Family reunification has long been a cornerstone of U.S. immigration policy, enabling U.S. citizens to sponsor close relatives for permanent residence in the United States. One such provision allows U.S. citizens to petition for Green Cards for their brothers and sisters. However, the process is often lengthy, and wait times can be substantial, especially for citizens from certain countries. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the process of obtaining Green Cards for siblings of U.S. citizens, as well as to discuss the various factors that contribute to the wait times involved.
To be eligible to sponsor a sibling for a Green Card, the petitioner must be a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old. Both the petitioner and the sibling they are sponsoring must share at least one common parent, either by blood, adoption, or marriage. In cases where siblings are related through adoption or step-parent relationships, they must have been under the age of 18 when the relationship was established.
The first step in the process is for the U.S. citizen to file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary (the sibling). It is essential to provide all the required supporting documents, such as birth certificates and proof of citizenship, to ensure that the petition is processed smoothly.
Siblings of U.S. citizens fall under the Fourth Preference (F4) visa category, which has an annual cap of 65,000 visas. This cap, combined with the high demand for Green Cards, contributes to the lengthy wait times experienced by many applicants.
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin that lists the availability of immigrant visas for each preference category and country of origin. The bulletin indicates the priority date for each category, which is the date when the Form I-130 was filed. Beneficiaries must wait until their priority date becomes current before they can proceed with the next steps in the Green Card application process.
As mentioned earlier, the wait times for sibling Green Cards can be extremely long, often spanning over a decade for most countries. However, citizens of Mexico, India, China, and the Philippines face even longer wait times due to the high demand for visas from these countries.
During these wait times, the beneficiary is not eligible for work authorization, as this can only be obtained through an application for permanent residence. This means that the beneficiary may need to maintain their non-immigrant status or secure employment through other means while waiting for their priority date to become current.
Once the priority date becomes current, the beneficiary can proceed with the next steps in the Green Card process. This may involve filing an application for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) with USCIS if the beneficiary is already in the United States or applying for an immigrant visa through consular processing if they are abroad.
All applicants for a Green Card must undergo a medical examination and attend an interview, either with USCIS (for adjustment of status) or at the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country (for consular processing). During the interview, the applicant will be asked questions about their relationship with the petitioner, their intentions in the United States, and their admissibility based on factors such as criminal history, health, and financial stability.
If the application is approved, the beneficiary will receive their Green Card, officially granting them permanent resident status in the United States. This status allows the beneficiary to live and work in the country indefinitely, with the option to apply for U.S. citizenship after five years of continuous residence.
While the sibling Green Card process offers an opportunity for family reunification, it is essential to consider the challenges and implications of the long wait times. Applicants must be prepared to navigate the complexities of maintaining their non-immigrant status or securing alternative employment while waiting for their priority date to become current. Furthermore, family situations and personal circumstances may change over the years, potentially affecting the applicant’s eligibility or desire to continue with the Green Card process.
Obtaining a Green Card for a sibling of a U.S. citizen is a complex and time-consuming process, with wait times often stretching over a decade for most countries and even longer for citizens of Mexico, India, China, and the Philippines. Despite the challenges, this process remains a vital pathway for family reunification, allowing siblings to join their U.S. citizen family members and build a life together in the United States.
Given the complexities and lengthy wait times involved in the sibling Green Card process, it is advisable to seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney. Our New York-based immigration lawyers have successfully helped countless families navigate the intricacies of family-based petitions and reunite with their loved ones. Please contact us for assistance and to discuss your specific situation.