Green Cards (Common)
National Interest Waivers
Professors & Researchers
Executives & Managers
PERM Labor Certification
Investors (EB-5 visas)
Family (Spouse, etc.)
Work Visas (Common)
O-1 Extraordinary Ability
TN Canadians & Mexicans
J-1 Visa Holders
Nurses & Physical Therapists
Frequently Asked Questions about Family-Based Immigration
Family-based immigration enables certain people to become U.S. permanent residents through family relations with U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents. The U.S. citizen or permanent resident who files a petition for a family member is called the Sponsor. The alien relative for whom the immigration petition is filed is called the Beneficiary.
A sponsor must be at least 18 years old, and a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. The sponsor generally must live in the United States, a territory or possession, unless you live abroad temporarily and your permanent residence is still in the U.S.
A sponsor must sign a legally binding affidavit of support for the Beneficiary, guaranteeing that the Sponsor to maintain the standard of living of the intending immigrant at a level not lower than 125% of the national poverty level. This obligation continues until the Beneficiary has become a U.S. citizen or has worked in the United States for 40 qualifying quarters (about 10 years).
If you are a U.S. citizen, you may petition for a green card for the following relatives:
If you are a lawful permanent resident, you may petition for a green card for the following relatives:
You need to provide documents proving that you are a U.S. citizen (such as a U.S. passport, naturalization certificate or birth certificate) or a permanent resident (such as a green card). You will also need to prove your qualifying relationship, such as with a marriage certificate, birth certificate, adoption papers and divorce papers or death certificates from previous marriages. You will also need to provide financial information, such as tax forms, proof of employment and bank statements. Your family member will have to provide a passport, photos, and a medical examination. You may also have to provide other documentation, depending on your particular circumstances.
A Conditional Green Card is issued to spouses if the marriage occurred less than two years before he or she is admitted as a U.S. permanent resident. Both spouses need to jointly petition to remove the condition within 90 days before the second anniversary of the foreign spouse’s admission as a permanent resident. Failure to do so will result in the termination of his or her conditional permanent residence.
My son was born in the United States and is a U.S. citizen. Can he petition for my wife and I to get a green card?
If your son is over 21 years old, he may petition for a green card for you as his parents. If he is under 21 years old, however, he cannot file an immigrant petition for you and your wife until he reaches his 21st birthday.
I am a permanent resident, and my wife has a daughter from a previous marriage. Can I sponsor my stepdaughter for a green card?
Yes, you may sponsor your stepdaughter for permanent residency as long as your marriage to her mother took place before your stepdaughter’s 18th birthday.
My 20 year old son would like a green card, and I am a U.S. citizen. If my son turns 21 after I file a petition for him, will he have to wait until a visa becomes available?
The “Child Status Protection Act” allows your son to qualify if the petition is filed before he turns 21 years old. You can find out more information about the Child Status Protection Act, and its effect on children of U.S. citizens, permanent residents and others.
I am a U.S. citizen, and have a step-sister and an adopted brother in another country. Can I sponsor them for a green card?
U.S. citizens can sponsor a sibling for permanent residency. A sibling is a brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or adopted brother or sister. To qualify as a sibling, you must have been the child of at least one of the same parents. Adopted brothers and sisters qualify if they were adopted by at least one of your parents before your adopted sibling turned 16 years old. Your stepsister would qualify as a sibling if your parent married her parent before she was 18 years old.
No, U.S. permanent residents are not eligible to apply for green cards for their brothers or sisters. You would have to become a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process to apply for your sister.
No, lawful permanent residents are not eligible to petition for parents to live and work in the United States. You would have to apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process, and then file a petition for your parents.
My mother is a U.S. citizen, and she is filing for permanent residence for me. I am married with three children. Does my mother have to file separate petitions for my wife and children?
No, your mother does need not to file separate petitions for your spouse and children. Your spouse and children will be eligible to apply for immigrant visas and may obtain their green cards with you.
How do I begin the green card process for my wife, who is currently in the United States in a different status?
If you are a U.S. citizen, you should file an I-130 immigrant petition for her. Your wife can file an application of adjustment of status at the same time.
If you are a permanent resident, you should file the I-130 immigrant petition. Your wife will have to wait for an immigrant visa to become available in the second preference category. You can consult the Visa Bulletin for information on visa availability. Once the visa number becomes current, she can then apply to adjust to permanent resident. During this waiting period, your wife must continue to maintain valid nonimmigrant status.
How do I begin the green card process for my husband, who is currently outside of the United States?
The first step is to file an I-130 Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The petition should request that the USCIS notify a U.S. Consulate in the country where your husband lives. You have to wait until this petition is approved.
If you are a U.S. citizen, your husband does not have to wait until a visa becomes available before applying for an immigrant visa. If you are a permanent resident, he will have to wait until a visa is available. That information is on the State Department’s Visa Bulletin.
The National Visa Center of the U.S. State Department will send you a series of forms called a “Packet 3.” After the necessary forms are completed, your husband will go to the U.S. Consulate and apply for an immigrant visa.
I married my wife while my petition for employment-based permanent residency petition was pending. Do I have to file a petition before she can come to the United States to join me?
Your wife is eligible to “follow to join” you, since you were married before you became a lawful permanent resident. You do not have to submit a separate petition for your wife, and she does not have to wait any additional time for a visa number to become available. You should file a Form I-824 with the USCIS and request that they notify the U.S. Consulate in your wife’s country to enable your wife to apply for an immigrant visa.
A fiancé(e) visa is available to foreign citizens who want to enter the United States to marry a U.S. citizen. These visas are called “K-1” visas. The U.S. citizen must file a petition with the USCIS. Once approved, the alien fiancé(e) applies for the K-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate overseas. The alien has to marry the U.S. citizen within 90 days after the alien enters the United States on the K-1 visa.
I am a U.S. citizen and have filed a petition for my wife to join me in the United States. Can she come join me in the U.S. while the petition is pending?
Yes, your spouse is eligible to apply for a nonimmigrant K-3 Visa once the I-130 is pending. With this visa, she can enter the U.S. to live and work while her permanent residency visa petition is pending. However, it is not necessary for your wife to obtain a K-3 visa in order to come to the U.S. to live and work. Your wife may wait abroad for immigrant visa processing. This visa may allow her to join you in the United States more quickly.