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Video: Which Family Members Can You Immigrate?


In This Video, Carlos Batara Explains When You Can Immigrate Your Spouse, Children, Parents, Brothers, Or Sisters

As a permanent resident and green card attorney, provides various types of assistance to immigrants who want to live and work legally in the United States.

The most common route is through a family member.

The process for bringing or keeping your family together – the family unification process – starts with a visa, moves to a green card, and, for some, ends with citizenship.

The paperwork for starting an immigration family petition (called an I-130 petition) may look simple.

But there are various rules which makes completing the petition more difficult than it seems at first glance. Perhaps the most important rules to understand are those specifying who you can sponsor for immigration benefits and how long the process is going to take.

These two issues are linked. The applications for certain family members will usually take longer than for other relatives. Those rules are discussed in this video.

Is The Family Sponsor A U.S. Citizen Or Lawful Permanent Resident?

This is a significant issue, right from the start. Why? Because U.S. citizens have greater rights than lawful permanent residents.

U.S. citizens can sponsor (a) their husbands or wives and (b) their children of any age, whether they are married or not. In addition, if they are over 21, U.S. citizens can also file for (c) their parents and (d) their brothers and sisters.

On the other hand, lawful permanent residents can seek benefits for fewer family members. They are allowed to file immigration visa petitions only for (a) their husbands and wives and (b) their unmarried children of any age.

For a more comprehensive look at how the family-based immigration system works, you’ll appreciate this post >>> Family-Based Visas and Immigrant Relative Petitions.


How Are The Beneficiaries Related To The Sponsor?

The immigrants who stand to gain immigration benefits are, appropriately, called “beneficiaries.”

Their relationship to the sponsoring family member is the second key question which must be asked at the beginning of each case.

For instance, how is the immigrant seeking legalization related to the sponsor?

  • Husband or Wife?
  • Parent?
  • Son or Daughter?
  • Step-Son or Daughter?
  • Adopted Son or Daughter?
  • Brother or Sister?
  • Half-Brother or Sister?
  • Adopted Brother or Sister?
  • Cousin?
  • Aunt or Uncle?

Actually, only four categories count – spouses, children, parents, siblings. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and many other distant relatives, are out of luck.

And some immigrant who qualify can only seek immigration papers through a U.S. citizen, not via a lawful permanent resident relative.

Husbands and Wives

Both lawful permanent residents and United States citizens can file family petitions for their husbands or wives.

Sons And Daughters

Son and daughters are divided into four separate classifications: (a) Children under 21, not married; (b) Children under 21, married; (c) Children over 21, not married; and, (d) Children over 21, married.

A lawful permanent resident may sponsor a son or daughter, as long as they are unmarried, whether they are under or over 21. On the other hand, a U.S. citizen can petition his children, whether they are married or unmarried, and whether they are under or over 21.

It should be emphasized that similar, though not exactly the same, rules apply to step-children and adopted children.


Sadly, only U.S. citizens can sponsor a parent for immigration benefits. This seems an odd, as well as callous, immigration rule.

Brothers and Sisters

As with parents, only United States citizens can file to immigrate their brothers and sisters.

Half-brothers and half-sisters, as well as adopted brothers and adopted sisters, are treated similarly to your siblings by blood, with a few extra requirements.


According to relatively recent immigration reform proposals, certain immigrant relative categories under the family-based system of immigration law would be eliminated.

In particular, under such legislation, U.S. citizens would not be able to immigrate their brothers and sisters any longer.

Also, U.S. citizen parents would only be able to sponsor their married sons and daughters only if they are under the age of 31.

There is some silver lining.

Spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents would be bumped up the immediate relatives category – the same category as the spouses, parents, and children under 21 of U.S. citizens.

In my view, I do not view the swapping of categories for some family members in exchange for the elimination of other categories as a fair trade.

You should keep a close watch on this issue and listen carefully when the next round of immigration reform proposals is floated in the media.

If there’s a danger that certain relatives will be eliminated under future changes, you’ll likely need to consult with an immigration lawyer as quickly as possible.





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