Avoiding Legal Trouble

How To Petition For A Family Member To Immigrate To The United States.

Although most of the procedures for petitioning for family members to immigrate to the US are the same, some family relationships may require additional documentation. The time it will take for the immigration process to be completed will also vary greatly, depending on your relationship with the family member.

US citizens can sponsor more family members than permanent residents (green card holders). While permanent residents can only petition for spouses, children under twenty one, and unmarried sons and daughters of any age, US citizens can also petition for married children, parents, and siblings. Married children and siblings of US citizens may also bring their families.

Beneficiaries of immigration petitions are placed into groups which denote their level of priority in receiving visa numbers. A limited amount of visa numbers are available each year for prospective immigrants, so if demand exceeds supply, which is often the case, your priority level will determine your access to current visa numbers available for that year.

Immediate relatives of US citizens don't need to wait for a visa number to immigrate to the US. Immediate relatives are defined as:

  • Spouses
  • Unmarried children under twenty one
  • Parents

Al other relatives are placed into the following groups in order of preference to receive available visa numbers:

  1. Unmarried adult children of US citizens
  2. Spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents
  3. Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
  4. Married sons and daughters of US citizens
  5. Siblings of US citizens

Because of the large number of people wishing to immigrate to the US, and the millions of petitions that must be processed, even immediate relatives of US citizens may wait over one year before being allowed to travel to the US. Lower preference groups such as siblings or married adults sons and daughters may wait over a decade for a visa number, especially from countries with a high number of applicants.

How to petition for family members to join you in the US

First, you will need to file a form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for each family member. Spouses and minor children (under 21) of a family member can be included on their petition. You will need to supply proof of your own citizenship or immigration status, and well as proof of your relationship to the beneficiary.

When petitioning for a spouse, you must include a copy of your marriage license, and also proof that you and your spouse were single at the time of marriage (such as divorce decrees). Because of widespread marriage fraud, you should also provide as much evidence as possible to show that your marriage is valid. Wedding pictures, shared property and bank accounts, and anything else may help to prove the validity of your marriage.

If your petition is approved, you must file an affidavit of support (form I-864) before your relatives can enter the US. You must be able to support each person that you sponsor for at least ten years, and provide documentation of your income. If the prospective immigrant cannot support themselves financially, you must provide support for them. This is legally binding and should not be entered into without forethought. 

Be sure to make copies of all documents submitted, and have all copies of petitions certified. Speak with an immigration attorney like Tesoroni & Leroy for more information.