The most common way non-U.S. citizens get Permanent Residency Status (a green card) is through family sponsorship. That’s because any U.S. citizen, even naturalized citizens, are allowed to sponsor an immediate relative.

Who can be sponsored by a U.S. citizen?
Most relatives can be sponsored by a U.S. citizen. Those who are allowed include:

  • Parents
  • Spouses
  • Unmarried children
  • Siblings
  • Married children

Who can be sponsored by a permanent resident?
Permanent residents can also sponsor some family members for a green card, but the list is much shorter. Permanent residents can only sponsor unmarried children and spouses.

The process to sponsor a family member
There are several steps to apply for a green card through family sponsorship:

  • The family sponsor has to complete an immigrant visa petition called a Petition for Alien Relative (I-130).
  • Once that petition is approved by the USCIS, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (I-485) has to be filled out and turned in. Sometimes the I-485 can be turned in at the same time as the I-130.
  • The citizen or permanent resident who is sponsoring the family member has to prove they can support this relative at least 125 percent above the poverty line.

Common issues with family sponsorship
There are some reasons a relative won’t be approved for adjustment of status:

  • The relative is not in the U.S.
  • The relative entered the U.S. without going through a port of entry.
  • The relative overstayed the visa they used to come to the U.S.

If this happens, consular processing may be needed. That means the relative has to apply at a consulate or U.S. embassy in a country other than the U.S. Sometimes you may have to apply for a waiver.

Contact us
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