Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Q: How can I sponsor my family members immigration to United States, such as parents or siblings?
A: We receive many questions surrounding U.S. permanent residency, citizenship, and how family members, spouses, and children may benefit. It is important for individuals to know what family members they might be able to bring to the United States permanently. U.S. permanent residents may sponsor neither their parents nor siblings for a Green Card. Only U.S. citizens may do this. However, even U.S. citizens may not bring siblings to the U.S. without an extended waiting period.
Parents of U.S. citizens are regarded as "immediate relatives" and are not subject to numerical limitations. They only have to wait for the necessary paperwork processing. This includes the I-130 in the immediate relative category and consular processing for immigrant visa, if the parent is abroad. If the U.S. citizen's parent happens to be in the U.S., then it may be possible to file the Form I-130 and Form I-485 at the same time, and obtain permanent residence from within the U.S.
The situation for siblings (brothers and sisters), however, is far different. They have to wait years before the Priority Dates in the sibling category of family-based fourth preference become current. Immigration benefits are only available if the priority date is current. The visa dates on the Visa Bulletin of the U.S. Department of State are updated monthly, usually around the 10th of each month.
Q: What are the annual immigrant visa numbers for family-sponsored preference and employment-based preference?
A: The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets an annual minimum family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000. The worldwide level for annual employment-based preference immigrants is at least 140,000.
Also, INA prescribes that the per-country limit for preference immigrants is set at 7% of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limits, i.e., 25,620. The dependent area limit is set at 2%, or 7,320.
Q: What are the immigrant visa numbers each year for family-sponsored preference?
A: The following are the immigrant visa numbers for family-sponsored preference:
First Preference: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.
Second Preference: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent
Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, and any unused first preference numbers:
A. (F2A) Spouses and Children: 77% of the overall second preference limitation,
of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;
B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older): 23% of the overall second preference limitation.
Third Preference: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.
Fourth Preference: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.
Q: Can I sponsor my other family members immigration to United States, such as aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents?
A: More distant relatives, such as aunts / uncles, cousins, and grandparents cannot be sponsored for a Green Card. Even U.S. citizens cannot petition for these relatives. It may be possible to invite them for a temporary visit on a visitor's visa, depending upon whether they have sufficient ties to their respective home countries to show that they have no immigrant intent.
Of course, they may also be sponsored if they are qualified and the sponsoring relative owns a business, or is able to find employment for the foreign national relative under the employment-based preference categories.
Q: Is there any age requirement to sponsor my brothers and sisters immigration to United Stats?
A: Yes, there is an age requirement to sponsor a U.S. citizen's brothers and sisters immigration to United Stats. If you are a U.S. citizen and at least 21 years old, you are eligible to petition for an immigrant visa for your brother or sister to live and work permanently in the United States. If you are a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident, you are not eligible to apply to bring your brother or sister to live and work permanently in the United States.
Q: How do I know if my brother or sister eligible for a U.S. Green Card?
A: If you are a U.S. citizen and at least 21 years old, you are eligible to petition to bring your brother or sister to live and work permanently in the United States as a Green Card holder. As the sponsor of your brother or sister, you must show that your household income is sufficient to support your family and your brother or sister at 125% or more above the U.S. poverty level for your household size.
You do not need to file separate visa petitions for your brother's or sister's spouse or unmarried, minor children. Any child under 21 is considered a minor. If you are a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder), you are not eligible to apply to bring them.
Q: What are the basic steps to sponsor my brother or sister for a U.S. Green Card? and what are the eligibility requirements?
A: Sponsoring your brother or sister for a Green Card is a two-step process. The first step is the "Immigrant Petition" which establishes that a qualifying relationship exists between the sponsor and the foreign sibling. The second step is the application for the Green Card.
In order to file an Immigrant Petition for your brother or sister, you must be a U.S. citizen and at least 21 years of age. If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident, you are not eligible to sponsor your brothers or sisters for Green Card status.
Q: What are the basic procedures to bring my brother or sister to United States?
A: An immigrant (also called a "lawful permanent resident" and Green Card holder) is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of living and working permanently in the United States. Your sibling must go through a multi-step process to become an immigrant.
First, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must approve an immigrant visa petition that you file for your brother or sister. Second, the State Department must give your brother or sister an immigrant visa number, even if your brother or sister is already in the United States. Third, if your brother or sister is already in the United States, your brother or sister may apply to adjust to permanent resident status after a visa number becomes available.
If your brother or sister is outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available, your brother or sister will be notified to go to the local U.S. Consulate to complete the processing for a Green Card (immigrant visa).
Q: How to obtain an immigrant visa number for my brother or sister?
A: If the immigrant visa petition is approved, your brother or sister must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the preference system. Because the number of immigrant visa that are available each year is limited, they may not get an immigrant visa number immediately after the immigrant visa petition is approved.
In some cases, several years could pass between the time USCIS approves the immigrant visa petition and the State Department provides an immigrant visa number. Because U.S. law also limits the number of immigrant visas available by country, they may have to wait longer if they come from a country with a high demand for U.S. immigrant visas.
The sibling of U.S. visa (4th) category provides foreign siblings with the opportunity to reunite with family members living in the United States and become permanent residents. In addition, the spouse and children under 21 years of age of the foreign sibling may accompany the foreign sibling and apply for permanent residence as well. Permanent Residents have the right to live and work in the United States permanently, leave and return to the United States with few limitations, attend public schools and colleges and become a US citizen when eligible to do so.
Q: Does my brother or sister need to get Work Permits to work in U.S.?
A: Your brother or sister does not need to apply for a work permit once they are admitted as an immigrant with their Green Card (immigrant visa), or have already been approved for adjustment to permanent resident status. As a legal permanent resident, your brother or sister should receive a Permanent Resident Card (commonly referred to as a 'Green Card') that will prove that your brother or sister has a right to live and work in the United States permanently.
If your brother or sister is now outside the United States, they will receive a passport stamp upon arrival in the United States. This stamp will prove that they are allowed to work until a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) is created.
If your brother or sister is in the U.S. and has applied to adjust to permanent resident status (by filing USCIS Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), they are eligible to apply for a work permit while their case is pending. Your brother or sister should use USCIS Form I-765 to apply for a work permit.
Q: Is there an annual visa for the category of U.S. citizen's brothers and sisters?
A: Immediate family members of the brother or sister may apply for a Green Card with the sponsorship of a U.S. citizen. The annual visa number available for this preference is 65,000, plus any visas not used by the first three preferences.
This category includes the brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens. To apply for a Green Card for his or her brother or sister, a U.S. citizen must be 21 years of age or older. Furthermore, to qualify as a brother or sister of a U.S. citizen, both the brother or sister and the U.S. citizen must have been children of the same parent.
Q: What are the two scenarios for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens to apply for immigration?
A: The first scenario is that the alien brother or sister is already in the United States in a nonimmigrant status. In this case, the U.S. citizen may only file an immigration petition (I-130) for the brother or sister. The brother or sister has to wait for the immigrant visa number to become current before he or she may apply to adjust to permanent resident (I-485). During this waiting period, the brother or sister needs to independently maintain a valid nonimmigrant status.
The second scenario is that the brother or sister is outside the United States. In this case, the U.S. citizen needs to file an immigration petition and request that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) notify a U.S. Consulate in the country where the brother or sister lives. Once the immigration petition is approved and an immigrant visa is available, the National Visa Center of the U.S. State Department sends a forms and information package to the U.S. citizen. After the necessary forms are completed, the brother or sister goes to the U.S. Consulate overseas to apply for an immigrant visa. On the day that the brother or sister enters the United States on an immigrant visa, he or she becomes a U.S. permanent resident.
Q: What is a "Priority Date" for a U.S. citizen's brothers and sisters?
A: The "Priority Date" is the date that you file the immigrant petition on behalf of your brother or sister. If you have already filed an immigrant petition, you can find the "Priority Date" on the top, left-hand corner of the Form I-797 Receipt Notice or Approval Notice you received after your filed Form I-130 with USCIS.
Q: What does it mean for a Priority Date to be "current"?
A: If a Priority Date is "current", it means that there is a "visa slot" available for your brother or sister. U.S. immigration law limits the number of people who enter the U.S. as Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) on the basis of sponsorship by a U.S. citizen sibling. Specifically, the U.S. has 65,000 "visa slots" per year reserved for individuals who are immigrating as the brother or sister of a U.S. citizen. Each year, the number of approved immigrant petitions may exceed the number of "visa slots." Because of this, a backlog has occurred.
