How can I sponsor a family member for immigration?

family holding US flag

The family unit is an indispensable facet of society as it provides each member with love, support, and a framework of values. By creating a sense of safety and stability, it offers a resilient support system that is unmatched by any other social structure. As such, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers family-based immigrant visas where U.S. citizens and permanent residents can sponsor eligible relatives. If you’re considering sponsoring a family member to obtain a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card), contact our qualified Essex County Family Immigration Attorneys, who can help you navigate the complex application process. 

What categories of people are eligible to be sponsored for family-based immigrant visas?

If you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you can sponsor a family-based immigration petition, provided your relative meets specific eligibility requirements. Through this legal pathway for obtaining a Permanent Resident Card, a sponsor must be 21 or older to petition for an immigrant visa. Sponsors of family-based immigrant visas are required to meet the 125% income requirements. Essentially, they must provide evidence of support for the Alien Beneficiary in which they guarantee to maintain the standard of living of the intending immigrant at a level no lower than the national poverty level. This legal obligation does not end until the Alien Beneficiary has become a U.S. citizen or has worked in the U.S. for 40 qualifying quarters.

To initiate the process for the relative you are sponsoring to become a permanent resident, you must apply for a family-based immigrant visa. Immediate relatives are not the only family members who qualify for permanent residency through this legal pathway, as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) prioritizes family unity. As a result, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) stipulates the preference classes for family-based immigrant visas as follows:

  • First category: (F1 Visa) Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens
  • Second category: (F2A Visa) Spouses and children of permanent residents, (F2B Visas) unmarried children who are 21 years of age or older of permanent residents
  • Third category: (F3 Visa) Married children of U.S. citizens
  • Fourth category: (F4 Visa) Siblings of U.S. citizens

How can I apply to sponsor a relative for permanent residency?

Firstly, you will have to establish the relationship between you and your relative to prove they qualify to immigrate to the U.S. for permanent residency through a family-based immigrant visa. The process differs depending on whether your relative resides in the U.S. or is abroad. If the family member is already in the U.S., they can establish the relationship with the Alien Beneficiary by filing Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. Once the petition is approved, the family member will become eligible to apply to become a Lawful Permanent Resident. There is a limited number of visas that are allotted under this category. Therefore, certain relatives must wait until a visa number is available before applying for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. They must apply through consular processing if they are outside of the U.S.

Understanding that the U.S. petitioner and the Alien Beneficiary must complete the necessary steps for a successful visa application is critical. If you’re considering sponsoring a relative for a family-based immigrant visa, contact a knowledgeable attorney from the Law Offices of Christopher T. Howell, Esq., who can guide you through every step of this complex process.