The United States is a land of opportunity, and many families around the world dream of bringing their loved ones to America. Fortunately, the U.S. government offers several family-based visas that allow U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) to sponsor their family members for immigration. In this guide, we will explain what family-based visas are, who is eligible, and how to apply.
Types of Family-Based Visas
There are two main categories of family-based visas: immediate relative visas and family preference visas.
Immediate Relative Visas
Immediate relative visas are available to the closest relatives of U.S. citizens, including:
- Spouses of U.S. citizens
- Unmarried children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens
- Parents of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old
Immediate relative visas do not have annual limits, which means that there is no waiting period for a visa to become available. This makes immediate relative visas the fastest way to bring a family member to the United States.
Family Preference Visas
Family preference visas are available to more distant relatives of U.S. citizens and green card holders, including:
- Unmarried children over the age of 21 of U.S. citizens
- Married children of U.S. citizens
- Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens
- Spouses and unmarried children of green card holders
Family preference visas have annual limits, which means that there may be a waiting period for a visa to become available. The waiting period can range from several months to several years, depending on the category and the country of origin of the applicant.
To sponsor a family member for a family-based visa, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder)
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a qualifying relationship with the family member you want to sponsor
- Meet the financial requirements to support the family member
The financial requirements vary depending on the family member being sponsored and the sponsor’s income level. For example, a sponsor of a spouse must demonstrate that they have an income that is at least 125% of the federal poverty level.
How to Apply
To apply for a family-based visa, the sponsor must file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form must include evidence of the qualifying relationship between the sponsor and the family member, such as a marriage certificate or birth certificate.
Once the I-130 petition is approved, the family member can apply for an immigrant visa or adjust their status to become a lawful permanent resident. The process for obtaining an immigrant visa or adjusting status varies depending on the family member’s country of origin and immigration history.
Family-based visas are a valuable tool for bringing loved ones to the United States. Whether you are a U.S. citizen or a green card holder, there are several options available to sponsor your family members for immigration. While the process can be complex and time-consuming, with the right guidance and preparation, you can successfully navigate the family-based visa process and bring your loved ones to America.