The first thing that often comes to mind when thinking about green card sponsorships are those between a U.S. citizen and his or her foreign spouse. But Mother’s Day reminds us that some people may be unaware you can also sponsor other immediate relatives – like your mother. For immigration purposes, “immediate family members” or “immediate relatives” are parents, children and spouses. For example, a person would be unable to sponsor an aunt or cousin because they are not considered immediate family members for immigration purposes.
There are, of course, many requirements that must be met in order to sponsor an immediate relative. If you are sponsoring your mother or father, you must be over the age of 21. You must also be over the age of 21 in order to sponsor siblings. In order to sponsor a child, the child must not yet be considered an adult, meaning they must be under the age of 21. Some different rules may apply for stepchildren, and there are significant timing issues with sponsoring children who may be approaching their 21st birthday.
There are also preference categories for family members who are not considered to be immediate relatives. Green card applicants who don’t fall within the “immediate family” designation will likely have to wait a period of time until a visa number is available before they may obtain their green card. This is based on a complicated series of calculations that occur each month and are reported in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin (http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin.html).
The first preference category (F-1) is for unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens (adult meaning 21 or older). The second preference category is broken down into sub-categories for spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents (F-2A) and unmarried adult children of permanent residents (F-2B). The third preference (F-3) is for married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens. The final preference category (F-4) is for brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.
The family based green card process actually has two steps. The first step is the filing of Form I-130. Typically, in this step, the petition is reviewed to determine whether or not the sponsor has the right to file the petition and, if he or she does, to determine that the beneficiary meets the qualifications to receive a green card. An approved I-130 does not grant any status in the U.S. Rather, it allows the beneficiary to move to the second step in the process – Visa Processing or Adjustment of Status (http://berardiimmigrationlaw.com/immigration-blog/differences-between-consular-processing-and-aos).
So where does the Visa Bulletin come into all of this? The Visa Bulletin tells an individual with an approved I-130 WHEN they can commence the second step, Visa Processing or Adjustment of Status, which actually leads to the green card being issued.
For example, if you were a citizen of India who was the spouse of a green card holder (F-2A category), you would have to wait until the priority date shown on your I-130 approval notice was later than the date below. In other words, only people in the F-2A category, who are citizens of India, who have approved I-130s from Sept. 8, 2013 or earlier are eligible to complete the second step of the green card processing. Please click on the chart below:
Family based green card petitions are generally approved for 10 years, while marriage based green card petitions are first approved for two years and then an extension must be filed. Oftentimes, after becoming a permanent resident the logical next step may be to look into obtaining U.S. citizenship.
If you have questions regarding green card sponsorships and obtaining a green card for an immediate relative, please contact one of our immigration attorneys today!