Obtaining legal status for an individual is complicated enough. Dealing with the legal tangle of sponsoring your family as a petitioner, so that they can come to the United States, is an even greater and more confusing ordeal. The options available to you will depend heavily upon what your legal status is in the United States, and how your relatives are related to you. Some of these options are briefly described below, categorized according to the legal status of the petitioner. This is not meant to be a complete list of options, so please contact us to see what other possibilities may be available to you in family-based immigration.
Please also note that, in considering “marriage” or status as a “spouse,” same-sex marriages will be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex marriages in immigration visa applications. Therefore, spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents of same sex marriages are now fully eligible for the same benefits as opposite-sex spouses.
If you are a citizen of the United States:
Getting your family a Green Card
You may petition for the following family members for permanent residence (commonly referred to as a Green Card): Your spouse and kids (both married and unmarried, under or over the age of 21). If you are over the age of 21, you may also petition for your parents and siblings.
To start the process, you will have to submit an I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative, as well as evidence showing that they are related to you. If your family has already legally entered the country, you can also submit an I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If approved, this will allow your relative(s) to remain and work in the United States permanently, and they will get a Green Card.
Please note that in order for you to sponsor your family members, you must file an I-864 Affidavit of Support showing that you will be able to financially support them when they come to the U.S. If you are unable to do so, you may get a joint sponsor to meet the requirement.
Getting your family a Fiancé(e) Visa
If you are not married to your future spouse yet, who is outside the country, you can file an I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). If approved, this will allow your future spouse, as well as any children under the age of 21, to come to the United States. Once they are here, the marriage much take place within 90 days of their entering the United States. After you and your spouse are legally married, you may proceed with the applications to obtain their Green Card.
There may be other conditions and issues that may apply, and the necessary documentation for supporting a fiancée visa is specific to each case. Please speak with an immigration attorney before beginning the process. The timing and specific procedures can also be complicated or confusing, because the requirements and procedures depend on each consular post. This means that each U.S. Embassy or Consulate will have their own requirements and procedures for the visa interview. More information on fiancé(e) visas is available here.
Getting your family a K-3/K-4 Nonimmigrant Visa
Waiting for an I-130 to go through can be a long process. Obviously, you want your family to be able to come over to the U.S. as soon as possible. If you have already submitted the I-130 , you may apply for a visa to allow them to come to the United States while waiting for the approval and subsequent steps. First, you must submit an I-129F (which is also the same form for fiancée visas). Once the forms are received and processed, your spouse will apply to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country for a K-3 visa, and K-4 visas for any children you share under the age of 21. More information on K-3 and K-4 visas is available here.
Please note that K-3 and K-4 visas expire when your I-130 is approved or rejected. If declined, affected family members must exit the United States within one month, or they may be deported.
If you are a Permanent US Resident (Green Card holder):
The process is very similar to the process above for U.S. citizens to petition for their family members. As a permanent resident, you may only sponsor your spouse, children, or unmarried sons and daughters. K visas are not available for family members of permanent residents. Now, same-sex spouses of permanent residents are now eligible for the same benefits as opposite-sex spouses.
The processes by which someone would obtain residency for family members are adjustment of status and consular processing.
If you are a refugee or were granted asylum:
If you were granted asylum, you can apply for a green card after one year of receiving your grant of asylum. Your spouse and children are also eligible to apply for a green card if they were admitted to the United States as asylees or were included in your grant of asylum.
If you were admitted as a refugee, you are required by law to apply for a green card (permanent residence) in the United States one year after being admitted as a refugee.