One of the most common ways in which a person can become a U.S. resident is through a relative that is already a resident of the U.S. If you are a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., you can file an application for your husband, wife, or unmarried child(ren) of any age to also become lawful permanent residents. If you are a naturalized U.S. citizen, it may be even quicker for your spouse or unmarried children to immigrate to the U.S.; furthermore, as a U.S. citizen, you can also petition for your married child(ren) to immigrate to the U.S., and, if you are over the age of 21, your sibling(s) and/or parent(s). Although the application process for a relative can be time-consuming, and is not guaranteed to be successful, it is often the easiest way to reunite your family in the U.S.
The first step to helping your relative become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. is to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. When you file your petition, you must provide proof of the relationship between you and your relative, and proof that you can financially support any relative(s) that you sponsor for immigration into the U.S.
If your petition is approved, your relative will be assigned a visa number in the category of people from the same country or region who are also seeking to become residents of the U.S. through their relatives. In other words, your relative will be given a place in line, based on the date that he or she received a number. Therefore, it is best to file your application as soon as possible, as it may take several years before your relative’s visa number reaches the head of the line. Unfortunately, your relative may not live or work in the U.S. while waiting for his or her visa number to reach the head of the line. In fact, if your relative is found in the U.S. illegally, then it will affect his or her ability to obtain a visa when his or her number reaches the head of the line.
When your relative’s visa number comes to the head of the line, the U.S. Department of State will contact your relative and invite him or her to apply for an immigrant visa, which would allow him or her to immigrate to the U.S. You will also have to file an Affidavit of Support for your relative. In this affidavit, you must prove that you are able to financially provide for your relative should he or she immigrate to the U.S. Without a financial sponsor, your relative cannot immigrate to the U.S.
Finally, if you should become a naturalized U.S. citizen during this waiting period, you should immediately notify the USCIS Service Center or the National Visa Center of your citizenship, depending on the stage of your relative’s application process. Because you are now a U.S. citizen, your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 will become automatically eligible to immigrate, without the waiting period. However, there is still likely to be a waiting period for children over the age of 21.