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Green Card Basic Rules for Family Sponsorship

November 3, 2010 by Immigration Law Attorney Lena Korial-Yonan, Esq.

The processing time information contained here is current as of Nov. 3, 2010.

Sponsorship of family members is one of the ways that people can get the green card in the U.S. The U.S. has a system of categories with limited visa numbers for certain categories. Under the category of “immediate” relatives, though, there are no visa number limitations.

U.S. citizens can sponsor the following people under the immediate relative category:

  • 1. Unmarried children under the age of 21.
  • 2. Spouses who they are married to in good faith and not for any immigration reasons.
  • 3. Parents (U.S. citizen must be over the age of 21 years old).

The above category is classified as an “immediate” relative because there is no waiting period before the applicants become eligible to file for the green card. The U.S. relative can sponsor the family members that are here in the U.S. or living abroad. Please note that for children of a U.S. citizen who are over 21 years of age but have a case filed for them previously by the U.S. citizen parent before they turned 21 years of age, they may still be eligible to be classified as an immediate relative. In this case, the individual may still be eligible if he or she qualifies under the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA).

Other relatives of U.S. citizens who are not classified as immediate relatives must wait for their priority date to become current before they can apply for the green card. They initially must have the relative petition form filed on their behalf, and then they need to wait for the priority date to become current. There are limited numbers of visas available for these categories.

These family categories are as follows:

  • 1. Adult children of U.S. citizens (over age 21) at time of initial filing.
  • 2. Married children of U.S. citizens, even if under the age of 21.
  • 3. Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.

The current priority date for a U.S. citizen filing for a married child is June 2002. The current priority date for children of U.S. citizens over the age of 21 is February 2006. The current priority date for brothers and sisters is January 2002.

A priority date means that an individual who filed the initial sponsorship documents on or about June 2002, for a married child for example, is now current and the green card process can now take place. We use priority dates to mean that if USCIS is working on 2005, then there is an approximate wait of 5 years before the person can get the green card. Of course, this is a very rough estimate of processing time and USCIS often will change the processing times.

U.S. citizens can also file fiancй(e) visas for their prospective fiancйes, if they wish.

Green Card Holders:

Green card holders can sponsor the following members of their family:

  • 1. Category 2A: Spouses and Unmarried (under 21) children
  • 2. Category 2B: Adult (over 21 years old) unmarried sons and daughters.

Green card holders cannot sponsor their parents, and they also cannot sponsor their adult sons and daughters if they are married. The current priority date for spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old of green card holders is June 2010! This is wonderfully fast, as these cases used to take over 3-4 years. The current priority date for adult children (over 21 years old and unmarried) is June 2005.

Additional Information for nationals of China, India, Mexico and Philippines:

The processing times indicated above are correct for all countries except China, India, Mexico, and Philippines. Please call our office for priority dates for those countries.

Additional Information for Spouses of Deceased U.S. Citizens:

Spouses of deceased U.S. citizens are now able to obtain immigration benefits, as USCIS has passed new rules in 2010 regarding immigration benefits for spouses of deceased U.S. citizens. Our office will be able to provide more information for self-sponsorship of spouses of deceased U.S. citizens.

This article is 100% owned and written by Jacksonville immigration attorney Lena Korial-Yonan, Esq. Her immigration law office is located in Jacksonville, Florida.


Lena Korial-Yonan, P.A.
9425 Craven Road, Suite 5
Jacksonville, FL 32257
Phone: (904) 448-6646
Facsimile: (904) 448-8221

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