Family immigration sponsorship in the U.S. can be complex. It’s essential to know who is eligible to sponsor family members and the distinct rules based on the sponsor’s immigration status.
The process and requirements for sponsoring a family member to immigrate to the U.S. vary significantly between U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. These differences impact who can be sponsored.
Eligibility of U.S. citizen sponsors
U.S. citizens are eligible to sponsor their spouses, children, parents and siblings if the U.S. citizen is over 21 years old (18 for spouses). There’s no numerical cap for visas issued to U.S. citizens’ immediate relatives: spouses, unmarried children under 21 and parents. There’s no waiting period for a visa to become available for these categories, streamlining the immigration process for these immediate family members.
Differences for lawful permanent resident sponsors
Lawful permanent residents (LPRs), commonly known as green card holders, face more restrictions. LPRs can sponsor their spouses and unmarried children, but they can’t sponsor their parents or married children. There are numerical caps on the visas available for relatives of LPRs. This limitation often results in more extended waiting periods for visas to become available, as there’s a quota for each category and country.
The visa allocation is based on a preference system, with a priority date determining the immigrant’s place in line. This means that family members of LPRs usually have to wait longer to immigrate to the U.S., unlike the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
It’s critical for anyone in the U.S. who wants to sponsor a family member to ensure they’re eligible to take on that role. Working through the process can be complex, so it may help to have someone familiar with these matters to assist.