative petition must be filed on behalf
of each person who qualifies as your direct relative, including your
For example: To sponsor your mother and father, file a separate
petition for each. If they have other children—your brothers and
sisters—also file separate petitions for each of them.
For example: You marry a woman with a child. The child will
usually qualify as your stepchild if he or she was unmarried and less
than age 18 when you married the mother. In that case, you would need
to file one relative petition for your wife, and another for your step-children.
After I file, how long will it be before my relative can immigrate?
The law gives special standing to a US
citizen’s husband or wife,
unmarried children under 21, and parents.
• There is no waiting list for immigration for these relatives.
• The Department of State will invite them to apply for an immigrant
visa as soon as the USCIS approves your relative petition. In some cases,
the petition can be filed outside the US, directly at the US Consulate.
• If they entered legally and are currently in the US (and meet
certain other requirements), they may be able to file applications to
adjust to permanent resident status (i.e., green card).
For other relatives, the combination of high demand and the limits
set by law on how many people can immigrate each year means your relative
may have to wait several years while relative petitions that were filed
before theirs are served. When your relative reaches the “front
of the line”, the Department of State contacts your relative and
invites him or her to apply for an immigrant visa. If you are interested
in current wait times for visa numbers, see Visa Bulletin at http://bccvisalaw.com/immigration-to-usa.php
Can my relative wait in the United States until becoming a
Your approved relative petition gives your relative a place in line
among those waiting to immigrate. It does not let him or her come to
the US or remain here until he or she can apply for permanent residence.
He or she should wait outside the US to immigrate legally. If he or
she comes or stays without legal status, it will affect his or her eligibility
to become a permanent resident when his or her place in line for a visa
is reached. However, if your husband or wife, unmarried child under
21, or parent is already in the US after having entered legally (and
in certain other circumstances), and applies for permanent residence
when you file your relative petition, then he or she may, with certain
exceptions, remain in the US while the USCIS processes their application
for permanent residence (i.e., green card).
Does filing a relative petition commit me to anything?
Under the law, every person who immigrates based on a relative petition
must have a financial sponsor. If you choose to sponsor your relative’s
immigration by filing a relative petition, then when the time comes,
you must agree to be his or her financial sponsor and file an affidavit
of support. If you do not meet the financial qualifications, then other
individuals will also have to make this commitment.
What happens after I file?
If you file by mail, the USCIS will mail you a receipt so you know
the USCIS has your relative petition. If your relative petition is incomplete
or improperly prepared, the USCIS may have to reject it, or ask you
for more evidence or information, which will delay processing.
The USCIS will notify you when they make a decision. Normally, when
the USCIS approves the relative petition, they will send it to the US
State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC). Once your relative’s
place in line for a visa number is reached, the NVC will notify you
and your relative, inviting him or her and qualifying dependents to
apply for immigrant visas.
How long will it take USCIS to process my petition?
Processing time depends on a number of factors. You can check the current
processing times at http://bccvisalaw.com/ins-processing.php.
What if I filed a petition for a relative when I was a permanent
resident, but I am now a US citizen?
If you become a US citizen while your relative is waiting for a visa,
you can upgrade your relative's visa classification by upgrading your
petition. Husbands or wives
and unmarried children under age 21 of US citizens have visas immediately
available to them.
• If you become a US citizen after your relative petition is
already approved and sent to the State Department, you should notify
the NVC that you have become a US citizen by sending a copy of your
naturalization certificate to the NVC.
• If your relative is your spouse and he or she has children
who are your step-children or adopted children, and you did not file
separate petitions for them, you must file separate petitions for them
now with evidence of your US citizenship.
THE INFORMATION ON THIS WEBSITE IS NOT TO BE CONSIDERED LEGAL
ADVICE. SUCH INFORMATION IS INTENDED TO EDUCATE MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC
GENERALLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE SOLUTIONS TO INDIVIDUAL PROBLEMS.
READERS ARE CAUTIONED NOT TO ATTEMPT TO SOLVE INDIVIDUAL PROBLEMS ON
THE BASIS OF INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN AND ARE STRONGLY ADVISED TO
SEEK ADVICE FROM AN EXPERIENCED IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY REGARDING SPECIFIC
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