Perhaps the most common way to get a Green Card is to have an immediate relative sponsor you. To be able to sponsor a relative to become a lawful permanent resident, you must:
- be a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States
- have a qualifying relationship with the person you intend to sponsor
- be willing to sponsor the relative in question by completing and filing a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative
- be able to show that you can support your sponsored relative and your own family at or above 125 percent of the mandated poverty line.
There are strict definitions as to what constitutes a family member you can sponsor. If you are a United States citizen, you can petition as a sponsor for the following kinds of relatives:
- Husband or wife
- Child who is under 21 years old and not married
- Your unmarried son or daughter who is over 21 years old
- A married son or daughter of any age
- A brother or a sister if you are at least 21 years old
- Your mother or father if you are at least 21 years old
If you are a lawful permanent resident, you can sponsor the following kinds of relatives:
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- Husband or wife
- Unmarried child under 21 years old
- Unmarried son or daughter over 21 years old
Lawful permanent residents cannot sponsor married sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, or their parents.
Each of the categories above has an annual quota and are subject to limits. As a result, the USCIS has created preference categories, and the higher the preference category, the shorter the wait for a Green Card.
The preference categories are as follows:
- Family First Preference (F1) – unmarried adult 21 years or older who are sons or daughters of United States citizens.
- Family Second Preference (F2) – Spouses, unmarried children under 21 years old and unmarried sons and daughters over 21 years old of lawful permanent residents.
- Family Third Preference (F3) – married sons and daughters of United States citizens. Applies to any age.
- Family Fourth Preference (F4) – brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and children. The U.S. citizen must be at least 21 years old.
In some instances, USCIS may grant an Extreme Hardship Waiver. Although proof of hardship can be difficult to prove, and the application of the waiver is generally limited, there are certain circumstances when the waiver may apply:
- Health – if you require ongoing treatments for mental or physical disorders, and the treatment is generally not available in your native country, you may qualify.
- Financial – a whole range of possibilities exists under this condition, ranging from taking care of elderly and fragile parents, to a decline in a standard of living due to the loss of a home, business or professional practice.
- Education – the loss of an opportunity to continue as a student in higher education or a lower quality of education options in native country.
- Personal – takes into consideration family ties and close relatives and the separation from children and spouses.
- Special Factors – this is a catch all that may include religious, cultural, language or fears of ethnic persecution or other related issues.