If you are a U.S. citizen, you can sponsor certain family members for a green card. There are two categories of family members you can sponsor: your immediate relatives and relatives you can sponsor through family preference categories. The benefit of this category is that there are always green cards available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. This is in contrast to the family preference categories, where there is often a wait time before a green card becomes available. This blog post will only focus on the immediate relatives category.
Immediate Relatives of a U.S. citizen
The following members of your family are considered to be your immediate relatives for immigration purposes:
- Your spouse;
- Your unmarried child under the age of 21; and
- Your parents, if you are at least 21 years old.
How can I sponsor my immediate relatives?
You will have to file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with USCIS. You will also have to submit certain documents, such as evidence of your U.S. citizenship, evidence of family relationship between you and the person you are sponsoring (e.g. marriage certificate or birth certificate), or proof of bona fide marriage in the case you are sponsoring your spouse. You will also need to sign an Affidavit of Support in which you accept financial responsibility for your immediate relative.
There are two ways your immediate relative can get a green card:
1. Your immediate relative can adjust his/her status if he/she is inside the United States on a valid non-immigrant visa
If your immediate relative is currently in the U.S. on a valid non-immigrant visa, he/she can file Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status and adjust status in the U.S. The advantage of adjusting one’s status in the U.S. is that your immediate relative does not have to leave the U.S. and he/she can wait in the U.S. until a final decision is made on the Adjustment of Status Petition As mentioned above, you as the sponsor will have to file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). Since green cards are always available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, Forms I-485 and I-130 can be filed concurrently.
While the adjustment of status application is pending, your immediate relative can apply for Employment Authorization and Travel Authorization so he/she can to work in the U.S. and travel outside the U.S. without abandoning his/her adjustment of status application until the final decision is made on the Adjustment of Status Application. Currently, it takes approximately 4-6 months to get Employment and Travel Authorization and your immediate relative is eligible to renew the Employment and Travel Authorization for as long as the adjustment of status is pending.
It is very important that one has the physical Travel Authorization card before leaving the U.S. while the adjustment of application is pending, as if your immediate relative leaves the U.S. without a valid travel authorization, he/she is deemed to have abandoned the Green Card Application.
2. Your immediate relative can apply for the green card through Consular Processing abroad
If your immediate relative is outside the U.S., he/she will have to apply for a green card through Consular processing.
You as the sponsoring U.S. citizen will have to file Form I-130 with the USCIS and if USCIS approves the petition, it will send the approved petition to the National Visa Center (“NVC”). After the NVC receives notification of the approval, the immediate relative can begin the green card application process. Your immediate relative will have to complete and submit form DS-260, pay required fees, and submit supporting documents to the NVC (such as birth certificate, Police certificate, Marriage Certificate, Affidavit of Support among others). After NVC receives and reviews all the required documentation, an interview will be scheduled at a U.S. Consulate.
Both when adjusting the status and applying for a green card at the Consulate abroad, your immediate relative will have to undergo a medical examination and get the required vaccinations.
If the immigrant visa is approved, your immediate relative can then enter the U.S. on the immigrant visa that was issued at the Consulate. He/she should apply for the green card before entering the U.S. and the green card will be then mailed to him/her.
Please see our blog post on how to maintain your green card when you click here.
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