How Do I, a Permanent Resident, Help My Relative Become a U.S. Permanent Resident?

As a permanent resident of the United States, you may help a relative become a lawful permanent resident based on your status. To do so, you will need to sponsor your relative and be able to prove that you have enough income or assets to support your relative(s) when they come to the United States.

How do I begin the process?

You begin the process by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

Which relatives may I petition for?

A permanent resident of the United States can file a petition for the following relatives:

Husband or wife; and

Unmarried child(ren), regardless of age.

Note: Only U.S. citizens may petition for married children.

When you submit your petition, you are required to provide evidence to prove your relationship to the person for whom you are filing.

What does the petition do for my relative?

Filing an I-130 relative petition and proving a qualifying relationship gives your relative a place in line for a visa number among others waiting to immigrate based on that same kind of relationship from the same country or region. When your relative reaches the head of the line, he or she may be eligible to immigrate.

For example: You file an I-130 petition for your husband or wife. When approved, your petition gives him or her a place in the line of people from the same country who are also husbands and wives of permanent residents.

Your relative’s place in line will be based on the date you file your petition. Therefore, there is an advantage to filing as soon as possible. While there is no waiting line for most immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, sons and daughters over 21 years old will have a waiting time. So if you naturalize while your relatives are waiting for visas, they may be able to immigrate sooner.

What about my relative’s family?

 In most cases, when your spouse’s place in line is reached, his or her unmarried children under 21 years old can follow to join the relative on the same visa petition. However, if an unmarried child turns 21 years old before reaching the “front of the line,” you will need to file a new separate petition for each child included on the original petition. Please following instructions and include a copy of the receipt notice for the original petition.

What if my unmarried child marries?

A petition for an unmarried child will be automatically revoked if he or she marries, since there is no visa category for a married son or daughter of a permanent resident. However, if you become a U.S. citizen before your child marries, you can continue the immigration process by filing a new I-130 visa petition for your child.

After I file, how long will it take before my relative can immigrate?

For most relatives, the combination of high demand and the limits set by law on how many people can immigrate each year means that they may have to wait several years. When your relative reaches the front of the line, the U.S. Department of State contacts your relative and invites him or her to apply for an immigrant visa. If you are interested in current wait times, see “Visa Bulletins” on the State Department’s website at

Can my relative wait in the United States until he or she can become a permanent resident?

No. Your relative’s approved petition gives your relative a place in line among those waiting to immigrate. It does not give permission for your relative to live or work in the United States while he or she is waiting to apply for permanent residence. If he or she enters or stays without legal status, it will affect his or her eligibility to become a permanent resident upon reaching his or her place in line for issuance of a visa.

Does filing a relative petition commit me to anything?

Yes. Under the law, each person who immigrates based on a relative’s petition must have a financial sponsor. If you choose to sponsor your relative’s immigration by filing a relative petition, when the time comes for your relative to immigrate, you must agree to be his or her financial sponsor by filing Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. If you do not meet the financial qualifications, then other individuals will need to make this commitment.

How do I file?

Follow the I-130 petition instructions.

What happens after I file?

USCIS will mail you a receipt confirming that they have received your petition. If your petition is incomplete, it may be rejected, or USCIS may ask you for more evidence or information, which will delay processing.

USCIS will notify you when they make a decision. Normally, if USCIS approves the petition, they will send it to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). When your relative’s place in line permits issuance of a visa number, the NVC will notify you and your relative, inviting him or her and qualifying dependents to apply for immigrant visas.

What if I filed a petition for a relative when I was a permanent resident, but I am now a U.S. citizen?

If you become a U.S. citizen while your relative is waiting for a visa, you can upgrade your relative’s visa classification and advance the processing of that petition by notifying the appropriate agency of your naturalization. When you are a U.S. citizen, your spouse and any unmarried children under age 21 will have visas immediately available to them.

• If you become a U.S. citizen after your Form I-130 petition is already approved and it has been forwarded to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC), you should notify the NVC that you have become a U.S. citizen.

• If you become a U.S. citizen and your relative’s petition has not yet been approved by USCIS, you will need to notify the Service Center where you filed your relative’s visa petition.

• If your relative is your spouse and he or she has children who are your natural children, stepchildren, or adopted children, and you did not file separate petitions for them, you must file a separate petition for each of them with evidence of your U.S. citizenship. Please include a copy of the receipt notice for the original petition.

How long will it take USCIS to process my petition?

Since processing time depends on a number of factors, it is difficult to provide a time frame. You can check USCIS current processing times on the USCIS website.

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