U.S. citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) can sponsor their relatives to help them get U.S. green cards. With a green card, your relative can permanently live and work in the U.S.

This article is for U.S. citizens and green card holders who wish to sponsor their relatives who already live in the U.S. on temporary visas. If your relative lives outside the U.S., they will need to apply for a green card through consular processing.

Sponsoring a Relative as a U.S. Citizen

U.S. citizens over the age of 21 can sponsor their immediate relatives — their husband or wife, unmarried children under age 21 and parents — for a U.S. green card. These relatives have special priority and do not have to wait in line for a visa number. This shortens the waiting time for a green card significantly.

When U.S. citizens sponsor other family members, including their unmarried children over age 21, married children or brothers and sisters, there is a waiting period before an immigrant visa becomes available.

Relatives who must wait in line for their visas can check here to find out about their visa’s availability.

Sponsoring a Relative as a Green Card Holder

Green card holders can also sponsor their relatives. Green card holders can only petition for their husbands or wives and unmarried children. A limited number of immigrant visas are available for these relatives, so there is a significant waiting period before the relative can get a green card.

Relatives who must wait in line for their visas can check here to find out about their visa’s availability.

Step 1: The Immigrant Petition

To begin this process, you need to complete and file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Once the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your I-130 petition, the relative you’re sponsoring can file Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status. (When a U.S. citizen petitions for an immediate relative who is currently in the U.S., Forms I-130 and I-485 can be filed together.) After the USCIS approves the I-485 application, they will give your relative a green card.

The I-130 petition requires the following documents:

  • Completed Form I-130 with signatures
  • Proof of your U.S. citizenship or green card status:
    • Birth certificate
    • U.S. passport
    • Green card
    • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Proof of family relationship:
    • Parents petitioning for a child should provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate that shows they are the parent of the child.
    • Someone petitioning for their brother or sister should send in a copy of a birth certificate that shows they have at least one common parent.
    • Sons or daughters petitioning for a parent should send in a copy of their birth certificate that shows they are the child of their parent.
    • Stepparents should send in a copy of the marriage certificate that shows their marriage to the child’s natural parent took place before the stepchild turned 18 years old.
    • Parents of an adopted child should submit a copy of the adoption decree that shows the adoption took place before the child turned 16 years old.
  • Completed Form G-325A, Biographic Information, from both you and the relative you’re sponsoring
  • Passport-size photos. Send in one passport-sized photo for each person. They should be recent photos that show how you and your relative look now.
  • Filing fee. Send a money order or check for $535 USD to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” Do NOT send cash.

File the I-130 visa petition with a USCIS Lockbox. Where to file depends on where you live and whether you are filing Form I-130 and Form I-485 together.

The USCIS will let you know when it gets your I-130 visa petition.

If the USCIS Needs More Information or Denies the I-130 Visa Petition

If USCIS needs additional documents, it will ask for more evidence. You won’t have to pay extra fees to send additional documents to the USCIS.

If the USCIS denies the visa petition, the USCIS will explain why it was denied. You can try to fix the problem and file again. Do this by repeating all the steps we discussed, including sending in Form I-130 with the signatures, all of the supporting documents and another $535 USD filing fee.

Step 2: The Green Card Application, Form I-485

The USCIS will let you know if they approve the immigrant petition. The approval notice will show a “priority date” that determines when your relative’s immigrant visa number will become available. Once the immigrant visa number is available, your relative can file Form I-485 to adjust their status and receive a green card.

When the relative you’re sponsoring is ready to file Form I-485, they will need to send in the following:

  • Completed Form I-485
  • Documents about their criminal history (if any)
  • Birth certificate
  • A copy of their passport
  • Their approval notice for Form I-130
  • Two identical passport photos
  • A sealed medical examination report on Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
  • Completed Form G-325A
  • Completed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
  • Filing fee. They can send a check or money order to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” for $1,225 USD. Do NOT send cash.

Send these documents by U.S Postal Service to:

USCIS

PO Box 805887

Chicago, IL 60680-4120

For express mail and courier deliveries:

USCIS

Attn: FBAS

131 South Dearborn – 3rd Floor

Chicago, IL 60603-5517

Step 3: The USCIS’s Decision

The USCIS will let your relative know when they receive their application. The USCIS will also tell them when and where to go to have their biometrics (fingerprints, photo, and signature) taken.

The USCIS will also contact your relative if they need any additional documents. They will send your relative their decision by mail. Your relative will receive their green card in the mail if the USCIS approves the petition.