Family Based Immigration: Who Can Sponsor You and How Long Will it Take?

So you have a family member in the United States and you want to move there too? The good news is that family-based immigration can be one of the best ways to secure permanent residency in the U.S. The bad news is that just because you have a family member willing to sponsor you doesn’t mean you’re automatically guaranteed a green card. Additionally, how you are related to your sponsor as well as his or her status as either a United States citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) can have a drastic impact on how long it takes to get your visa.

Most importantly, not every familial relationship satisfies the requirements for sponsorship. United States citizens can sponsor their spouse, children, parents, brothers, and sisters. It is also important to note that United States citizens wishing to sponsor their parents must be at least 21 years old. LPRs can sponsor their spouse or unmarried children. This means that grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins cannot sponsor you for a visa in any situation, and LPR siblings or children cannot sponsor you for a visa either.

Once you’re sure that your family relationship qualifies, you then have to consider how long it will take for your visa to become available. Family-based immigration is made up of two stages. First, your sponsor must file a petition on your behalf. Then, once that petition is approved you can apply for your visa. There are certain visa categories where visas are unlimited, meaning that you only have to wait for your petition to be processed before applying for a visa. However, there are other categories that have annual limitations, which means that after the petition is filed you have to wait for a visa to become available before you can apply. Categories, where there are unlimited visas available, involve a United States citizen sponsoring either their spouse, unmarried child under 21, or parent. Every other category has a wait time that ranges from approximately two years all the way up to twenty years.

If you are wondering if your family member can sponsor you to immigrate to the U.S. or how long it might take to get your permanent residency, just use the handy chart below!

– Rikkilee Moser, Associate Attorney

If you require more information on filing a petition or application with USCIS, please email [email protected] or call our office to speak to an attorney at +44 (0)20 7092 6830.