Immigration laws in the United States enable U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to request that certain relatives be allowed to immigrate here as well. This is known as sponsorship for family visas, and it represents a primary pathway for people to enter the country legally. The immigration system has established certain preferences for types of family members and excludes some relatives. You must also contend with caps on the annual number of people who can receive visas.
Order of preference
Immigration authorities give some applications for family visas more priority than others. The ranking order of relatives is:
- U.S. citizens’ spouses, children and unmarried children
- LPRs’ spouses, minor children and unmarried adult children
- U.S. citizens’ married children and their spouses and minor children
- Adult age U.S. citizens’ siblings and their spouses and minor children
You do not have the ability to sponsor all relatives. The law excludes in-laws, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Lengthy application process
The sponsor within the United States will work with the relative hoping to immigrate to prepare an application. As immigration authorities review the application, you will have to wait while the government conducts backgrounds checks.
The person will eventually need to complete an interview and undergo a medical examination. You will need to pay fees to complete the process.
Annual visa limits
Federal law places a limit of 480,000 family visas per year. Roughly 40% of these visas usually go to spouses and minor children. The remaining number will be distributed among applications for sponsors’ extended family members.
To protect against visas going predominantly to people from a single country, the law ensures a distribution among many applicants from many countries. Any single country can only account for up to 7% of family visas in any single year.