The Department of State processes visa applicants on a "first-come, first-serve" basis, which is determined by when the immigrant petition was filed. The Department of State allows visa applicants whose immigrant petitions were filed earliest to fill all the available slots. For this reason, it is important to file the immigrant petition as soon as possible.
Q: How to check the current Priority Date for my brothers or sisters?
A: The Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin that tells applicants when their Priority Date is current. Your brother or sister can check if their Priority Date is current by comparing the Priority Date that appears on the left-hand corner of the I-797 Approval Notice for the I-130 Immigrant Petition with the date that is published in the Department of State’s monthly Visa Bulletin.
Your sibling can figure out what the current Priority Date is by looking at the row marked "4th" and the column that indicates his or her country of nationality. If the Priority Date on the I-797 Approval Notice is the same as or earlier than the date that appears in the cell reserved for applicants from your sibling’s country in the "4th" Family preference category, then a visa number is available and your sibling can proceed with the "Green Card" application.
Q: How long will it take for my brother or sister’s Priority Date to become current?
A: The answer to this depends in part on your brother or sister’s country of birth. If your brother or sister was born in China, India, Mexico or Philippines, he or she may have to wait longer than other applicants for a visa number to become available. This is because applicants from these four countries have historically had higher rates of immigration to the U.S. than applicants from any other country, and the Department of State does not permit family-based applicants from one country to immigrate at a higher rate than immigrants from any other country.
For all applicants, the wait to immigrate as the brother or sister of a U.S. citizen is very lengthy. Individuals can expect to wait approximately ten years for a Priority Date to become current. Applicants from India and China currently have the same wait time as applicants from most other countries, but applicants from Mexico can expect to wait about thirteen years, and applicants from Philippines can expect to wait much longer.
Q: Can my brother or sister enter the U.S. before the Priority Date is current?
A: Your brother or sister will not be eligible to apply for a Green Card until his or her Priority Date is current. However, your sibling may be able to enter the U.S. on a "non-immigrant" visa while waiting for an immigrant visa number to become available. Please note that it will be difficult or impossible to obtain certain "non-immigrant" visas after an immigrant petition has been filed on behalf of your sibling. However, certain employment-based categories allow an applicant to enter the U.S. in a "non-immigrant" status even after an immigrant petition has been filed.
Q: Is there any way to accelerate the Green Card application for my brother or sister?
A: The U.S. citizen's can file for a sister or brother under the 4th family preference category, which is the lowest of all the preference categories, and it will take the longest period of time. Numbers of available visas in the preference categories are limited. You can check out the Visa Bulletin which comes out each month.
This waiting cannot be speeded up. It it really a question of supply and demand. And as you can see from the Visa Bulletin waiting times, demand is a lot higher than the supply. It depends entirely on what country the person is from. Some countries have so many applicants for immigration lined up, that it can take 10 or 12 years. Other countries have fewer applicants and shorter waiting times.
Q: As a U.S. citizen, can I sponsor Green Card application for my half-brother or stepsister? and what kind of relevant documents are required?
A: The sibling of U.S. citizen category enables U.S. citizens to sponsor their sister, brother, half-sister, half-brother, stepsister, stepbrother or adopted brother or sister living abroad or already residing in the United States to live and work in the US on a permanent basis.
If applying while the foreign sibling is in the U.S., the foreign sibling must have entered the U.S. legally and continue to maintain lawful status. If applying while the foreign sibling is outside the United States, the foreign sibling must remain outside the US until the visa is granted.
To be eligible for a Green Card as a sibling of a U.S. citizen, the applicant must be the sister, brother, half-sister, half-brother, stepsister, stepbrother or adopted brother or sister of a US citizen who is at least 21 years of age. This must be proven through the use of the following relevant documents: birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage certificates. Applicants must meet certain health and character requirements.
Q. My brother filed a petition on my behalf 10 years ago. I have been living illegally in the United States for the past seven years. I received a notice from USCIS informing me that in nine months my petition will be approved. How does this process work? Do I need to go back to my home country to receive the final paperwork or can I adjust my status while remaining in the United States?
A: It appears that your brother filed a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This placed you in the 4th preference category, which is "Brothers and Sisters of United States citizens." According to the Visa Bulletin, assuming you are not from China, India, Mexico, or the Philippines, and assuming the Form I-130 has been approved, a visa number may be available for petitions filed soon for you, and you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency.
