The first step in a United State citizen or permanent resident sponsoring a relative to immigrate to the United States is to file a Petition for Alien Relative. Most sponsors will need to demonstrate adequate income or assets to support the intending immigrant, and accept legal responsibility for financially supporting their family member, by completing and signing a document called an Affidavit of Support. Once this is complete, then the intending immigrant will apply for the immigrant visa as explained below. If your relative does not have the income to qualify as a sponsor, he/she may be able to get a co sponsor or substitute sponsor.
Family based immigration is categorized by the type of family relationship the immigrant has to the U.S Citizen or Permanent Resident sponsor. Whether your relative may sponsor you to immigrate and how long the process will take depend on the relationship you have to the sponsor. It will also depend on your age and marital status.
Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens (IR):
This visa is based on a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen. For immigration purposes, Immediate Relative classifications include:
Limited Family Based Immigrants:
This immigrant visa classifications involves specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident. Under immigration law, there are fiscal year numerical limitations on family preference immigrants as explained below.
Note: Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.
Consulate Processing takes place when your relative obtains permanent residency at a United States consulate located outside the US and enters the United States as a Permanent Resident. Your relative may also qualify to enter the United States on a visa and adjust status upon arrival. Whether you choose to adjust status in the United States or abroad may make a big difference in the time that you wait to get your green card and in fees and costs.
A fiance visa is a non immigrant visa for a person the United States Citizen intends to marry within 90 days of their arrival in the United States. The Fiance Visa is an example of a non immigrant visa with the intent to adjust status in the United States once married. For more information on consulate processing and fiance visas go to our page on