Asked Questions and Answers of
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 Stateís 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 siblingís 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 sisterís Priority Date to become current?
A: The answer to this depends in part on your brother or sisterís 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.
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