How can I petition my family member for a green card?

How to petition a family member abroad for a green card.

Becoming a green card holder is a dream come true for some people. It symbolizes the trials and tribulations an individual has gone through to enhance their quality of life.

Becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident can open up many doors for your family members!

If you are a U.S citizen or Green cardholder you can petition certain family members for a green card. If you’re not sure how the process works, read on to learn more.

Who Does This Apply To? 

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Suppose you are a U.S citizen or a lawful permanent resident, and you have a relative that lives in a different country. In that case, you can petition for your relative to become a lawful permanent resident (or a “green card” holder) in the U.S. The process of petitioning a relative abroad for a green card is referred to as “Consular Processing.”

Who Can You Petition For?

As a U.S citizen or lawful permanent resident, you can petition certain relatives, such as:

  • A spouse;
  • Unmarried children under 21 years of age
  • Unmarried sons or daughters 21 years of age or older
  • Married sons or daughters of any age
  • Brothers or sisters (you must be 21 years of age or older)
  • Mother or father (you must be 21 years of age or older).

Lawful permanent residents can petition for:

  • A spouse
  • Unmarried child under 21 years of age
  • Unmarried son or daughter 21 years of age or older

Related: Do You Need an Attorney at Your Green Card Interview?

What Is the Process for Petitioning a Relative?

There are three main steps in the process:

  • You, the “Petitioner,” will first file a “Petition for Alien Relative” with USCIS in the U.S. After the petition is approved, the case is transferred to the National Visa Center (that is also located in the U.S.).
  • If your relative is abroad:  
    • Your case will be transferred to the National Visa Center (the NVC) will collect additional documents from you the Petitioner and your relative- the Beneficiary. Once the case is ready, the NVC will transfer your case to the U.S. Department of State consulate/embassy in your relative’s home country.
    • Your relative will attend an interview at the consulate/embassy. Upon approval at the interview, your relative will receive an Immigrant visa. The Immigrant visa allows for your relative to enter the U.S as a lawful permanent resident.
  • If your relative is in the U.S and they meet the requirements, they might be eligible for 

How Long Does the Process Take?

man in black pants and pair of brown leather lace-up shoes sitting on brown carpeted stairs inside room

Wait times for your family member’s green card will vary on a few things:

  • Is your family member an “immediate relative” or a “preference category”
  • Where they are from
  • The number of people that applied from a specific country

If you are a U.S citizen, and your relative is an immediate relative (your parents, spouse, or unmarried child under 21) – there is no official wait time to receive a Green card. The only wait time is the processing times (which can be anywhere from  12-24 months). 

If your family member is in a “preference category”  you will have to wait for a visa to become available for your relative. The preference refers to the nature of their relationship with you. For example, unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens are the first preference, whereas brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens are the fourth preference. The higher your preference category, the longer you’ll have to wait.

Even if you’re in the first preference category, the average wait time to get your green card is about 6 – 10 years. But it can vary depending on which country you apply from. Countries like Mexico and the Philippines have an average wait time of 10 – 20 years for their green card.

Since U.S. immigration services receive an unprecedented amount of applications each year, visas are quite limited. So if they receive a bulk of applications from one country, family members of those nationals will be waiting for their green card longer than in other countries.

Related: I Just Got Married – How do I get a Green Card for My Spouse?

Can I Sponsor a Friend for a Green Card?

Unfortunately, you can only petition certain family members for their green cards. However, if you have a friend applying for a green card, you can help them by being a “joint sponsor” if they need one. 

 A Joint sponsor will file Form I-864 on behalf of the applicant. This form states that you’ll become a financial sponsor of the applicant. A Joint sponsor might be asked to repay the government If the applicant applies for and receives government aid for programs like food stamps or Medicaid.  However, the sponsor will not be responsible for the applicant’s bills or debt.

A Green Card is the First Step To a Better Life

By petitioning your family member for a green card, you can help put them in a better position. It’ll help keep your family together and help everyone enjoy the piece of the American dream they’re entitled to.

Contact our lawyers today if you have any immigration questions regarding immigration. We’re happy to assist you with any problem you may have.

Check out the video below for more information about petitioning a family member.

For more information about Green Cards check out our other blogs at:
Do You Need an Attorney at Your Green Card Interview?
I Just Got Married – How do I get a Green Card for My Spouse?

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