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What Are the Legal Requirements for Sponsoring a Relative for a Green Card?

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What Are the Benefits of Family-Based Immigration?

U.S. citizens and green card holders may sponsor certain immediate family members for family-based immigration to the United States. There are many benefits to acquiring a family-based green card, also known as a permanent resident card, for your foreign-national relatives who immigrate to the United States. Chief among them is the fact that a green card will provide foreign-born relatives with lawful status in the US. With a green card, your relative has the right to live and work here indefinitely unless they somehow violate criminal or immigration law.

As lawful permanent residents, they are also eligible for several government benefits, including Medicare, Social Security, and other public assistance programs. They may also enjoy better employment, investment, and education opportunities depending on where they are from and their career track.

Green card holders have the right to work in the United States without being tied to a specific employer or job. They also have the right to travel outside of the United States and return without the need for a visa. Green card holders also have the right to travel anywhere within the United States without restrictions. However, they must make the United States their primary residence, where they live and work.

Once a foreign-born relative has obtained a green card, they can also petition to have their spouse and unmarried children (under age 21) join them in the United States.
Lawful permanent residents are also protected from deportation proceedings, provided they comply with United States criminal and immigration laws.

After being granted legal permanent residence for three to five years, green card holders can apply for United States citizenship. Upon being sworn in as U.S. citizenship, they have additional duties and rights, including the right to vote in United States elections, run for public office, and to be available to serve on a jury.

What Does Sponsorship Mean?

The complex United States immigration system prioritizes uniting families across national borders. For this reason, there is an immigration process specifically designed to allow U.S. citizens and green card holders to request that close relatives be granted green cards so they may live and work in the United States with them.

When you petition a relative, you are establishing to the United States government that your relative wishes to become a permanent resident of the United States, that you believe the foreign-born relative will be a responsible, law-abiding resident, and that the information you include in your alien relative petition is honest and complete to your knowledge.

The process for sponsoring a foreign relative may differ slightly depending on your relative’s home country and where they currently reside. Those residing outside of the United States may apply for immigrant visas. However, some already in the United States may be able to apply for adjustment of status.

What Foreign Relatives Can a U.S. Citizen Sponsor?

U.S. citizens may petition the following relatives for lawful permanent resident cards:

  • Spouses.
  • Minor children.
  • Parents.
  • Unmarried adult sons and daughters.
  • Married sons and daughters.
  • Siblings.

Green card holders may sponsor the following:

  • Spouses.
  • Minor children.
  • Unmarried adult sons and daughters.

Are You Eligible to Sponsor a Relative for Legal Permanent Residency?

To be eligible to sponsor a foreign-born family member for immigration, you must either be a lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen. Additionally, only certain family members can be sponsored for immigration, and the types of visas that you can apply for will depend on your status and specific relationships with those family members.

U.S. citizens can sponsor their spouses, unmarried children under age 21, and their parents for immediate relative visas, which are generally available with no legal wait times. However, processing times can vary due to the failure to obtain proper documentation and limited Congressional budgeting.
U.S. citizens may also sponsor unmarried adult children, married children, and brothers and sisters for family preference visas, though these types of visas have certain quotas and legal wait times restricted by Congress. The quotas have remained unchanged since 1990.

As a petitioner, you must submit a visa application on behalf of the family member you are trying to help immigrate to the US. To establish that you have met all initial eligibility requirements, you must submit supporting documentation showing your status as a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, which may include your citizenship certificate, green card, passport, and birth certificate. Evidence must also be provided establishing your relationship with the foreign immigrant, such as a marriage certificate, birth certificates for children, or sworn affidavits from third parties who can attest to the validity of the family relationship.

Certain financial requirements must also eventually be met for the State Department to approve a visa. Sponsors must prove that they can provide adequate financial support for their sponsored family members while they are residing in the US. Evidence will be required to show that you make sufficient income to cover basic living expenses without the immigrants having to rely upon government assistance programs. Applicable evidence may include W-2 forms, pay stubs, and tax returns.

What Are Other Legal Requirements for Green Card Sponsors?

You must meet all of the basic sponsorship requirements in order to sponsor a foreign national for immigration to the United States. This includes meeting or surpassing the minimum income requirements, residing in the United States, and being at least 21 years of age.

The foreign relative must undergo a medical examination prior to being allowed into the country. Additionally, they must participate in a green card interview with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The relative must also be admissible to the United States. This means that they must not have any disqualifying criminal record or have violated immigration laws in the past.

What Are the Financial Requirements for Family Sponsors?

The 2024 minimum annual income requirements for most sponsors will vary depending on the number of people in each household, including yourself and your spouse. For example, in most states, as well as Washington DC, households of two people have a minimum annual income requirement of $25,550. For households of the same size, the minimum annual income requirement in Alaska is $31,925. In Hawaii, it’s $29,375. These numbers usually change each year.

The more people in the household, the more money the sponsor needs to earn annually In order to qualify as an eligible sponsor.

Contact Our Immigration Law Firm to Schedule Your Customized Strategy Session Today

Our Chicago-based law firm has years of experience representing clients in various immigration legal matters, including the complexities of family-based immigration. We would be proud to assist you and protect your interests in pursuing green cards for your family members overseas.

To learn more about our legal services, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our law firm to schedule a customized strategy session today. You may reach us at 312-728-4610.

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