United States citizens and permanent residents can assist their qualifying foreign relatives in petitioning for citizenship and permanent residency in the United States. In order for a foreign relative to become a lawful U.S. permanent resident, the following general criteria must be met:
- The foreign national applying for a visa or green card must have a relative who is either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States. The applicant’s relative must be able to show documentation of their status as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, as well as proof of their relationship to the applicant
- The applicant’s relative must prove his/her financial income is 125% above the poverty line for his/her entire family, including the applicant. If the relative does not meet this financial criterion, then he/she can become a joint sponsor with another relative, or the applicant’s assets can be taken into account
- If the applicant’s relative is a U.S. citizen, he/she must prove that the applicant is his/her:
- Children under the age of 21 years
- Unmarried son or daughter over 21 years old
- Married son or daughter (any age)
- Brother or sister of U.S. citizen (if sponsoring relative is at least 21 years old)
- Parent of U.S. citizen (if sponsoring relative is at least 21 years old)
- If the applicant’s sponsoring relative is a U.S. permanent resident, he/she must prove that the applicant is his/her:
- Husband or wife
- Unmarried son or daughter of any age
If both the applicant and his/her relative meet these criteria, then the petitioning process can begin.
Immigration Options for Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens
“Immediate Relatives” means the parents, spouses, and children (who are unmarried and under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen. Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen are able to immigrate to the United States despite any numerical restrictions, unlike other close family members of U.S. citizens and/or permanent residents.
Family Preference Categories
Other family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents are divided into preference categories. Each preference category is provided only a limited number of immigrants per year to be allowed admission into the United States.
Relatives in these categories must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the following preferences:
First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.
Second Preference: Spouses of legal permanent residents, and the unmarried sons and daughters (regardless of age) of legal permanent residents and their children.
Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, their spouses, and their minor children.
Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens, their spouses, and their minor children.