If you are a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident interested in sponsoring a noncitizen relative for a permanent residence, this article is for you.

Other articles on the topic,

We understand that it can be hard being separated by the border. The effect is further magnified if the other person is one of your close family members. Luckily the United States immigration law allows several legal avenues through which you may sponsor a family member. After successful completion of the legal immigration process, the noncitizen family member will be conferred permanent residency, which allows them to live and work in the United States permanently. However, not all family sponsorships are the same – the application process and time frame vary significantly based on whether you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or the type of familial relationship with the noncitizen relative.

Congress gives preference to certain familial groups based on the sponsor’s citizenship status and the relationship to the noncitizen. Noncitizens who are immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen are such a preferred candidate for immigration that no preference limitations are placed on them – however, other familial groups are classified under several preference levels. Outside the immediate relatives, other close family members of U.S. citizens are eligible for classification in the first, third, and fourth family-based preferences.

Likewise, spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents are eligible for classification in the second family-based preference. The higher the preference, the more quickly a visa will be issued to the noncitizen.

I have organized the article under two broad categories based on the sponsor’s citizenship status – a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.

A. How can a U.S. citizen sponsor a family member for permanent residence?

If you are a U.S. citizen you may sponsor a family member for their permanent residence. There are two groups of family members designated as eligible for immigration – immediate relatives and other close family members. Your spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and your parents (provided you are above the age of 21) are considered immediate relatives. While, adult sons & daughters, brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens fall under other close family members.

a. Sponsoring immediate relatives for permanent residence.

As discussed earlier, this group includes your spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and your parents (provided you are above the age of 21).

First, you must file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), also called Form I-130. You must also submit supporting documentation to establish your U.S. citizenship status and the relationship between you and your immediate relative. For instance, if you are petitioning for a spouse you must submit documents to establish bona fides of the marriage and any legal name changes.

Additionally, your spouse must complete the Biographic Information Form, also called Form I-130A. Two passport-style color photographs of both you and the immediate relative and a filing fee of $535 must also be submitted with Form I-130. As discussed earlier, the petition for an immediate family is so preferred that there are no numerical limitations of immigrant visas under this category. As a result, this category has the fastest turnaround time for petition approval. It’s difficult to estimate precisely how long the USCIS will take to approve your petition because it depends on various factors like your relationship to the relative, the accuracy of the petition, the sufficiency of the submitted documents, and the USCIS caseload.

In most cases, it takes USCIS 6 to 12 months to approve your petition after filing. You must make sure that your I-130 is accurate and error-free to ensure a smooth and fast petition approval – it may be filed online or via mail.

Second, the next step after the filing of the petition is to file a Form I-485, also called the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You must indicate on Form I-130 whether the relative intends to adjust the status from inside the U.S. or to pursue consular processing. The Form I-485 is not filed by you (the Petitioner) instead it’s filed by the beneficiary relative. Another important thing to note is that the beneficiary relative must be physically present in the U.S. to file for adjustment of status.

For example, if you filed a petition for your mother, and she is currently living with you or somewhere else inside the U.S., she is qualified to file Form I-485. Also, the beneficiary may be ineligible to adjust their status even if they are present in the U.S. if one or more adjustment bar applies to them. However, some immigrants may be allowed to adjust their status from inside the U.S. even if the adjustment bar applies to them. If you believe one or more adjustment bar applies to the beneficiary or they are inadmissible, please consult an immigration attorney.

In situations where the immediate relative is not present inside the U.S., they must apply for their immigrant visa with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country. Please read our separate blog on consular processing for more information on the topic. In some cases, you may file Form I-485 at the same time you file I-130, called concurrent filing. The Form I-485 filing fee is $1,140, and a biometric fee of $85 for an applicant between the age of 14 and 79.

Since the USCIS I-485 and biometric fees are subject to change periodically, make sure the fees are correct by visiting the USCIS website. In most cases, the USCIS takes 8 to 14 months to process your Form I-485. If all requirements are met and the Department of State allocates an immigrant visa, Form I-485 is approved and the applicant is mailed a green card ( Form I-551).

b. Sponsoring other close family members for permanent residence.

