briefly and clearly about sponsoring green cards for relatives
Many people in the United States have relatives living in other countries and are wondering if we can help them move to America. It all depends on the degree of relationship and immigrant status in the United States.
You can petition to bring family members to the United States (often called “green card sponsorship”) only if you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder). But this does not apply to all relatives. Below are lists of relatives who can be brought to the United States by an immigrant in each status.
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But before we get to the list, there are two more important terms to clarify: immediate relative and preference relative.
Immediate family US citizens or permanent residents can obtain a green card without worrying about visa limits and waiting periods – they are issued visas beyond the limits. However, you will still have to wait several months for USCIS and then the State Department to process the applications.
Preferred relatives they typically have to wait several years before they are allowed to apply for a visa or green card.
Only a certain percentage of green cards in preferred categories are sent to any country each year. This means that if a large number of people apply for family reunification from your country, your family members will end up having to wait longer than people from other countries.
The four categories into which preferred relatives are divided are:
- F1 – unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens;
- F2: subcategory A – spouses and unmarried children of green card holders under 21 years of age; subcategory B – unmarried children of green card holders over 21 years of age;
- F3 – married sons and daughters of US citizens;
- F4 – brothers and sisters of adult US citizens.
Because of annual limits on the number of green cards issued and the unpredictability of how many people from a given country will file petitions each year, no one can say for sure how long each preferred category applicant will wait. All we know for sure is how long people who are getting visas now have been waiting. This can be seen in the visa bulletin issued by the State Department every month.
For example, in October 2023, the deadline for obtaining a visa is for those for whom F1 category petitioners submitted documents before September 1, 2017. That is, to reunite a US citizen with unmarried sons and daughters, you must wait 6 years.
According to these data, spouses and unmarried children of green card holders under 21 years of age (category F2A) wait about a month; unmarried children of green card holders over 21 years of age (category F2B) – slightly less than 7 years old. The longest waits are for the F3 and F4 categories, that is, married sons and daughters of US citizens, as well as brothers and sisters of adult US citizens: their applications are considered for more than 13 and 15 years, respectively.
Now let’s get back to who can sponsor whom when moving to the USA. All this can be presented in four short lines. Search for the immigration status of the US-based “sponsor” you are interested in to see a list of relatives they can bring to America and their category, which determines the waiting period for a visa.
- US citizen over 21 years of age – can bring parents to the United States (category: close relative), as well as a brother or sister (preferred category of relatives F4);
- US citizen over 18 years of age – can bring a spouse, as well as minor, unmarried children (category: close relative) to the United States;
- US citizen of any age – can transport adult or married children to the United States (preferred categories of relatives F1 and F3);
- Green card holder – can bring his husband or wife and unmarried children to the United States (preferred categories of relatives F2A or F2B).