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Family-based immigrant visas and sponsoring a relative

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you may be able to sponsor a family member for a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card). Learn about the process and who is eligible.

Categories of people eligible for family immigrant visas

Applying for a family-based immigrant visa is the first step in the process for the person you are sponsoring to become a permanent resident. There are two categories of this type of visa:

  • Immediate relative - These visas are for close relatives of U.S. citizens, such as spouses, unmarried children under 21, or parents. An unlimited number of visas are available for this visa category.
  • Family preference - A limited number of visas are set aside each year for:
    • Other relatives of a U.S. citizen, such as married children, siblings, or cousins
    • The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of legal permanent residents (Green Card holders)

How to apply for permanent residency for a family member

To sponsor your family member, submit a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-130. Each person you sponsor needs a separate Form I-130. You can submit the form online or by mail.

The process for your relative to immigrate to the U.S. requires that both you, as the sponsor, and your relative, as the visa applicant, complete the necessary steps.

The process is different depending on whether your family member is already in the U.S. or abroad.

Submitting Form I-130 is the first step of the immigration visa process. Learn what other steps are involved, including:

  • National Visa Center (NVC) processing
  • Fee payments
  • Required supporting documents
  • Interview preparation

LAST UPDATED: June 1, 2023


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