How to file for a family member

The first step in filing for or sponsoring a family member is initially determining whether that family member is eligible to immigrate. Besides "immediate relatives"-namely, spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 of U.S. Citizens-there are also "preference" category relatives who may potentially be sponsored. The preference category relatives are broken up into four general classifications:

  • 1st Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 and older) of US Citizens
  • 2nd Spouse or Unmarried Children of Lawful Permanent Residents
  • 3rd Married Children (21 and older) of US Citizens
  • 4th Brothers and Sisters of US Citizens

Therefore, unless your relative can be classified as either an immediate relative or preference category relative, he or she may not be eligible to come here. For example, while a Lawful Permanent Resident may petition for his/her unmarried son, he/she cannot file for his/her nephew because, unfortunately, there is no such category.

The actual immigration form that is filed with USCIS to initiate the process is called the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Along with the I-130, the Petitioner must enclose sufficient documentation to establish the claimed relationship. In general, he/she will be expected to furnish certified copies of:

  • Birth Certificates, with translations if appropriate
  • Marriage Certificates, with translations if appropriate
  • Proof of the Petitioner's status, i.e., Naturalization Certificate, Certificate of Citizenship, or Evidence of Lawful Permanent Residence

Additionally, depending on the particular circumstances of the case, divorce decrees, death certificates, photos, as well as Biographic Data Forms may also be expected.

In some cases, USCIS can be especially strict in evaluating the documents. Care should be taken to examine whether the names of the parties are indicated on the certificates; whether the registration of the certificates is contemporaneous with the actual dates they purport to confirm; whether they are accompanied by certified English translations if not originally in English, as well as whether there may acceptable secondary documents to establish the claimed relationship if the originals are not available. If the I-130 is not fully and accurately competed in accordance with USCIS instructions, delay or worse, denial may inevitably follow.

The above is general information only. It is not legal advice nor should it be construed as creating an attorney client relationship. For more detailed information, you are encouraged to contact our office for a confidential consultation in which an attorney from our office will meet with you, explain the process, and determine how to best assist your relative in immigrating here.