That means that if you brother filed for you and that petition has already been approved, you will be eligible to apply for your permanent residency soon. If the petition was filed before January 14, 1998, you will be grandfathered in under Immigration and Nationality Act section 245i. That means that you will be able to adjust your status to permanent resident without the need to prove that you have been present and in lawful status in the United States since the date the petition was filed. Also, if you are grandfathered in under section 245i, you can adjust your status through an entirely different petition or application. For instance, if you have an employer who wants to sponsor you for labor certification, they could petition for you and you could file for permanent residency based on the labor certification regardless of the fact that you have been present in the United States illegally.
If you are eligible for adjustment of status, you do not need to go back to your home country to complete this process. In fact, if you have been in the United States illegally for the past several years, you will be barred from re-entering the United States for 10 years if you depart. As such, you must not leave the United States because you will not be allowed coming back.
Q: How to check the status of a Green Card application for my brother or sister? and How can I appeal if a Green Card is denied for my brother or sister?
A: You may check the status of your application or case online, by phone, or by contacting an appropriate USCIS office. You may also want to review U.S. Visa Wait Times and USCIS Immigration Processing Times.
For assistance outside of the U.S., contact the nearest U.S. Consulate. For assistance within the U.S., contact your nearest USCIS District Office or Sub Office, or call the national USCIS toll-free information service at 1-800-375-5283
If the visa petition you filed for a Green Card for your brother or sister is denied, the denial letter will tell you how to appeal. Generally, you may appeal within 33 days of receiving the denial by mail. After your appeal form and a required fee are processed, the appeal will be referred to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington, D.C.
Q: I want to file a Green Card application for my brother. How could your package of "Complete Do-It-Yourself Package of Green Card Application for U.S. Citizen's Brother or Sister" help me?
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In this "Complete Do-It-Yourself Package of Green Card Application for U.S. Citizen's Brother or Sister", we provide you the methods of how to prepare the petition, how to collect evidence, how to show your relationship, how to prove your qualification, and how to write the petition cover letter. We also provide step-by-step procedures for the petition, various petition strategies, sample cover letter, samples of filled forms, complete petition check list, petition required forms, detailed explanations of many petition related important issues, and more. With this package, you get all the information you need and the step-by-step knowledge and procedures of how to file an immigrant petition and obtain U.S. Green Card quickly for your brother or sister.
Q: I am U.S. citizen. My brother with H-1B visa is in U.S.. How could he adjusts his status in U.S. if the Form I-130 is approved for him? In another words, what is the availability of a visa number for him? and what is the process for adjusting status for him?
A: To adjust status in the United States or to get U.S. Green Card, an immigrant visa number must be readily available to the alien immigrant. Each year, a certain number of immigrant visas are available for alien immigrants. The available immigrant visa numbers and their current "priority dates" can be checked at the monthly Visa Bulletin issued by the U.S. Department of State.
The Priority Date is the date on which an immigrant visa petition is filed with the USCIS. Therefore, an alien immigrant can apply to adjust status only when his or her priority date is "current". The immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens are exempted from this requirement as they are not subject to the immigrant visa quota system. But other relatives of U.S. Citizens, such as U.S. citizen's married child or U.S. citizen's brother or sister, are subject to the immigrant visa quota system.
By filing USCIS form I-485 - Application to Register Permanent Residence of Adjust Status, an alien immigrant can adjust his or her status to a lawful permanent resident within the United States, if the alien immigrant can meets the requirements and is not subject to any ground of inadmissibility. Also, the alien immigrant needs to submit other mandatory governmental forms, relevant documents, and application fees to USCIS.
Q: I am a U.S. citizen, my brother is in India. How could I apply for my brother's immigration into U.S.? and how long it may take?
A: For a U.S. citizen with brothers or sisters in their home country, the U.S. citizen has the right to apply for immigrant visa for the brothers or sisters to come to United States to live and work, in the status of lawful permanent residence or Green Card, along with their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21.
To apply for immigration visa for brothers or sisters, the U.S. citizen must be 21 years of age or older, and should be able to guarantee that the sibling and their family will be financially supported in the U.S. by the U.S. citizen, not require any government assistance.
