I have my Green Card. Can I sponsor my family members for Green Cards?
Yes, as a green card holder and legal permanent resident in the United States you are eligible to sponsor certain family members. You may file an I-130 Alien Relative Petition for your spouse and your children (minor or adult), as long as your children are not married.
What is the Process for Getting the Green Card?
If you are a green card holder there will be two steps in sponsoring your family members. First you will file the I-130 Alien Relative Petition. In this petition you will submit proof that you are a legal permanent resident and proof of the family relationship (marriage and/or birth certificates). Once you receive the I-130 Approval Notice your family member will be assigned a Priority Date. You should then check the most current Visa Bulletin (updated monthly), which will let you know approximately when an immigrant visa will become available for your family member.
There are two Preference categories for green card holders sponsoring family members: Second Preference (2A) for spouses and unmarried children under 21 and Second Preference (2B) for unmarried adult sons and daughters (21 and over). The Visa Bulletin will list dates for each Preference category. If your family member’s Priority Date is earlier than the date listed in their Preference category, they can apply for the immigrant visa. If your family member is in the United States then he or she will file an I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with USCIS. If your family member is outside the United States he or she will send the immigrant petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) and the NVC will send the petition to the U.S. Consulate abroad for consular processing.
How Long Will it Take?
Unfortunately the answer is one that people often hear from their lawyers: it depends. Processing times vary at the different Service Centers and Field Offices. The processing times are always changing, depending on how busy the offices are. Some Service Centers will process the I-130 within 5 months, while others can take much longer. You can check the USCIS website to get a sense of the current processing times for the I-130. Additionally, once the I-130 is approved there will almost certainly be a wait (sometimes years) before an immigrant visa becomes available to your family member. There are also certain countries (China, India, Mexico and the Philippines) that have per-country limits, which may cause longer wait times for immigrant visas.
The Visa Bulletin was recently changed and now contains two charts. One chart, titled “Application for Final Action Dates” lists dates when applicants seeking to adjust status in the U.S. may file an adjustment of status application with USCIS. If USCIS finds that there are more immigrant visas available, applicants for adjustment of status may use the dates on the second chart to determine if they can file an application. USCIS reviews the number of available visas each month and posts which chart applicants should use on their website.
The second chart is titled “Dates for Filing Applications” and lists the dates when applicants are able to apply for their green cards through consular processing. Adjustment of status applicants can also use this chart when USCIS concludes that immigrant visas are available. When you go to the Visa Bulletin website, figure out which chart you should use and then look for the date next to your family member’s Preference category. Your family member will need to wait until their Priority Date is earlier than the date listed in their category to file the application to become a legal permanent resident. For example, in December 2015, USCIS has said that adjustment of status applicants may use the “Dates for Filing Applications” chart. The Visa Bulletin for December 2015 states that Second Preference (F2B – Unmarried adult children of green card holders) has a cut-off date of July 1, 2010. This means that family members in that category with a Priority Date earlier than July 1, 2010 can file their applications to become legal permanent residents through consular processing or adjustment of status.
One way to significantly speed up the process of getting green cards for your family is for you (the green card holder) to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen. Visas are available right away to the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, meaning these relatives do not have to wait to file their application for a green card. Immediate relatives include spouses, unmarried minor children and parents.
If you are a green card holder who is planning to sponsor a family member or apply for citizenship, it is important that you speak with an immigration attorney who can answer your questions about eligibility and requirements of sponsorship and naturalization.