Which family members can I petition for a Green Card?

An eligible family member can sponsor a foreign national for an immigrant visa, which can then be used to obtain a Lawful Permanent Resident (“LPR”) Card, more colloquially known as a “Green Card”.

The application starts with the USCIS Form I-130, “Petition for Alien Relative”. The individual sponsoring her family members, known as a “petitioner” must file a separate I-130 for each eligible family member, or “beneficiary”. The petitioner must either be a United States citizen, or an LPR of the United States, and the sponsoring. Eligible family member beneficiaries include:

Lawful Permanent Residents:
– Spouse
– Unmarried children under age 21, and
– Unmarried children over age 21

US Citizens:
– Spouse
– Unmarried children under age 21
– Unmarried children over age 21
– Married children of any age
– Mother or father (US Citizen must be age 21 or older), and
– Brothers or sisters (US Citizen must be age 21 or older)

In addition to the eligibility requirements above, the US limits the number of family-based migrants based on country of origin. When combined with a strong demand for immigrant visas, receiving an immigrant visa may take years, or even decades. Moreover, the number of migrants from mainland China, India, Mexico and the Philippines is greater than other countries. For example, a US Citizen petitioning for his unmarried daughter from Mexico will need to wait twelve years for an immigrant visa to be available, versus eight years for one filing a petitioner for his unmarried daughter from France. This information is found in the State Department’s Monthly Visa Bulletin.

An exception to the family-based limits above are “immediate relatives” of US Citizens. These include a US Citizen’s spouse, children under age 21, and their parents if the US citizen is age 21 or older.

Note, in recent years US immigration laws change rapidly. It’s important to talk to an experienced immigration lawyer to know what immigration law options may be available to you at the time. Contact SmartLaw to talk with an experienced lawyer about your immigration law matter.

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Last update: March, 2019.