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Who can transport whom to the USA: briefly and clearly about sponsoring green cards for relatives

'25.10.2023'

Lyudmila Balabay

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Many US residents have relatives living in other countries and wonder if they can be helped to move to America. It all depends on the degree of relationship and immigrant status in the United States.

Photo: Shutterstock

You can petition to bring family members to the United States (often called “green card sponsorship”) only if you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder). But this does not apply to all relatives. Below are lists of relatives who can be brought to the United States by an immigrant in each status.

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But before moving on to the list, two more important terms need to be clarified: immediate relative and preference relative.

Close relatives US citizens or permanent residents can obtain a green card without worrying about visa limits and waiting periods - they are issued visas beyond the limits. However, you will still have to wait several months for USCIS and then the State Department to process the applications.

Preferred relatives they usually have to wait several years before they are allowed to apply for a visa or green card.

Only a certain percentage of green cards in the preferred categories are sent to any country annually. This means that if a large number of people are petitioning for family reunification from your country, then your family members will end up having to wait longer than people from other countries.

The four categories into which preferred relatives are divided are:

  • F1 - unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens;
  • F2: subcategory A - spouses and unmarried children of green card holders under 21 years of age; subcategory B - unmarried children of green card holders over 21 years of age;
  • F3 - married sons and daughters of US citizens;
  • F4 - brothers and sisters of adult US citizens.

Because of annual limits on the number of green cards issued and the unpredictability of how many people from a given country will file petitions each year, no one can say for sure how long each preferred category applicant will wait. All we know for sure is how long people who are getting visas now have been waiting. This can be seen in visa bulletinreleased by the Department of State every month.

Screenshot from the October 2023 visa bulletin

For example, in October 2023, the deadline for obtaining a visa is for those for whom F1 category petitioners submitted documents before September 1, 2017. That is, to reunite a US citizen with unmarried sons and daughters, you must wait 6 years.

According to these data, spouses and unmarried children of green card holders under the age of 21 (category F2A) wait about a month; unmarried children of green card holders over 21 years old (category F2B) - a little less than 7 years old. The F3 and F4 categories have to wait the longest, that is, married sons and daughters of US citizens, as well as siblings of adult US citizens: their applications are considered, respectively, for more than 13 and 15 years.

Now let's get back to who can sponsor whom when moving to the USA... All this can be represented in four short lines. Search for the US "sponsor" immigration status you are interested in to see a list of relatives that he can bring to America and their category that determines the waiting time for a visa.

  • US citizen aged 21 or older - can transport parents to the United States (category: close relative), as well as a brother or sister (preferred category of relatives F4);
  • US citizen aged 18+ - can transport a spouse to the United States, as well as minors, unmarried children (category: close relative);
  • US citizen of any age - can transport adult or married children to the United States (preferred categories of relatives F1 and F3);
  • Green card holder - can transport his husband or wife and unmarried children to the United States (preferred categories of relatives are F2A or F2B).
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