Family Sponsors Petitioning For Immigrants In The USA

With its long history of immigration, the United States continues to be a land of opportunities. For millions of individuals across the world, that is. From reuniting with loved ones to escaping persecution, they all hope to become legal residents. Thus, family sponsors prove to be beneficial. Through their help, their relatives may obtain a green card. But what does it take to gain one? We have prepared this guide that covers the basics of the family-sponsored immigration process in the USA.

Family-Based Immigration Categories

The U.S. immigration system prioritizes family reunification. Hence, it allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to sponsor certain family members for immigration benefits. Family-sponsored immigration falls into two primary categories:

Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

This category has no numerical limitations, making it one of the fastest ways to obtain a green card. Immediate relatives include spouses, unmarried children under 21 years old, and parents of U.S. citizens.

Family Preference Categories 

These categories include more distant family relationships and have limited visa numbers available each year. They are divided into four preference categories:

  1. First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  2. Second Preference (F2): Divided into two subcategories: i. F2A: Spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of LPRs. ii. F2B: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 and over) of LPRs.
  3. Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  4. Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.

Eligibility Criteria for Family Sponsors and Beneficiaries

To successfully sponsor a family member for a green card, the U.S. citizen or LPR sponsor and the intending immigrant (beneficiary) must meet certain eligibility criteria:

U.S. Citizen or LPR Sponsor

  • Must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • At least 21 years old to sponsor siblings
  • Able to provide financial support (an Affidavit of Support) to the beneficiary

Intending Immigrant (Beneficiary)

  • Have a qualifying family relationship with the sponsor
  • Must not be ineligible due to certain grounds of inadmissibility, such as criminal convictions or immigration violations

The Sponsorship Process

The family-sponsored immigration process involves several steps, each with its requirements and documentation:

Filing an Immigrant Petition (Form I-130)

The U.S. citizen or LPR sponsor initiates the process by filing Form I-130. It is also known as the Petition for Alien Relative, at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form establishes the qualifying family relationship between the family sponsors and the beneficiaries. The USCIS provides detailed information about the filing process and current filing fees on its official website.

Visa Bulletin and Waiting for a Visa Number

Family preference categories are subject to annual numerical limits. The Visa Bulletin, published by the U.S. Department of State, provides updates on visa availability for each category and country of chargeability.

Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status

The beneficiary’s location and immigration status determine whether they go through consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad or apply for adjustment of status within the U.S. Moreover, information on consular processing can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s website, while the USCIS provides guidance on the adjustment of status process.

Affidavit of Support (Form I-864)

The family sponsors must submit an Affidavit of Support, Form I-864, to demonstrate their ability to financially support the immigrant beneficiary. This is a crucial part of the process to ensure the immigrant will not become a public charge.

Medical Examination and Police Clearance

The beneficiary must undergo a medical examination by an approved panel physician and obtain police clearances from all countries of residence. These documents are required for visa issuance or adjustment of status. Information on panel physicians can be found on the USCIS website. Meanwhile, guidance on obtaining police clearances is available on the Department of State’s website.

Visa Interview (Consular Processing)

If going through consular processing, the beneficiary will attend a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.


To conclude, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can reunite with their family members in the United States through family-sponsored immigration. However, if you are planning to sponsor a family member, you may find the process complicated and time-consuming. Therefore, it is important to fully understand the categories, eligibility requirements, and steps involved. Eventually, through reliable sources, you can fulfill your goal of bringing your loved ones to the United States.