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Can U.S. Citizens Immigrate A Nephew Or Niece For Permanent Residence?


“Can I immigrate my nephew and niece? I just became a U.S. citizen, and I want to know if I could file papers for my brother’s minor children? He does not have legal immigration documents and I’m afraid his children could get picked-up and deported.”

(Submitted by Alfred M., Ontario, CA)


Unfortunately, the answer is no.

I’m not clear why your brother does not have legal immigration status.

If he was a green card holder at one time, but lost his permanent residency papers through deportation, that’s one situation.

However, to answer your question, I am going to assume a different set of circumstances. I will suppose your brother has never been a legal resident and he has never been deported.

In this case, you could petition on behalf of your brother. The process is slow and it will be a long wait before he earns a green card.

Once your brother obtains permanent resident status, he may be able to file immigration papers for his own children.

Actually, your question about who you can immigrate is the most common question I receive as a green card attorney.

So Who Can You Immigrate?

As shown above, when you are a U.S. citizen, you are entitled to immigrate all of your closest relatives. This includes your spouse, parents, children, brothers and sisters.

You are not allowed to immigrate nephews,nieces, cousins, uncles, or aunts.

If you were only a lawful permanent resident, you would have fewer options.

For more detailed information about how to obtain immigration green card and permanent residency benefits for your family members through family-based visa petitions, see our Immigration Family-Based Visas page.

Before closing, I’d like to point out two other potential options regarding immigrating your brother’s children.

First, what about their mother? What is her immigration status?

Second, have you already adopted them? Even if you have not, assuming you have an active relationship with them, you may want to look into adoption rules.

By Carlos A. Batara, Filed Under Q&As: Family-Based Visas And Immigrant Petitions.

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