Who Can You “Sponsor” For A Green Card?
Not every relative of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (“green card holder”) can obtain a green card in the U.S. just based on that relationship. Congress established strict categories for which family members can be sponsored for a green card:
Note that neither a U.S. citizen nor a permanent resident may sponsor an aunts, uncle, or cousin.
Immigration law is very complicated. There are exceptions and exemptions to many different laws and procedures in the system. For instance, stepchildren can be sponsored in certain circumstances even if not biologically related to the U.S. citizen. Even if the petitioning U.S. citizen dies, a widow or family member who was being sponsored by that deceased U.S. citizen can still obtain their green card in certain circumstances. There are provisions for adoption, orphans, unique forms of legal relief for children, and even ways for grandchildren to be sponsored in certain circumstances.
How Long Will It Take For Your Loved One To Get A Green Card?
One of the most frustrating aspects of the family immigration system is the processing times for certain categories of individuals sponsored by a loved one. The way Congress has set up the system, only certain limited numbers of visas are available in certain “preference” categories. The only immigrants who avoid being part of this preference system are spouses, parents and children under the age of 21. Everyone else is subject to the preference system. In this preference system, the number of loved ones seeking green cards for their loved ones has been always historically higher than the number of green cards and visas available. This has created a backlog for some countries that have so many applicants for visas that can result in family members waiting for years, sometimes decades, to be eligible to bring a family member to the U.S. These immigrants are subject to the preference system, which means they usually have to wait for a visa to become available to be able to be sponsored for a green card:
1st preference – unmarried adult child (over the age of 21) of a U.S. citizen
2nd preference – spouses and children under the age of 21 of green card holders
3rd preference – children of green card holders who are over the age of 21
4th preference – married children of U.S. citizens
It is vital to talk to an experienced family and removal immigration attorney about your options, expected timeline in processing your case with the agencies involved, any trend of backlog in visa numbers, and any alternatives or additional ways to immigrate the U.S. Our firm does it all – sometimes family immigration is the quickest route, sometimes a work visa is faster. Every circumstance, every immigrant’s background and eligibility is different and processing times change unpredictably. It’s tempting to listen to other people who have gone through the system and compare your case to their case and expect the same timeline and outcome. This is a mistake. Always consult a competent family immigration attorney about your particular situation before choosing a path that may waste many years, if not bar you inadvertently to a green card because of information you have heard through a friend, the internet, or even unlicensed notaries or paralegals, or non-immigration attorneys. Your future is too important.