U.S. citizen's brothers or sisters immigration is in the family-based fourth preference (F4) category, which is the slowest immigration category. After starting the immigration process by filing an immigration visa petition on USCIS Form I-130, the U.S. citizen's brothers or sisters will be placed on the waiting list for an immigrant visa.
The immigrant visa waiting time is very long, may be more than 10 years for some countries, such as Mexico, India, China, and Philippine. After the waiting time is over, getting the actual immigrant visa and green card can take another several months.
Q: I want to apply immigrant visa for my sister to come U.S. Do I need to file form 864 or form I-134 as the Affidavit of Support? and how to prepare the financial documentation?
A: As a U.S. citizen, if you meet the requirements and wish to bring your brother or sister to the United States, you will need to show that your household income exceeds 125% of the poverty level in the U.S., meaning that you can financially support your own family, as well as your brother's or sister's family.
You will need to prepare an Affidavit of Support on USCIS Form I-864, which is essentially a contract with the U.S. government. If your sibling does end up claiming needs-based government assistance, your having signed this affidavit allows the government to come to you for reimbursement of these amounts.
After filing the USCIS Form I-130 for your brother or sister immigrant visa, the U.S. citizen should begin to consider to file the form I-864, which is needed near the end of the application process - once the Form I-130 petition reaches the U.S. embassy in the foreign sibling's home country.
To prepare the USCIS Form I-864, U.S. citizen should contact the bank or other financial institutions, and request information on their procedures to provide the financial documentation required by the Form I-864. For some cases, people may be surprised that gathering the required bank or other financial documentation from them is not simply an office visit, and may require several weeks for them to mail the requested documents and forms.
Q: I am a U.S. citizen, and will apply for immigrant visa for my brother. What is the application process to get an immigrant visa for a brother of a U.S. citizen?
A: To start the immigrant visa application process for U.S. citizen's brother or sister, the U.S. citizen will need to file an immigrant visa petition using USCIS Form I-130, with the proof of U.S. citizenship and the proof of siblings. Other evidence includes both person's birth certificate and showing at least one parent in common.
If the U.S. citizen and his/her brother or sister are related only through a father with different mother, U.S. citizen will also need the father's marriage certificate from his marriage to U.S. citizen's mother, and the one from his marriage to his/her sibling's mother.
Q: My Form I-130 Application for my relative's immigration has been approved by USCIS recently. Now she received notice from U.S. National Visa Center (NVC) to file Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application. Please help us know more information about how to fill the electronic immigrant visa application form DS-260?A: The Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application (also called "Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application") replaces the paper-based DS-230 Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (parts I and II); while the Form DS-261 Choice of Address and Agent will replace the DS-3032 Choice of Address and Agent.
The Department of State (DOS) has implemented use of the DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, and the DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. These two forms are used for immigrant visa applicants processing at all U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. The online forms are submitted to DOS through the Consular Electronic Applications Center (CEAC) website at https://ceac.state.gov/ceac/. In order to access the online forms, the applicant must input his or her NVC case number and invoice I.D. number.
All of the information entered online is accessible by the National Visa Center (NVC) and the consular posts, the applicant is not required to submit a paper version to the NVC or bring a copy to the visa interview.
* Most fields on the DS-260 must be completed before the application can be submitted to DOS. The system will not allow you to continue without providing the required information unless the field is specifically marked "Optional."
* If a mandatory field is left blank, an error message will appear and the applicant must complete the required field before proceeding with the form. A partially completed application can be saved by clicking on the "Save" button at the bottom of each page.
* It is recommended that data be saved often to ensure information is not lost. A saved application can be accessed by returning to the website and selecting View/Edit from the Alien Registration section of the Immigrant Visa.
* The applicant can continue completing the form by clicking on the "Edit" button on the right side of the application's listed status. Once all of the fields are completed, the applicant submits the form by clicking on the "Sign and Submit Application" button.
* Should the applicant need to make any changes to the form after submission, he or she will have to contact the NVC to request access to the form. If a case has already been sent by NVC to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate interview, any changes to the form will have to be made at the post.
Q: My bother is U.S. citizen and he is applying for U.S. immigration for me. My brother and I are related through a step-father. What kind of additional documents we should submit to USCIS for our sibling relationship?
