3 Steps to Get Your Relative a Green Card

United States citizens and green card holders can sponsor their relatives to help them get permanent residency in the U.S. Applying for a green card typically involves getting sponsored by a current employer or a family member. 

If you are a U.S. citizen and green card holder wishing to sponsor a relative already living in the U.S. on a temporary visa, these three steps can help your relative obtain a green card. If your relative lives outside the U.S., he or she will need to apply for a green card through consular processing.

green card resting on american flags
A green card resting on American flags. Follow these three steps to get a green card for your relative.

Steps to Sponsor a Relative for a U.S. Green Card

Sponsoring your family members for a green card in the United States can be tricky. These three steps can help you get your relative a green card.

Step 1: The Immigrant Petition

To begin this process, you need to complete and file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Be sure to file the I-130 visa petition with a USCIS Lockbox. 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.
    • Someone petitioning for their brother or sister should provide a copy of a birth certificate that shows at least one common parent.
    • Sons or daughters petitioning for a parent should provide a copy of their birth certificate that shows they are the child of their parent.
    • Stepparents should provide a copy of the marriage certificate showing their marriage to the stepchild’s natural parent before the stepchild turned 18.
    • Parents of an adopted child should submit a copy of the adoption decree that shows the adoption took place before the child turned 16.
  • 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.
  • Filing fee. Send a money order or check for $535 USD to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” Do NOT send cash.

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 they need additional documents, they 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. Then, 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, 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 of your petition. The approval notice will show a “priority date” determining when your relative’s immigrant visa number will become available. The relative you’re sponsoring then files Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status

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.

If you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for an immediate relative who is currently in the U.S., Forms I-130 and I-485 can be concurrently filed. 

Step 3: The USCIS’s Decision

The USCIS will let your relative know when they receive your relative’s application. The USCIS will also tell them when and where to have their biometrics taken and contact your relative if they need additional documents. They will send your relative their decision by mail. Your relative would receive their green card in the mail if the application was successfully approved.

Supporting Documents and Fees

Supporting documents vary based on the relationship and whether the beneficiary or petitioner has to submit evidence. Our system is designed to personalize the list of supporting documents based on the means of application.

The filing fee is $420.00 and must be paid in the form of a check or money order made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Sponsoring a Relative as a U.S. Citizen

U.S. citizens over the age of 21 can sponsor these immediate relatives for a U.S. green card:

  • Spouse
  • Parents
  • Unmarried children under age 21

These relatives have unique priorities 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.

Sponsoring a Relative as a Green Card Holder

Green card holders can also sponsor their relatives. Green card holders can only petition their husbands or wives and unmarried children. Only U.S. citizens can sponsor the following relatives:

  • Husband or wife
  • Married or unmarried children
  • Parents (the citizen must be 21 years or older)
  • Brothers or sisters (the citizen must be 21 years or older)

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.

How Hard Is It to Get Your Relative a Green Card? 

Applying and getting a green card for your relative isn’t as difficult as it seems. As long as you file the paperwork right and have the proper preparations in place, it shouldn’t be too difficult. The main barrier to be concerned about is the time it takes to receive a green card once everything is set and finished. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Green Card? 

It can take many people months and sometimes even years of waiting to get their relatives a green card. Realistically, you should expect to wait at a minimum of six to eight months for green card processing to complete and an additional month or so to receive it in the mail. Keep in mind that we can only give very broad and general estimates.

There’s no guarantee on how fast or slow your green card application will take. The processing times for the USCIS vary highly. However, there are many ways you can check the status of an immigration application. For more accurate estimates on how long your application will take, it’s best to visit their website and get regular updates on where your application is in the process. 

Get Your Green Card Today 

If you are looking to sponsor your relative for a green card, FileRight will set you on the right track. Start with a free questionnaire to check your eligibility. Our online software can lead you through your paperwork quickly and efficiently. So don’t end up wasting time and money through simple mistakes on your applications. Let us help you get started today.

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