Attorney at Law

How to Help a Family Member Obtain Legal Status

James Parker
September 22, 2022
Last reviewed by
Boruch Burnham, Esq.
May 21, 2023

The process of immigration can be very stressful and may result in families being separated. However, the good news is that U.S. immigration law has a way for immigrants to bring their family members to join them and eventually become official U.S. citizens. 

If you are a Green Card holder or U.S. citizen and you want to bring over a family member, the family visa system is the best way to accomplish this. To aid you in this process, Attorney at Law has put together a short guide to help outline the process.

1. Determine Your Eligibility

Before you can help your family immigrate to the United States, you will need to determine whether you are eligible to sponsor them for the family visa. In general, to sponsor a family member to come to the U.S., you will need to have obtained either U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.

As a general matter, LPRs are subject to far more limitations and restrictions regarding the family members they are able to sponsor to bring to the U.S. as compared to naturalized U.S. citizens. If you are an LPR and wish to adjust your status to full citizenship before initiating the process of applying for a family member to come to the U.S., check out AAL’s guide to becoming a U.S. citizen.

In addition to citizens and lawful permanent residents, refugees who have been admitted or granted asylum in the past two years can also apply for a family visa.

2. Consider consulting with an attorney 

Before you begin the process of bringing a family member to the United States, it is highly advisable to consult with an attorney with extensive experience in immigration law. Immigration is a complex legal topic largely governed by broad statutes under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, and the Immigration Act of 1990. An immigration attorney can help you and your family member navigate these laws in the most efficient way possible.

In addition to helping you and your family member navigate complex legal requirements and regulations, an attorney with years of experience practicing immigration law can also help by examining your situation to identify potential issues and impediments and implementing the best possible strategy to achieve the optimal outcome for you and the family member(s) you are seeking to sponsor.

3. Begin The Family Visa Process

The path to bringing over your relative is also known as the family immigration path. This pathway will result in your family receiving LPR status, also known as a “green card,” allowing them to remain and work in the U.S. indefinitely as long as their status is not revoked.

There is a limited number of family visas made available each year, and the USCIS assigns an order of priority based on the degree of relationship that an LPR or citizen has with the family member they are seeking to bring over. The USCIS priority system ranks different family members in different ways. The order of priorities is generally:

  1. Unmarried children (under 21) of U.S. citizens
  2. Spouses of lawful permanent residents
  3. Unmarried children (21 and over) of lawful permanent residents
  4. Married children of citizens or lawful permanent residents
  5. Siblings of a citizen or lawful permanent resident over the age of 21

This hierarchy can make some family visas easier to acquire than others. For example, if you are trying to bring over your spouse or unmarried child, it may be easier than bringing over an older sibling or married child. 

4. File your sponsorship petition

To initiate the family visa process, you will need to file a copy of Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), which is a form that allows you to sponsor your family member. U.S. citizens can file an I-130 petition for their spouse, parent, child, or sibling. However, lawful permanent residents are restricted to only being able to file I-130 petitions for a spouse or an unmarried child who is under 21 years of age.

Once your petition on behalf of your relative has been approved, they will need to fulfill various logistical and bureaucratic requirements. These requirements usually include undergoing medical examinations, paying the necessary fees, and attending an interview as part of the family visa process

5. Consider the benefits of hiring an attorney 

If you are trying to help a family member immigrate to the United States, the benefits of retaining the assistance of a skilled attorney with years of immigration law practice cannot be overstated. 

AAL’s directory offers a large pool of attorneys who have extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of the immigration bureaucracy, administrative proceedings, and other complex processes you will have to navigate when bringing your loved ones to the U.S.


*Disclaimer: Attorney At Law does not represent all lawyers in all states. There may be differences of opinion. It’s always advisable to consult with an attorney when in a legal situation.

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