Know About US Family-Based Petitions

Family Based Petitions allow for individuals in the United States to sponsor their family to immigrate to the United States. The Immigration and Nationality Act allows for the immigration of foreigners to the United States based on a relationship to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.

Know About US Family-Based Petitions

By 2022, many people in the US will be unable to sponsor certain family members from abroad to come and live in the US due to per-country limits set by Congress on employment-based and family-based visas. In order to help these families achieve their goals of family reunification, it’s crucial that they fully understand the specific petition they need to file with the USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) in order to qualify. Here’s everything you need to know about US family-based petitions in 2022.

What Are Family-Based Petitions?

A family-based petition is a form of immigration that allows certain relatives of United States Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) to obtain permanent resident status by virtue of their relationship with their relative. The petition must be approved before it can be submitted to USCIS. In most cases, you can file only one Form I-130 for each beneficiary.

If more than one petitioner submits a Form I-130 for a beneficiary, USCIS will deny all petitions but may allow you to submit a new petition with additional information if you did not deliberately mislead USCIS. If USCIS denies your Petition for Relative or Fiancé(e), here’s what happens next...

Can a U.S. Citizen Sponsor a Family Member?

It is certainly possible for a U.S. citizen to sponsor a family member, but there are some rules and restrictions that must be followed. If you or your spouse wish to petition for a spouse or unmarried child under 21 years of age, then you must show that your income is equal to or higher than 125% of current poverty guidelines.

This means your household's income will have to be at least $19,938 per year (if only one person is being sponsored). If more than one family member is being sponsored, then that number goes up slightly. For instance, if two people are being sponsored (including the spouse), then household income must be at least $22,435 per year.

If you are a U.S. Citizen, you may petition for the following relatives, as long as you can prove the relationships:

  • Husband or wife;
  • Unmarried children under 21 years old;
  • Unmarried son or daughter over 21 years old;
  • Married son or daughter of any age;
  • Brother (s) or Sisters(s), if you are at least 21 years old.
  • Mother or father, if you are at least 21 years old

Can a Green Card Holder Sponsor a Family Member?

USCIS will no longer accept Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, if they are submitted together as a family unit. The immigrant must first be eligible to adjust status or apply for an immigrant visa based on his or her own eligibility.

The family member may then submit a separate Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with supporting evidence on their own behalf. USCIS may accept forms that were filed as a family unit and that were not accepted before July 30th so long as all of these forms are submitted by Aug. 30th.

If you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), you may petition for the following relatives, as long as you can prove the relationships:

  • Husband or wife;
  • Unmarried child under 21 years of age;
  • Unmarried son or daughter over 21 years of age.

What Happens After You Petition for a Relative?

If you petition for a relative, you and your family are given priority dates. A priority date is a date that shows when USCIS first received your petition. Once your relative becomes eligible to immigrate, he or she can apply for an immigrant visa (green card). The earlier your priority date is, generally speaking,​the faster your relative will be able to get an immigrant visa number (if he or she has been waiting for one).

For instance, if you petitioned in January of 2022 and have a priority date of June 22nd, 2022 then it may take several years before you are eligible to receive an immigrant visa number if your relatives have not already obtained their priority dates. The last green card numbers assigned by USCIS were October 1st, 2021.

Family Sponsorship Processing Time

Processing times for family-based petitions (including spouse, children and parents) are backlogged more than any other type of petition. In fact, current processing times for these petitions range from a few years for spouses (depending on country of origin), to more than 10 years for siblings.

That’s why it’s important to file your paperwork as soon as possible – or start planning well before you need to bring a loved one into your life. For example, applying now could potentially help speed up certain family members’ visa processing dates if you end up having them file six months or one year from now.

Who can a US Citizen Sponsor?

US Citizens can sponsor an unlimited number of family members through a petition. This includes spouses, unmarried children under 21 and married children over 21, stepchildren, parents, and their own siblings. However, there are annual limits on some categories of immigrants. For example, there is a limit of 23,400 immigrant visas per year for unmarried adult children (over 21) who are not sons or daughters of citizens.

The visas must be allocated by lottery after all other family preference applicants have applied. After that cap is reached each year, no more visas are given out that fiscal year until October 1st of the following year if another 23K is allotted for that category per cycle.

What Relatives Can a U.S. Citizen Sponsor?

Relatives a U.S. citizen can sponsor include spouses, parents, and minor children, unmarried adult children (21 years or older), married adult children (under 21 years old and married), and their spouses and unmarried sons or daughters (over 21). For example, these relatives may be accepted for permanent residence even if they are not yet citizens: A biological parent who abandoned his child as a child because of abuse; an uncle who took care of an orphaned nephew for 10 years.

