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One of the questions most immigrants to the United States have is wondering if they can bring their family to America as well. Family sponsorship does indeed exist, and there are different laws for who you can bring from your home country to the United States depending on your immigration status. The visa availability for family sponsorship changes frequently, so we wanted to offer a fresh look at the current method for bringing your family to the United States.

The laws are different depending on your current U.S. immigration status. There are options available to U.S. citizens, including those who may have arrived as immigrants to the United States and became naturalized citizens, and lawful permanent residents, who came to the United States and have obtained a Green Card to live and work here permanently.

Immediate Relatives

If you are a U.S. citizen, you can always petition for a Green Card for one of your “immediate relatives” (as classified by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office or USCIS) at any time. The great thing about this family category is that the immigrant can process their green card application from within the USA, even if they are now out of status, but they do have to prove that they arrived in the USA legally. There is no limit on the number of Green Cards available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens that USCIS will issue. These are the immediate relatives that U.S. citizens can petition for:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens
  • Children of U.S. citizens, as long as they are younger than 21 years old and unmarried
  • Parents of U.S. citizens

Non-Immediate Relatives

If a U.S. citizen wants to sponsor any of their family members that fall outside of the immediate relative category, they are known as “non-immediate relatives.” These applications are limited by the U.S. government in terms of how many people can be approved from specific countries every year. Accordingly, there are preference tiers for each family category. Once the set number of Green Cards per country have been reached, no one else from that country can be processed. Hence the constant backlog for available green cards or immigrant visas within these family categories.

If a lawful permanent resident wants to bring a family member to the United States, they also fall into these preference tiers. Here is who is considered to receive a Green Card based on the government’s order of preference:

First Preference

  • Children of U.S. citizens, who are 21 years of age or older but still unmarried

Second Preference A

  • Spouses of permanent residents
  • Children of permanent residents, as long as they are younger than 21 years old and unmarried

Second Preference B

  • Children of permanent residents, who are 21 years of age or older but still unmarried

Third Preference

  • Children of U.S. citizens who are married

Fourth Preference

  • Siblings of U.S. citizens

Where We Stand in 2021

As you can see, the current system favors U.S. citizens over permanent residents for family sponsorship. For immediate relatives, the process is much faster because there is no visa backlog. For non-immediate relatives, permanent residents can never sponsor their parents, siblings, or married children to come to the United States, while U.S. citizens can.

This is where we stand as of May 2021. It is worth noting that the amount of non-immediate relatives who were given Green Cards were severely limited in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but those numbers have now returned to normal. President Biden has also proposed changes to the family sponsorship system, which would increase the annual amount of non-immediate relatives allowed annually from different countries and would help clear the large backlog of cases the USCIS has to sort through before taking new ones.

How to Ask For Help

If you would like to discuss the family sponsorship options available to you, contact Heitz Immigration Law today! We want to help you live and work in the United States, and for your family to be able to right alongside you. It all starts with a consultation!

Nadine Heitz

Nadine Heitz

Nadine Heitz is an immigration attorney in Lake Worth, Florida where she helps her clients obtain legal status in the United States. Book your consultation with her to find out how to solve your immigration issues and achieve your desired goals.

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