Can a US Citizen sponsor a foreign family member?

There are several benefits that foriegn nationals enjoy when they go through naturalization and become US citizens. One of those benefits is that they can petition for family members that are living abroad as foriegn nationals. As a citizen of the United States, you may help a relative become a lawful permanent resident of the United States by way of a Green Card. However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to embark on this journey, such as:

  • You must be able to prove that you have enough income or assets to support your relative(s) when they come to the United States.
  • You can only sponsor immediate family members such as your spouse or your children, and if you are over the age of 21, you can sponsor your parents, brothers, or sisters.

Understanding the steps in the sponsor process

First, you will need to file an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This form establishes the family relationship that exists between you and your relative. It can also be filed with the application for permanent residence (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). 

Next, you will gather evidence of your relationship. When you submit your petition, you are required to provide evidence to prove your relationship to the person for whom you are filing. 

Once the application and relationship are approved, they will be in the queue for other foriegn nationals that are in the same category as them. For example, a father of a U.S. citizen living abroad will get in line with other fathers who are awaiting sponsorship from their sponsoring child, the American citizen.

Typically, when the petitioned relative gets to the front of the line in their category, they can file an additional form to bring their spouse or any unmarried children along with them. An immigration attorney can help explain these steps and how to go about this process.

What about the timeline?

While USCIS gives priority to immediate family members of American citizens, there are delays in the system due to COVID-19. The sooner you submit your family member petition, the better off you will be. Current processing times can be found on, which is a direct way to monitor progress of your petition.

While undergoing this process, your relative can not prematurely enter the United States in hopes of being able to stay. Your relative should remain abroad and wait to immigrate legally into the United States. 

If you are an American citizen seeking to petition for a family member to the United States, contact our experienced immigration attorneys for a complimentary consultation today.