However, some relatives will never be eligible for certain benefits like public assistance, food stamps, or Medicaid under U.S law; therefore it is important that individuals familiarize themselves with their rights before sponsoring them.

Are You Eligible for Family Sponsorship?

To sponsor a family member who lives outside of your home country, you must be a citizen or legal permanent resident (green card holder) of that country. In most cases, foreign citizens are limited to sponsoring only their spouse, parents, children, and siblings.

U.S. citizens can sponsor their spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old; green card holders can sponsor their spouses and children only with special dispensation from USCIS. Green card holders who are over 21 years old cannot obtain immigration status through their parents because they are over age 21.

Why Legal Help for Family Sponsorship is Important

Immigration is a complex process and nothing can throw you off track more than not understanding what’s going on with your visa application. If you don’t have a lawyer to help guide you through it, you might as well take a shot at finding green sea turtles at night. Having legal help during your family sponsorship application is key because there are many pitfalls that could ruin your chances of being approved by USCIS.

For example, if your petition gets denied for failure to establish residence or for nonpayment of fees, it’s unlikely that any re-submission will be approved. This is why it pays to have a legal expert walk you through every step of the process; they know what mistakes not to make and how best to avoid them.

The 4 Steps to Applying for a US Family Visa

Firstly, you need a petition from a family member or employer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Secondly, you must file an I-130 visa form with supporting documents at your local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field office; Thirdly, you will be asked to undergo a series of background checks before your application is finally reviewed by an immigration officer; Lastly, if your application is approved you may be issued with your immigrant visa and admitted into America once it expires within 180 days after its issuance.

However, here we are going to list the four best steps for you to follow while applying for a US family visa. Here are they:

Step 1: Filing the Petition

If you decide to file a petition based on family ties, you have two options: Adjustment of Status (AOS) or Consular Processing. AOS allows you to complete your processing in the United States, but consular processing means your loved one will need to travel abroad for their visa interview and then come back into the country.

For some individuals, AOS is much easier and quicker; for others, it’s faster and less stressful to go through consular processing. Whichever option you choose should be dictated by what works best for both your situation and that of your loved ones.

Step 2: USCIS Makes a Decision

If USCIS determines that your application package is sufficiently complete, they’ll send you a notice in which they let you know when and where you should appear for fingerprinting and photographing. Fingerprints and photographs are taken onsite at one of the hundreds of Application Support Centers (formerly known as biometric service centers) across the country.

Upon receiving their notice, petitioners must make an appointment for fingerprinting/photographing; failure to do so within six months may result in denial of your petition by USCIS. ​More than likely, if an applicant has moved since submitting their I-130 petition, then they will need to update their address with USCIS prior to getting fingerprinted/photographed.

Step 3: Preference Relatives Wait for Visa Availability

There is a preference category of family members that must wait for visa availability. These include adult married children (over 21), and siblings. If someone falls into these categories, they must be sponsored by their relative, who will apply on their behalf. Applicants should pay close attention to visa bulletin levels, which may change at any time.

Also, keep an eye out for visas that are issued as randomly selected or returning residents visas; people with these types of petitions must wait until all those with a priority date earlier than theirs have had their visas processed before receiving an interview date. In some cases, it may take years for those applicants with unavailable priority dates to obtain an interview date.

Step 4: Immigrant Applies for Visa or Green Card

The Immigrant Visa or Green Card Petition is Submitted. The first step is for your relative to apply for a visa number (Green Card). If they are applying from outside of the United States, they will need an immigrant visa petition approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If they have previously been in trouble with immigration authorities, they might not be eligible for an immigrant visa number. In some cases, USCIS may suggest that your family member file a waiver application instead of waiting for a visa number. This process can take several years and depends on family members’ countries of origin.

Frequently Asked Questions

What relatives can a US citizen sponsor?

  • An immediate relative of a US citizen
  • A relative of a US citizen or a relative of a lawful permanent resident
  • A fiance of a US citizen or the fiance’s child
  • A widower of a US citizen
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioner – victim of battery or extreme cruelty

Can my family sponsor me to live in America?

Yes, your family can sponsor you to live in America. A US citizen or legal permanent resident (green card holder) can sponsor relatives from his or her home country to move to the United States.

Can a US citizen sponsor a non-relative?

No, a US citizen cannot sponsor a non-relative in most cases.


What do you need to know about US family-based petitions in 2022? In short, it's not quite so black and white. The Trump administration has made many changes already and will continue to refine rules going forward. What should you do if you have a loved one who wants to immigrate to the United States, but can't get an employment visa?

There are several options that may provide solutions depending on your situation, such as filing a family petition under an employment third preference category or marrying a U.S. citizen yourself. If you think you're eligible for any of these solutions, contact an immigration attorney today - they'll help guide you through any issues that arise during your process!