There are specific steps to follow in order for a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident to successfully sponsor a family member. These are:
Step 1: Filing the Petition
To begin the sponsorship process, the U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident family member will need to mail a visa petition on USCIS Form I-130, along with accompanying documents, to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The applicant must prove the family relationship is real.
Step 2: USCIS Makes a Decision
Once USCIS receives the petition, the officers will consider whether to approve or deny the request. If USCIS needs any additional information, it will mail to the petitioner a letter called RFE (Request for Further Evidence) asking for it. The petition will not be ready to process unless all the information is received by USCIS.
Step 3: Preference Relatives Wait for Visa Availability
This step only takes place if the petitioner was in the Family Preference group. Relatives that are not considered “immediate” are not eligible for permanent residence right away, as there are annual limits on the number of Green Cards that can be approved. Thus, the immigrant joins a waiting list, and will usually wait years before a visa is available. Step 4: Immigrant Applies for Visa or Green Card
If the I-130 petition has been approved, and a visa has become available, the immigrant would then submit an application for permanent residence.
If applicant is applying out of the United States
USCIS will inform the person who filed the visa petition (the petitioner) if the visa petition is approved. USCIS will then send the approved visa petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, where it will remain until an immigrant visa number is available. The Center will notify the beneficiary (the person the visa is applied for) when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is available. When an immigrant visa number becomes available to the beneficiary, the beneficiary must then go to the U.S. consulate servicing the area in which the beneficiary resides to complete their processing. The NVC will guide the applicant on the steps that are required to obtain the appointment with the US consulate abroad.
If Applicant is already in the United States
The beneficiary has to submit Form I-485 (Application for Adjustment of Status), to change their status to a lawful permanent resident after a visa number becomes available for them at your nearest USCIS office.