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How Long Does It Take to Sponsor a U.S. Citizen’s Family Member for Green Card?

One of the popular destinations for folks seeking greener pastures in terms of quality of life and career opportunities is the United States of America. However, its extreme selection process also means very few are able to fulfill their goal, and those who finally cross over legally, become a permanent resident / green card holder.

Permanent residency has several rights associated with it and one of them is to petition for close family members (parents, spouse and unmarried children) to receive permanent residence. There is a catch here. Those not falling under the said group will be considered preference relatives which simply means you have less number of visas to exploit.

Moreover, it is not easy to process these petitions quickly. The reason being, thousands of immigrants who enter U.S and become its permanent resident have relatives living in their home country and the urge to invite them is inevitable. This creates a long list of petitions and the waiting could be as long as five years before getting a resident permit / green card.

A quick note here - You can only invite or sponsor relatives if you are a citizen of United States or a permanent resident / green card holder. Mentioned below are some of the crucial parameters when it comes to “Who you can help immigrate?".

  • Your own status will determine who you can sponsor. Are you a citizen, a permanent resident / green card holder?
  • The above mentioned status either restricts or expands the type of relatives you can sponsor. This could include parents to spouse and children under the age of 21.
  • As a petitioner you need to understand that there are two distinct categories of people you can sponsor - immediate relatives and preference relatives.

The immigrant’s preference category plays an important role in fetching a Green Card. The process is generally initiated by filing Form I-130 along with an application for permanent residence also known as Form I-485. However, the process could begin with filing just a single form.

The above parameters and your own status could then create the following scenarios -

  • In case the petitioner's relative has already entered the country then his/her status needs to be adjusted. By filing I-485, one can initiate the process and adjust the status to permanent resident once the visa number becomes available for reference.
  • Consular processing is the second scenario. This typically occurs when the petitioner's relative lives outside of United States. In such cases the petition is sent to National Visa Center who then forwards the same to relevant U.S Consulate. Post processing the said relative is informed about the successful completion and the visa is automatically made available.

Most of the status updates can be checked on the U.S Department of State website.

Petitioning for a relative is a tricky affair. It requires quite a bunch of relevant and supporting evidences which only an experienced professional can negotiate. One needs to realize that the immigration department is flooded with hundreds and thousands of applications and the process is also not simple, and therefore proper guidance is essential. Hiring a professional can make a huge difference and increase the success rate.