Immigrating to the US is a big commitment for those that choose to go through with the process, including for the U.S. petitioning family member. As of 2022, there are about 13 million people in the United States holding green cards.
Unfortunately, this is not always a simple process. Obtaining a green card to reside permanently in the U.S. without a qualifying family member to petition you, or without particular job skills and a petitioning employer, can prove to be more than a little challenging.
In the realm of family based immigration, if you are a United States citizen or a permanent resident, there is an option to help your family members abroad. This option is to go the family sponsorship route.
What is family sponsorship? What are the biggest things that you need to know about it?
Here are some things worth noting.
1. Usually Easier, More Options as a US Citizen
If you are a US citizen, it is usually a little easier to sponsor your family to come to the United States. That is because as a citizen, you have a few more options as to what family members you can sponsor.
The easiest family members that a US citizen can sponsor are either a spouse or a child that is under 21. Also, facing an easier, quicker petitioning path are the parents of adult (over 21 years of age) U.S. citizens. Other family members that they can sponsor are a son or daughter – single or married – over the age of 21, and a brother or sister, including their families.
When it comes to trying to help your family come to the United States, these are the relatives covered by the Family Based petitioning categories.
2. Green Card Holders Have Options
While in most cases, it is easier to sponsor a family member if you are a US citizen, you still have options if you only have a green card. However, your options are going to be limited to two types of family members.
These family members are any unmarried children that you have abroad, whether over or under 21 years of age, along with a spouse.
3. You Can Apply in the United States
Something that you should note is that your relative under certain circumstances is allowed to apply for a green card and undergo all steps in the process in the U.S. if they are already present here and meet all regulatory requirements for “adjustment of status”. How this works is that their status would be adjusted to lawful permanent resident (green card) and converted from the visa status they are currently on, and without the need to return to a U.S. consular post in their home country for further processing.
So, in certain particular cases, you do not have to send your relative back overseas to start this process.
4. Processing Time
Something that you need to note about the application process is that it is going to take some time. Some applications for family sponsorship can take a total of 1-2 years to go through, while others can entail a decade or more of waiting time. It just depends on the family based immigration category at play.
So, if this is something that you are serious about, do not wait. Start the process as soon as you know that a family member is seriously interested in coming over to the United States, and you have the right status to help them.
5. Application Fees
Another thing that you should be prepared for is the expenses that you are going to incur if you want a family member to apply for permanent residence. Depending on what you are going for, you will have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get certain application forms.
This means that your family is going to have to make a financial commitment to go through this process. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, that does not guarantee that they are going to get approved.
6. Income Requirement
If you want to sponsor a family member, you are going to have to meet a certain annual income threshold. This tells the US government that you have the money to cover that family member should anything go wrong.
Typically, this annual income threshold is slightly above the poverty line. A listing of current income requirements can be found on US CIS Form I-864P.
With that in mind, make sure that you can meet these qualifications at the time the family member in question is ready to complete the final steps in the process.
7. Factor in Country of Origin
Another thing that you may need to consider is the country that your family members are coming from. This is important because, in the United States, the government typically only gives a certain amount of green cards to citizens of specific countries every year.
Essentially, almost every country has a maximum threshold. This helps give people from more countries a chance to get green cards. However, it could also mean that depending on what country you come from, there may or may not be enough slots for your family member to get a green card sooner.
8. Talk to an Immigration Lawyer
Finally, make sure you speak to an immigration lawyer before you even begin this process. The process may very well be long and difficult, so getting professional legal counsel as soon as possible could help you get on the right track from the start.
On top of this, the lawyer can help tell you what documents you are going to need, how much this process is going to cost, how long it should take to process, and how likely your chances are of getting your family member to the United States.
Start the Family Sponsorship Process
These are eight of the biggest things that you need to know about the family sponsorship process. Make sure that you are eligible to sponsor a family member in the first place, make sure that the family is allowed to be sponsored by you, factor in the processing time and application fees, and talk to an immigration lawyer as soon as possible.
Do you need legal counsel? Message us with your questions about family sponsorship today.