An Immigration Law Blog Thing

As a citizen of the United States, you may help a relative become
a lawful permanent resident of the United States by obtaining what
is often referred to as a “Green Card.”
To do so, you need to sponsor
your relative and be able to prove that you have enough income
or assets to support your relative(s) when they come to the United

You begin the process by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien
Relative. This form establishes the family relationship that exists
between you and your relative. Filing instructions and forms are
available on our Web site at Sometimes the I-130
can be filed together with an application for permanent residence
(Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust
Status). This is discussed below.

Which relatives may I petition for?
A U.S. citizen can file a petition for the following relatives:
• Husband or wife;
• Children, married or unmarried.

A U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years or older may also petition for
the following relatives:

• Parents;
• Brothers or sisters.
When you submit your petition, you are required to provide evidence
to prove your relationship to the person for whom you are filing.

What does the petition do for my relative?
Filing a Form I-130 and proving a qualifying relationship gives your
relative a place in line with others waiting to immigrate from the
same country or region based on the same type of relationship.
When your relative reaches the front of the line, he or she may be
eligible to immigrate after passing the required background checks
and meeting requirements for admission.

For example: You file a petition for your unmarried son over 21
years of age. If we approve it, your petition gives him a place in line
with people from the same country category who are also unmarried
sons or daughters over the age of 21 of U.S. citizens.

What about my relative’s family?
In most cases, when your relative reaches the front of the line, your
relative’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age can
join him or her by also applying for an immigrant visa. (If the family
member is already in the United States, he or she may be able to
file a Form I-485 application to adjust status based on the relative’s
approved visa petition.)

For example: You file a petition for your married daughter. You
cannot directly petition for her husband and children. However, when
your daughter’s place in line allows her to apply for a Green Card,
her husband and children can apply for immigrant visas at the same
time with your daughter.

As a U.S. citizen, you must file a separate petition for each one of
your direct relatives, including your own children.

For example: To sponsor your mother and father, file a separate
petition for each. If they have other children—your brothers
and sisters—file a separate petition for each of them. Visas are
immediately available for mothers and fathers of U.S. citizens, but
visas are not immediately available for brothers and sisters of U.S.
citizens; therefore, they will have to wait for visa availability.

For example: You marry someone with a child. The child will
usually qualify as your stepchild if he or she was unmarried and
under 18 years of age at the time of your marriage. In this example,
you are required to file two petitions: one petition for your wife and
another for the child.

After I file, how long will it take before my relative can

The law gives special consideration to immediate relatives of U.S.
citizens, which includes a U.S. citizen’s spouse, unmarried children
under 21 years of age, and parents.

• There is no waiting list to immigrate these relatives.
• The U.S. Department of State will invite them to apply for an
immigrant visa as soon as we approve your I-130 petition.
• If your petition has been approved, and your relatives are
currently in the United States after making a legal entry (and
they meet certain other requirements), they may be able to file
applications with USCIS to adjust to permanent resident status.

Can my relative wait in the United States until becoming a
permanent resident?

No. If your relative is outside the United States, filing an I-130 does
not allow your relative to live or work in the United States. An I-130
petition only establishes your relationship with your relative. Your
relative should wait outside the United States to immigrate legally.
If your husband or wife, unmarried child under 21 years, or parent
is already in the United States after having entered legally, they can
apply to adjust their status to permanent resident at the same time
you file their I-130 petition.

Does filing a relative petition commit me to anything?
Yes. Under the law, each person who immigrates based on a
relative’s petition must have a financial sponsor. If you choose
to sponsor your relative’s immigration by filing a relative petition
(I-130), when the time comes for your relative to immigrate, you
must agree to be his or her financial sponsor by filing Form I-864,
Affidavit of Support. If you do not meet the financial qualifications,
other individuals will then need to make this commitment. For more
information, please see Customer Guide F3, General Information…

How Do I Financially Sponsor Someone Who Wants to Immigrate?

How do I file?
There are two basic ways to legally assist your relatives to immigrate
into the United States:

  1. If your relatives live in another country, you will file
    an I-130 petition with USCIS. Form I-130 can be filed with a
    USCIS Lockbox based on the petitioner’s place of residence.
    Please refer to pages 4 and 5 of the instructions for mailing
    addresses. Please check our Web site for any updates on
    instructions or fees. Make sure your petition is complete,
    signed, and submitted with correct fees. You will need to
    submit evidence of your U.S. citizenship, and evidence proving
    your relationship to each person for whom you are filing a
    2.If your relatives are already in the United States and
    entered legally, then they may be able to file an I-485
    application to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident
    at the same time as you file the I-130 relative petition.
    Petitions filed at the same time with permanent residence
    applications (I-485) must be filed at a location that is different
    from where you would file an I-130 petition by itself. Please
    read the instructions for the two addresses where concurrent
    filings can be mailed.

What happens after I file?

USCIS will mail you a receipt confirming that we have received your
petition. If your petition is incomplete, we may have to reject
it, or ask you for more evidence or information, which will delay
processing. Send all required documents the first time
to avoid delay.

They will notify you when we make a decision.

How long will it take USCIS to process my petition?
Since processing time depends on a number of factors, it is difficult
to provide a timeframe. We post current processing times on our
Web site at, which is the best way to monitor
progress of your petition.

What if I filed a petition for a relative when I was
a permanent resident, but I am now a U.S. citizen?

If you become a U.S. citizen while your relative is waiting for a
visa, you can upgrade your relative’s visa classification and advance
the processing of that petition by notifying the appropriate agency
of your naturalization. When you are a U.S. citizen, your husband
or wife and any unmarried children under age 21 will have visas
immediately available to them.

If you become a U.S. citizen after your Form I-130 petition
is already approved and it has been forwarded to the State
Department’s National Visa Center (NVC), you should notify the
NVC that you have become a U.S. citizen. Requests to upgrade
petitions due to the naturalization of the petitioner should be
sent to:

National Visa Center
31 Rochester Avenue, Suite 200
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2915

Include a letter with information regarding your relative, a
copy of your Naturalization Certificate, and a copy of the petition
approval notice. Once the NVC is notified that the petitioner
has been naturalized, the NVC will immediately send the visa.

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