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Green Card
permanent resident

Many people in the United States have family members living in other countries, and wonder whether they can bring them here. The U.S. is a country of immigrants. There is a long history of immigrants helping other family members immigrate; this is sometimes referred to as “chain migration,” and most Americans have ancestors who arrived this way.


As a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you may be eligible to help your family members immigrate to the United States and become lawful permanent residents (green card holders) using your familial connection. According to U.S. immigration laws, any individual who seeks to migrate to the United States through a petition from a family member must have a financial sponsor. However, to act as a sponsor for your relative, you must demonstrate that you possess the necessary assets and income to provide support for them once they have immigrated to the country.


Before you help a relative get a green card, it’s important to understand the difference between the Immediate Relative and Family Preference categories for obtaining an immigrant visa (green card).


Immediate Relative visas are granted based on a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse, child or parent. There is no annual limit on the number of immigrants in these categories.

Family Preference visas, on the other hand, are for specific and more distant family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). The number of immigrants in these categories is limited each fiscal year. 



Who Can You Petition For?


Current U.S. immigration laws do not permit the sponsorship of individuals whom the government does not classify as immediate family members. And depending on the relationship, it will affect the visa wait time.


Keep in mind that U.S. citizens can file an immigrant visa petition for their:

·      A spouse;

·      Unmarried children under 21 years of age;

·      Married sons or daughters of any age;

·      Brothers or sisters

·      Mother or father


U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents can only file an immigrant visa petition for their:

·      A spouse

·      Unmarried child under 21 years of age


Suppose you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident and have a relative who lives in a different country. You have the option to initiate a process to help them attain legal permanent residency in the United States, commonly known as obtaining a "green card." This procedure for petitioning a family member abroad is termed "Consular Processing." In some instances, your relative might already be residing in the U.S. under a different visa status. In such cases, they may be eligible to become a lawful permanent resident while remaining within the country. This process, referred to as "Adjustment of Status," is accessible to individuals already present in the U.S. who initially entered the country legally and lack severe criminal records, specific medical conditions, or other disqualifying factors.



The Petition Process 

The application process to obtain an immigrant visa for your eligible family members will follow the same basic steps whether you are a U.S. citizen (USC) or a lawful permanent resident (LPR).

1.     You will need to fill out Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and submit it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Specifically, the petition establishes a qualifying family relationship exists between you and your eligible relative. Filing the petition also initiates the request for an immigrant visa (green card).

2.     Include various supporting documentation and evidence to show that you have a genuine family relationship with the person. The required supporting documents for an I-130 petition typically include:

  • Proof that the sponsor is a U.S. citizen or green card holder

  • Proof that a legally valid relationship exists

  • Proof that the relationship is not fraudulent

  •        Proof of name changes for the sponsor and/or the person seeking a green card, if any

  • Proof of nationality of the person seeking a green card

3.     If the immigration officer approves your request, your case file will be forwarded to the National Visa Center for further processing. 

4.     NVC will then forward your petition to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where your relative currently lives so that they can schedule an interview appointment with an immigration officer.

5.     Once your petition is approved, and the visa is available, the family member being sponsored will submit an application for permanent residency. 



Filing a petition to sponsor a relative appears to be quite straightforward. However, due to the constantly changing U.S. immigration laws, getting detailed guidance from an experienced attorney is crucial to under the procedures and helping you navigate key decisions. A highly-skilled attorney can walk you through the legal processes involved and improve your chances of a successful immigration application. For more information on how we can assist you, please visit our website at or email us at


Patricia Elizee is the managing partner of the Elizee Law Firm, an immigration law firm located at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131. Phone 305-371-8846








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