A: For brother/sister relationship through adoption, step parents or paternal half-siblings, the additional documentation for U.S. immigration or Green Card application should include:
1) If you and your sibling are related through adoption, you should submit a copy of the adoption decree showing that the adoption took place, before you or your sibling became 16 years old.
2) If you and your sibling are related through a step-parent, you should submit copies of documents showing that any prior marriage of the natural parent and/or step-parent were legally terminated, and a copy of the marriage certificate of the step-parent to the natural parent.
3) If you and your sibling have a biological father but different mothers (you are paternal half-siblings), you should submit submit: copies of the marriage certificates of the father to each mother, and copies of documents showing that any prior marriages of either your father or mothers were legally terminated.
If your name or your sibling’s name has changed, please include proof of the legal name change, such as marriage certificate, divorce decree, adoption decree, court judgment of name change.
Q: My parents are waiting for the U.S. citizen's brother/sister immigration visa, and I may be included to immigranting process together with my parents. Since I am 19 years old and and currently a college sudnet in my country, under the Child Status Protection Act, do I have to apply for U.S. immigration "within one-year requirement" when the U.S. immigration visas are avauilable for my parents?
A: U.S. immigration law normally limits dependent or derivative status to children who are under 21 years of age. For U.S. permanent resident (Green Card) application, the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) allows derivative benefits beyond the child's 21st birthday, if certain conditions are met.
Previously, a child who turned 21 years of age was no longer eligible to receive a Green Card as part of a parent's immigration case. This is true even if the child had aged out because of U.S. government's immigration processing delays. The Child Status Protection Act was intended to help alleviate this "chind aged out", and the Child Status Protection Act contains a formula for determining the child's CSPA age.
An important restriction to eligibility under the CSPA is the requirement that an applicant seeks to apply for U.S. permanent resident status within one year of an immigration visa becoming available. Therefore, to preserve the child's eligibility for immigration or U.S. Green Card, the child must apply for the U.S. immigration within one year of the time when the immigration visa for th child is considered to have become available.
The action that must be taken within the one year time period generally includes filing one of the following: an adjustment of status application (Form I-485), a following-to-join application (Form I-824), or an immigrant visa and alien registration application (DS-260).
The appropriate actions depend upon the location of the child. Any of these actions constitutes applying for U.S. permanent resident status, and it will suffice to freeze the CSPA child's age. Failure to take one of these actions within one year may result in loss of eligibility under CSPA for the child.
Q: My sister is a U.S. citizen who submitted the Form I-130 to USCIS for my immigration. After it's approval, how could I get the immigrant visa or get Green Card to enter United States?
A: After USCIS approved the sibling (brother or sister) immigrant visa petition of Form I-130, the U.S. citizen's brother or sister will receive a "priority date," based on the day USCIS first received the Form I-130 petition. Then, the long waiting for immigrant visa will begin. If the brother or sister has children who want to come along to U.S. on this immigrant visa, these children must not get married before entering the United States with the immigrant visa. Because turning 21 years old will make them ineligible for the immigrant visa.
U.S. citizen petitioner then should start tracking the progress of priority dates in the family-based 4th preference immigration category, by monitoring the U.S. State Department's Visa Bulletin. When the dates shown on the family-based immigrant visa chart for the 4th preference category start to get close to your sibling's priority date, then U.S. citizen petitioner should look for letters coming from the National Visa Center (NVC), or contact the National Visa Center if you forgot to send them a change of address form.
If your sibling is in the United States on a valid visa, such as H-1B visa, J-1 visa, or F-1/J-1 visa, when the priority date becomes current, he or she should be able to adjust status inside the United States, to get the green card without leaving the United States. But if your brother or sister has only a tourist visa, such as B visa, and hope of adjusting status in the United States, it may constitute a fraudulent use of the tourist visa, and potentially lead to the green card application being denied.
For most cases, the U.S. citizen's brother or sister needs to go through the "consular processing", by having an immigrant visa interview at a U.S. consulate in his or her home country. If the interview goes well, he or she and family members will be issued immigrant visas to the United States. After entering the U.S., they will become permanent residents of United States, and receive their actual Green Cards a few weeks later.
Q: To file Form I-130 for relative outside U.S., what kind of fees can be expected?
