As a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, you may be wondering what you can do to bring someone you love to the country. In your position, you can typically sponsor relatives for green cards only when they meet specific requirements.
If you’re a citizen, it’s going to be easier to bring your family to the country compared to if you’re a permanent resident. If you’re near to getting your citizenship, it may be valuable to get it before applying to sponsor certain relatives.
Immediate relative visas
If you are a U.S. citizen, you have a fairly direct route to bring your children, spouse and parents to the United States. There is no limit to how many people can come to the USA on an immediate relative visa, which is great since you won’t have a long wait compared to those on the family preference visas.
Lawful permanent residents can’t use IR visas to bring over their family and must use a longer process.
Family preference visas
You may be able to use a family preference visa to help someone you love come to the USA. This visa is for your relatives who may be more distant than your parents, children or spouse.
You may be able to sponsor people to come to the USA, such as your:
- Siblings, their spouses and their minor children
- Unmarried sons or daughters who are over 21 (as well as their minor children)
- Spouses, unmarried sons and daughters over 21 and minor children (when you’re a lawful permanent resident)
The people in these categories will be ranked from family first preference through family fourth preference (F1, F2, F3 or F4). These visas may take many years to apply for and receive, so starting early is a good choice.
Remember that visas are available on a preference basis. What that means is that there are more visas available to those who are close relatives of people who are permanent residents or citizens of the United States. There are fewer for distant relatives, making it harder for them to come to the country quickly.