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7 Insights About Winning Permanent Residence For Brothers And Sisters

Before you file a I-130 Sibling Green Card Petition, here are seven crucial points to understand about the process.

Table Of Contents

  1. What Are The Requirements To File An I-130 Petition For Your Brother Or Sister?
  2. What Brothers And Sisters Qualify As Siblings?
  3. What If Your Immigrant Sibling Is Married And Has Children?
  4. Can A Permanent Resident Sponsor His Brothers Or Sisters For Green Cards?
  5. What Are The Steps To Apply For A Sibling Green Card?
  6. How Long Does The Sibling Permanent Resident Process Take?
  7. Sibling Green Cards: Consular Processing vs Adjustment Of Status
  8. Conclusion

What Are The Requirements To File An I-130 Petition For Your Brother Or Sister?

To petition a sibling for immigration benefits, a brother or sister has to meet two requirements:

  • The petitioner must be a United States citizen.
  • The petitioner must be 21 years or older.

In addition, the U.S. citizen petitioner and the immigrant beneficiary must meet the immigration definition of siblings.

What Brothers And Sisters
Qualify As Siblings?

If you are seeking to immigrate your brother or sister for permanent residence, there are four broad sets of immigrant relatives who qualify for sibling green cards:

  • A brother or sister with whom you share both biological parents
  • A half-brother or half-sister with whom you share one biological parent
  • A step-brother or step-sister based on your biological parent’s marriage to another person with children
  • An adopted brother or adopted sister, so long as they were adopted before the age of 16

Here’s the key point.

Under immigration law, siblings are persons who have at least one parent in common.

It does not matter if you and your immigrant sister were born 20 years apart, as long as you both lived with the same parent during childhood.

There are a few extra rules for sibling relationships between step-brothers/step-sisters and adopted brothers/adopted sisters.

To be considered a step-child, the basic rule is that the marriage which created the stepparent-stepchild relationship took place before the child turned 18.

Adopted sibling green card holders have extra restrictions.

To be considered an adoptive child, the child had to be under the age of 16 before the adoption is formally finalized and had to be residing with and in the legal custody of the adoptive parents for at least two years before the I-130 is filed with USCIS.

If the adoptive parents adopt a brother or sister of the adopted child, the adoption must have taken place before the adopted child was 18.

Moreover, an adopted child cannot file a petition for his or her biological siblings, whether or not he or she received any immigration benefits (like a green card) arising from his or her adoption.

Likewise, if the adopted child received a benefit from the adoption, an adopted child also cannot petition a biological parent for residency.

(Yet, under one of those quirky immigration rules, if the adopted child did not receive any immigration benefits from the adoption, he or she is still allowed to immigrate a biological parent, though not his or her biological siblings.)

What If Your Immigrant Sibling Is Married And Has Children?

As a U.S. citizen, you are eligible to file for your immigrant sibling whether they are married or unmarried.

In addition, a married sibling’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 are entitled to immigrate with them under “following-to-join” provisions of green card law.

Can A Permanent Resident Sponsor His Brothers Or Sisters For Green Cards?


A permanent resident cannot sponsor his or her sibling for a green card.

Although a green card holder cannot sponsor his or her siblings, there is an solution for such situations.

The permanent resident can apply for naturalization. After winning citizenship, the U.S. citizen brother or sister can file a visa petition on behalf of their immigrant sibling.

As will be explained below, the waiting process for sibling green cards is long. Having to go through the naturalization process as an initial step will make the process even longer.

But when it comes to immigration law, better late than never.

What Are The Steps To Apply
For A Sibling Green Card?

Brothers and sisters are one of the four sets of individuals – along with parents, spouses, and children – that fall under the rubric of family-based permanent residence.

All family-based green cards follow the same process.

  • Once the I-130 petition is approved, the wait begins for an immigrant visa to become available.
  • At the second stage, there are two different pathways that immigrant relatives follow when submitting their paperwork and attending their interview. These are known as adjustment of status and consular processing.

How Long Does The Sibling Permanent Resident Process Take?

The permanent resident process through a U.S. citizen brother or sister takes a long time.

Siblings of U.S. citizens fall under the fourth visa preference (F4) category.

This is the lowest visa preference category, which means it is the slowest moving category.

It is not uncommon for immigrant brothers and sisters to have to wait ten years or longer for a visa to enter the U.S. become available. For those born in certain countries, such as Mexico, the Philippines, China, and India, the delay can take 25 years.

Because the waiting period is long, immigrants and their family members often want to visit the U.S. while their case is pending.

In general, once the I-130 petition is filed, it is unlikely that a non-immigrant visa, like a tourist visa, will be granted.

In the government’s view, there is a possibility that an immigrant visitor might decide not to return home and wait 5, 10, 15, or more years when their temporary visa expires.

Other beneficiaries file a request to speed-up the process.  These types of requests, too, are rarely granted – unless you can show a severe humanitarian, emergency, financial basis or compelling government interest.

Sibling Green Cards: Consular Processing vs Adjustment Of Status

Most sibling permanent cases proceed via consular processing.


The vast majority of immigrant siblings live abroad.

They will go through sibling green card consular processing.

They submit their application and supporting documents to the National Visa Center and attend an interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country.

There are some green card applicants, however, who live in the United States.

Since immigrant siblings are born abroad, they needed legal authorization to enter the U.S.

If they have been able to maintain their lawful status, they will be eligible to go through the adjustment of status process and attend their green card interview in the U.S.

These situations are far rarer.  The wait for a visa to become available takes a long time, by which time, their legal permission to remain here expires.

Hence, they return home and complete the sibling green card processing from abroad.

There is a third group of immigrant siblings, those living in the U.S. without permission..

Some entered the country without inspection.  They have to return home for their green card interview.

Other immigrant siblings overstay their visas.

These individuals entered the U.S. on non-immigrant visas that are short, often lasting six months or less.  When it’s time to leave, they remained in the United States.

Even though they entered lawfully, they lacked authorization to stay in the United States – sometimes for several years while they waited for their priority date.

In these situations, the immigrant siblings will need to return home for their interviews and seek a I-601A waiver of inadmissibility to return to the United States.

They will be unable to win a green card.  Because they are seeking permanent residence through a sibling, it probably means they do not have a parent or spouse who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. As a result, they will be ineligible to file a waiver.


As with all green card petitions, filing an I-130 petition for siblings should be taken with great care.

Even if your sibling relationship is legitimate, it must still meet all the requirements of immigration law.

A mistake, even a small mistake, at the outset of your case can lead to a denial at the end of a long, long wait.

Ultimately, the outcome of your immigrant sibling’s efforts to become a permanent resident will turn on the evidence presented.

Do not minimize the importance of such details.

If there are issues, seek professional advice.

After all, nothing less than bringing your brothers or sisters to the U.S. is at stake.

Ready to take a serious and honest look at the strengths and weaknesses of your immigration case? Let’s get started with a personalized strategy and planning session . . .

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