A: Immigration application related fees are charged for different services, such as fees for Department of State government services, fees for Visa Services, and fees for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
- Filing an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, this fee is charged by USCIS;
- Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260;
- Medical examination and required vaccinations - costs vary.
Also, Form I-864 is required for most family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants to show that they have adequate means of financial support and are not likely to rely on the U.S. government for financial support. There is no fee when filed with USCIS or abroad with the Department of State (DOS). DOS does charge a fee when this form is filed in the U.S.
- Other costs may include: translations; photocopying charges; fees for obtaining the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.); and travel expenses to go to the embassy or consulate for the interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.
Q: For USCIS Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, what are the differences between sponsor, joint sponsor, and substitute sponsor?
A: An affidavit of support is a document an individual signs to accept financial responsibility for another person, usually a relative, who is coming to the United States to live permanently. The person who signs the affidavit of support becomes the sponsor of the relative coming to live in U.S. The sponsor is usually the petitioner of an immigrant petition for a family member. An affidavit of support is legally enforceable; the sponsor's responsibility usually lasts until the family member or other individual either becomes a U.S. citizen, or can be credited with 40 quarters of work - usually 10 years.
A joint sponsor is someone who is willing to accept legal responsibility for supporting the family member with you. A joint sponsor must meet all the same requirements as you, except the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant. The joint sponsor, or the joint sponsor and his or her household, must reach the 125% income requirement alone. You cannot combine your income with that of a joint sponsor to meet the income requirement.
If the visa petitioner has died after approval of the visa petition but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides to let the petition continue, a substitute sponsor must file a Form I-864 in place of the deceased visa petitioner.
Some other eligibility requirements apply to the substitute sponsor as well. He or she must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of at least 18 years of age who has a domicile in the U.S. And the sponsor must be a relative of yours. In order to be a substitute sponsor, you must be related to the intending immigrant in one of the following ways: Spouse; Parent; Mother-in-law; Father-in-law; Sibling; Child (if at least 18 years of age); Son; Daughter; Son-in-law; Daughter-in-law; Sister-in-law; Brother-in-law; Grandparent; Grandchild; Legal guardian of the beneficiary.
Serving as a substitute sponsor is a primarily financial relationship, and it involves filling out an Affidavit of Support on USCIS Form I-864. The Affidavit must indicate that the new sponsor is able to support the immigrants and his/her own household, at a level that is at or above 125% of the federal Poverty Guidelines. In fact, by filing Form I-864, the substitute sponsor promises the U.S. government to pay back any need-based public assistance that the named immigrants receive for approximately the first ten years of their having a green card.
Q: My mother is a U.S. citizen and a homemaker with no income in the U.S. My sister is in her home country and she is the beneficiary of the sponsored immigrant. I live separately from my mother. Can I qualify as the co-sponsor or joint sponsor? since my income alone will qualify for the Affidavit of Support on form I-864 for my sister.
A: The immigrant sponsor is usually the petitioner of an immigrant petition for a family member. An affidavit of support is legally enforceable; the sponsor's responsibility usually lasts until the family member or other individual either becomes a U.S. citizen, or can be credited with 40 quarters of work, usually 10 years.
According to the USCIS, you can file as a "joint sponsor", so long as the visa petitioner's household income is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the USCIS, and you can fulfill the necessary affidavit requirements. Please note that the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant.
A joint sponsor is a person who is not the petitioner for the immigrant applicant but who meets the citizenship, residence, and age requirements and who meets the 125 percent minimum income requirement for the household size.
Q: When I arrived U.S. las month, I did not complete the paper Customs and Border Protection Form I-94. Do I really need the form as an admission process record?
A: Foreign visitors to the U.S. arriving via air or sea no longer need to complete paper Customs and Border Protection Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record or Form I-94W Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record. Those who need to prove their legal visitor status to employers, schools/universities or government agencies can access their CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) arrival/departure record information online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.
CBP now gathers travelers’ arrival/departure information automatically from their electronic travel records. Because advance information is only transmitted for air and sea travelers, CBP will still issue a paper form I-94 at land border ports of entry.
If travelers need the information from their Form I-94 admission record to verify immigration status or employment authorization, the record number and other admission information they are encouraged to get their I-94 Number.
Upon arrival, a CBP officer stamps the travel document of each arriving non-immigrant traveler with the admission date, the class of admission, and the date that the traveler is admitted until. If a traveler would like a paper Form I-94, one can be requested during the inspection process. All requests will be accommodated in a secondary setting.
