Many immigrants hope their loved ones can follow them and start a new life together as a family in the United States. However, there are important limitations to family-based immigration.
Before a foreign national can seek permanent residence in the United States, they need an immigrant visa. In family-based immigration, a foreign national must be sponsored by an immediate relative. The immediate relative must be 21 years old or older. The relative must also be either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.
Lawful permanent residents
If you are a lawful permanent resident of the United States — meaning that you have a green card — you can file a petition for an immigrant visa for only:
- Your spouse
- Your unmarried child
If you are a U.S. citizen, you have more freedom for family-based immigration. You may file a petition for an immigrant visa for:
- Your spouse
- Your child
- Your parent
- Your sibling
If one of the above categories applies to your situation, you can file Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The USCIS has the petitions and instructions on its website.
Many people file these petitions electronically within the United States. They can also be filed through the mail. Filing a petition from outside the United States requires a somewhat different process.
If none of the above categories applies
If none of the above categories applies to your situation — for instance, if you are a U.S. citizen and you are trying to bring a cousin to the United States — you may not be able to bring your loved one to the United States through family-based immigration. However, you may have other options, such as employment-based immigration.