Lawful permanent residents of the U.S. who are at least 21 years old can sponsor a spouse, fiancee, child, sibling or parent to join them – but it could take many years to fulfill a family-based immigrant visa. When the process is completed, these family members can obtain a green card.
The immigration system has two major types of family-based immigrants: immediate relatives and family preference. The former has more of a priority consideration, so the family member does not have to wait in line for a visa number and there are an unlimited amount of visas available. If a relative is not a spouse, unmarried child or parent of the sponsor, then they fall under the family preference category. These have a longer wait time and a limited number of visas. The sponsor has to prove that they have enough income or assets to financially support their family member and have documentation that both parties are related.
Here’s everything you need to know.
If you are a lawful permanent resident sponsoring a family member, you will need to fill out and file online or by mail:
- Form I-30 (petition for alien relative). You will need to prove your citizenship through documentation such as a copy of your birth certificate, passport or Permanent Residence Card. Your family member will also have to provide applicable documentation of their relationship to you, through a birth certificate or a marriage certificate, for example. Filing this form does not give your relative any residency benefits, it just starts the process of getting them a visa number, which they can use to apply for a green card through form I-485. Immediate family members are granted visa numbers quickly, and family preference members have to wait. The cost to file this form with USCIS is $535.
- Form I-485 (application to register permanent residence or adjust status). The documentation for this form differs on whether the relative falls under the category of immediate relative or family preference. Filing this form with USCIS costs between $750 and $1,140 depending on the applicant’s age and relationship to the sponsor.
- Form I-864 (affadavit of support). The sponsor has to prove that they have enough resources to support their immigrant relative and maintain their household at 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The sponsor can send copies of their federal income tax return including W-2s from the past three years, and/or pay stubs from the past six months. If any of this documentation is in a language other than English, you have to also include a verified translation. There is no cost to send in this form.
Once you have filed your petition to sponsor a family member’s visa, you can check on your case status here.
Here are options for free to low cost legal help in New York: