The United States allows citizens and lawful permanent residents to act as sponsors for foreign born family members, however, the government is very strict as to what relationship to the citizen or permanent resident the foreign citizen must have in order to be sponsored. Aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, cousins, and in-laws can’t generally be sponsored under current immigration law.
Immediate Family Preference
Sponsoring members of the immediate family is perhaps easiest. American citizens can sponsor spouses, children under 21, and parents, assuming the child sponsoring the parent is at least 21 years old. Parents can also sponsor their adopted children.
Degrees of Preference for Other Family Members
There are four degrees of family preference recognized by the government for allocating family visas to individuals who don’t meet the requirements listed above. Only a certain number of these types of visas are issued each year.
- F1 Preference: Unmarried children of any age of U.S. citizens and their own children if they are under age 21.
- F2 Preference: Spouses, minor children and unmarried children at least age 21 of lawful permanent residents.
- F3 Preference: Married children of any age of U.S. citizens and their spouses, as well as their own children if they are under 21.
- F4 Preference: Siblings of U.S. citizens and their spouses, as well as their own children if they are under 21.
Minimum Age of Sponsors
The law does not dictate a minimum age to be able to sponsor another person, but the de-facto minimum age requirement is 18. This is because, in order to sponsor a foreign citizen, an “Affidavit of Support” must be signed, but this form can only be signed by those who are at least 18. The Affidavit of Support requires the sponsor to accept legal responsibility for the foreign citizen’s financial support for as long as the sponsorship remains active.
In other words, the government wants to know that a foreign citizen will have the means to support him or herself while in the country and, considering the foreign citizen is not from around here and will likely experience a period of unemployment upon arrival, places the burden of financial security on the shoulders of the sponsor.
Always Speak with Experienced Counsel
Experienced immigration attorneys are well versed in handling family visa applications and appeals for foreign citizens. By partnering with an experienced immigration attorney, foreign citizens can make sure that they have a stronger chance of being approved for a visa than if they tried applying on their own.
Not only is does the likelihood of application errors increase, but foreign citizens who are not proficient in English may have a considerable amount of trouble trying to determine exactly what the documents are asking for and where to go to get the information requested. An immigration attorney will handle every aspect of a visa application on behalf of an applicant from filling out the forms to attaching the necessary evidence in support of a package.
If they value the opportunity to be reunited with their loved ones, foreign citizens and sponsors alike will be able to appreciate the tremendous value that having an attorney on their side can provide.