Family members other than the immediate family of a U.S. citizen can qualify to immigrate to the U.S. However, Congress does not consider them as preferred and therefore places them under various preference categories. Family groups are ranked depending on the family member’s relation to the U.S. citizen.

  • First preference F1: adult, unmarried sons and daughters of citizens; 23,400 annual visas plus unused visas under fourth preference.
  • Third preference F3: adult, married sons, and daughters of citizens; 23,400 annual visas plus used visas under the first and the second preference.
  • Fourth preference F4: brothers and sisters of citizens; 65,000 annual visas plus unused visas under the first three categories.

Since the other family members are not considered preferred by Congress, there is a numerical visa limitation each year on the family-based categories. Because of the numerical limitations, family members under each group are ranked in the order in which they are preferred. The higher the preference, the more quickly a visa will be allotted to the immigrant.

First, you must file a petition, Form I-130, for the family member. The filing procedure and fees are the same as that of the immediate relative filing. However, since Congress puts a numerical limit on the visa annually in addition to a limit based on a country, it may take significantly longer for a family member to get an immigrant visa – ranging from 12 to 60 months. Please note, under some preference categories, it can take as long as 10 or more years by the time an immigrant visa becomes available to the noncitizen family member.

Second, the applicant who is present inside the U.S. and meets certain eligibility guidelines may file Form I-485. If the family member is ineligible to change status from inside the U.S., they must travel to their country and apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You must note that only immediate relatives of a sponsoring U.S. citizen may concurrently file I -130 and I-485 – other close family members of a U.S. citizen may not file concurrently. You may file Form I-485 either online or by mail.

B. How can a U.S. permanent resident sponsor a family member for permanent residence?

If you are a U.S. permanent resident (a green card holder), you may sponsor a certain family member for permanent residence. This entire preference category is allotted a minimum of 114,200 annual visas, plus unused visas on first preference. Family groups are ranked depending on the family member’s relation to the permanent resident. The second preferences are afforded to the following family members of a permanent resident:

  • Second preference F2A: spouses and minor children of residents.
  • Second preference F2B: unmarried adult sons and daughters of residents.

First, you must file a petition, Form I-130, for the family member. The filing papers and the fees are the same as that of the U.S. citizen’s immediate relative filing discussed above. Since Congress places a numerical limit on second preference visas, the time frames for Form I-130 and I-485 can be significantly longer than that of the U.S. citizen’s immediate relatives. In most cases, the I-130 processing time for a green card holder’s spouse or minor child living abroad is 18 to 36 months. For those living in the U.S. is 12 to 36 months.

Second, the applicant who is present inside the U.S. and meets certain eligibility guidelines may file Form I-485. You may file Form I-485 either online or by mail. If the family member is ineligible to change status from inside the U.S., they must travel to their country and apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Once the petition is approved, the family member is put on a waiting list for their immigrant visa. The original filing date listed on the petition becomes the applicant’s priority date for an immigrant visa.

After I -130 is approved and when the priority date becomes current, you must submit a visa application to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will then process your application and send it to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate of the immigrant. It may take NVC 3 to 6 months to schedule a visa interview at the respective U.S. Consulate or Embassy. Once you successfully attend the interview and receive the immigrant visa, you must travel to the U.S. within the visa validity period listed on your visa. An immigrant visa is usually valid for up to 6 months.

C. Immigration Attorney in Oklahoma City.

The immigration process can be daunting and intimidating. You may be unsure of what to expect from the process. But you do not have to navigate the legal maze alone. Vivid Niroula is an Oklahoma Immigration Attorney serving Oklahoma City Metro area. He prides himself on providing the highest level of service and will help you at every step of the process. Whether you are filing a petition for a family member, renewing your green card, hiring an immigrant worker, or need assistance with an immigration matter, Attorney Vivid Niroula is here for you.

Our practice includes marriage-based green cards, family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, PERM, EB-1, EB-2, EB-3 green cards, and other immigration matters. We respond quickly and our rates are affordable.

Call the law office of Vivid Niroula today at (405) 456-9250 or contact us through our website.