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Can I help a relative obtain permanent residency status?

The United States has developed a series of family immigration laws and processes that allow permanent residents to help an overseas relative become permanent U.S. residents. One can petition on behalf of a spouse or unmarried children, regardless of the children's age. If the resident is a U.S. citizen, married children can be sponsored as well.

A petition must be filed using Form I-130. At the time of submission, the petitioner will need to provide evidence that proves the relationship is valid, such as a birth certificate or a marriage license. In addition, the sponsor will also need to show that his or her household income or assets can support any person that receives the family visas.

All petitions for immigration are broken down by relationships coming from the same country or region. Once the petition for immigration has been verified and recorded, the relative will receive a place in line for a visa number. Relatives will be allowed to legally enter the U.S. when their name reaches the top of the list. If the relative is a spouse and has children under 21 years of age, those children will be allowed to enter the country with them. Unfortunately, if any child turns 21 while waiting for their name or name of a parent to be called for family visas, a new petition has to be filed. Any child that marries while waiting will have their petition revoked as well.

Most of these regulations and guidelines for a family-based visa apply to petitioners who are permanent residents. The process can differ if a petitioner were or became a U.S. citizen. In addition, each case is different, and the information included here should not be considered legal advice. To navigate these and other citizenship laws and guidelines in Florida, it may be important to consult with a lawyer who is familiar with family visa petitions.

Source:, "I am a permanent resident - How do I help my relative become a U.S. permanent resident?", U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, September 24, 2014

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