Upon exiting the U.S., travelers previously issued a paper Form I-94 should surrender it to the commercial carrier or to CBP upon departure. Otherwise, CBP will record the departure electronically via manifest information provided by the carrier or by CBP.
An I-94 form is needed by all persons except U.S. Citizens, returning resident aliens, aliens with immigrant visas, and most Canadian citizens visiting or in transit. Air and Sea travelers will be issued I-94s during the admission process at the port of entry. A traveler lawfully admitted (or paroled) into the U.S. may print their lawful record of admission (I-94 form) from this CBP website. If someone requests your admission information, this is the form you would provide.
Q: I plan to sponsor my relatives for Green Card applicatin. What are the processing time and steps during the process?
A: If you are planning on acting as a green card sponsor for a family member, various factors can stretch the process into months, depending on how long it takes you to gather documents and prepare the appropriate paperwork; who you plan to sponsor; whether there is a limit on immigrant visa numbers given out in that category; and how backlogged the various USCIS offices that you will deal with are at the time.
First, you will need to fill out USCIS Form I-130, and attach your U.S. citizenship or Green Card evidence, as well as proof of your relationship to your family member. USCIS' process for the petition can take several months. Usually later, you will need to prepare an Affidavit of Support on Form I-864, together with documents proving that you are able and willing to support the immigrant at an amount that is at least 125% of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines.
In addition, your family member will need to prepare various documents as his or her own application for a green card. The exact forms and process depend on whether your relative will be adjusting status in the U.S. or going through consular processing from another country. Your relative will also need to undergo a medical exam, and get the doctor's report to submit with the green card application. At every step of the way, you will be dealing with a government agency that is backlogged with other applicants. The typical processing steps you may encounter include:
- waiting a receipt notice after submitting Form I-130;
- if your relative will be coming from abroad and going to consular processing, awaiting transfer of the case to a U.S. consulate and correspondence from the National Visa Center;
- if your relative is in the U.S. and will be adjusting status inside U.S, awaiting a receipt notice and then a fingerprinting appointment waiting for the FBI to process your relative's fingerprints;
Q: The Form I-130 application for my family members have been approved by USCIS. What is the next step for my family members to get an immigrant visa to enter United States.
- waiting an interview with the U.S. consulate or USCIS office.
A: After your form I-130 is approved by USCIS, the form U.S. Department of States form DS-260 is used to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa. The form DS-260 is an online Immigrant Visa Application and Registration form used to collect the needed application information from persons seeking U.S. immigrant visas. This form is completed and submitted online to the Department of State via the Internet through the Consular Electronic Applications Center (CEAC).
You can access the DS-260 from the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website, by going to Immigrant Visas.state.gov and clicking on “Submit Visa Application and Civil Documents,” or on the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will apply.
After you pay your fees, you and each qualified family member immigrating with you must complete the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (Form DS-260) in the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). You may wish to preview a sample DS-260 before beginning.
* Submitting Form DS-260 does not formally execute a visa application. The visa application is not formally made until the visa applicant is interviewed by a U.S. consular officer.
* You will need your NVC Case Number, Beneficiary ID Number, and Invoice ID Number from your NVC Welcome Letter, to access CEAC.
* After submitting Form DS-260 online, you must print the confirmation page and bring it to your interview. You can print this from CEAC any time after you complete your DS-260 application.
It is important to distinguish the mandatory use of the DS-260 for processing at all U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide from the "Electronic Processing Program" used for electronic submission of documents and the I-864 Affidavit of Support for processing at select embassies and consulates. Under this program, the I-864 is downloaded, completed, signed, scanned, saved as a PDF file and e-mailed to the NVC.
Also, the required civil documents and supporting documents must be converted to PDF files and then e-mailed to the NVC. For these select consular posts it is not required to mail the I-864, civil documents, and other supporting documents to the NVC, but the applicant must be prepared to present the original physical documents at the time of the visa interview. For all other posts, the I-864 and documentation are still mailed to the NVC.
For additional information on the DS-260, DS-261 and Electronic Processing Program, you should go to travel.state.gov and read the FAQs on DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application and the instruction pages on Required Electronic Processing and Optional Electronic Processing.
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