A US citizen or permanent resident may sponsor their family members for permanent residency and/or US citizenship. For immediate relatives of US citizens (spouses, parents and unmarried children under age of 21), the process is streamlined and all the paperwork can be filed at the same time. All others must undertake a three stage process:
- The petitioner must file an immigrant petition for his or her relative;
- The beneficiary must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available; and
- If the relative may apply then apply for permanent residency and obtain a green card.
The filing of an immigrant petition does not give the beneficiary legal status. If the beneficiary wishes to wait for an immigrant visa number in the US, he or she must obtain a nonimmigrant family visa or work visa. Otherwise, the beneficiary must wait outside of the US.
US citizens may sponsor:
- A husband or wife;
- An unmarried child under 21;
- An unmarried son or daughter over 21;
- A married son or daughter of any age; or
- A parent, if the petitioner is 21 or older.
US permanent residents may sponsor:
- A husband or wife; or
- An unmarried son or daughter of any age.
The Immigration and Nationality Act allows for the immigration of foreigners to the United States based on relationship to a US citizen or legal permanent resident. Family based immigration falls under two basic categories: unlimited and limited.
Immediate Relatives of US Citizens (IR): The spouse, widow(er) and unmarried children under 21 of a US citizen, and the parent of a US citizen who is 21 or older. (Unlimited)
Returning Residents (SB): Immigrants who lived in the United States previously as lawful permanent residents and are returning to live in the US after a temporary visit of more than one year abroad. (Unlimited)
Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens, and their children, if any. (23,400)
Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (over age 20) of lawful permanent residents. (114,200) At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder will be allocated to unmarried sons and daughters.
Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of US citizens, and their spouses and children. (23,400)
Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of United States citizens, and their spouses and children, provided the US citizens are at least 21 years of age. (65,000)
The immigration laws of the United States, in order to protect the health, welfare, and security of the United States, prohibit the issuance of a visa to certain applicants. Examples of applicants who must be refused visas are those who: have a communicable disease such as tuberculosis, have a dangerous physical or mental disorder, or are drug addicts; have committed serious criminal acts; are terrorists, subversives, members of a totalitarian party, or former Nazi war criminals; have used illegal means to enter the United States; or are ineligible for citizenship.