Family Sponsorship: Who Can You Sponsor and When
George Santayana, a contemporary philosopher from the streets of Madrid, once said that family is nature’s greatest masterpiece. There can be no greater truth.
A family is not merely a group of people who reside in together in the same home. Conversely, not living together does not preclude a unit from being family. Families come in many different forms, shapes and sizes. What binds them together is unconditional love, mutual respect and togetherness. These are the family values worth fighting for. In fact, it is a privilege to work to uphold these values and help reunite families.
In order to be reunited with their families and dear ones, many citizens and legal permanent residents seek to sponsor their families, so they may all continue their lives together in the United States. The process is often an arduous and complicated one, with an accompanying host of problems and delays.
How long the process might take depends on a variety of factors. Two primary factors are your citizenship status and your relationship to the relative you seek to sponsor. The processing time for U.S. citizens petitioning for relatives is commonly shorter than the time legal permanent residents face when doing the same. Additionally, your spouse, parents and any unmarried children under the age of 21 are generally accorded a shorter processing time than are siblings and married children.
Legal permanent residents may petition to bring their relatives to the United States. However, the wait may be a considerably long one. Even for a spouse, you might find yourself waiting as long as 2-3 years. If you are a U.S. citizen however, a petition for your spouse, parent or unmarried minor child may be processed without any waiting.
Being Sponsored by A Father Who Is Not on Your Birth Certificate
The question is: is it possible? Absolutely.
If you have a father who is a citizen or a green card holder, even though their name is not on your birth certificate and your parents are not married, it is possible for your father to sponsor you. You may be required to take a DNA test to demonstrate that your father is, in fact, your biological father.
You may also need to gather evidence that you have had a personal and emotional relationship with him over the years. Such evidence might include Father’s Day cards, money transfers (if he sent money to you back home), or photos showing that there has been an ongoing relationship. Once you have gathered all of this documentation, you may be ready to begin the sponsorship case.
- For an individual to be sponsored by a father who is not on the birth certificate, the former must undergo a DNA test.
- Additionally, the individual must provide evidence of having had a personal and emotional relationship with him over the years.
Being Included in Your Parent’s Sponsorship
Let us consider a scenario where a 23-year old woman had appeared on her mother’s immigration petition when she was a teenager and filed the case. She is now over 21 years old. Can she still be included in her mother’s petition, or has she aged out?
There is a program and a law called CSPA that was passed by Congress in 2002. CSPA stands for Child Status Protection Act. Essentially, that act was created to alleviate this exact problem. In so many cases, the mother or father includes their teenaged children in their own petitions. However, because there are such extensive delays in the processing times for immigration petitions, it was unfair that these children would be removed from the case once they turned 21 and aged out. Aging out is the term used when a child turns 21 and is pushed off of a case. Had it not been for these processing delays, these children would have been included in the green card appointment interview.
Under the CSPA, Congress created redefine “child” for immigration purposes. For example, in the above example, an immigration attorney will use a formula in order to determine the immigration age of this individual.
The date a case was filed is referred to as the filing date or the priority date. Let us assume that the time between the filing date and approval date is 6 years. This is subtracted from the individual, the beneficiary’s biological age. The woman in our example is now 23. Since it took 6 years for their case to be approved, we may subtract 6 years from her age, and that makes her 17 for immigration purposes.
This might sound crazy, but believe it or not, that’s what a good immigration lawyer does. They find this legality in the law, which applies to certain situations and helps people like this woman be eligible for being included in a green card case with her mother when the time comes for the interview.
- The Child Status Protection Act protects children from “aging out” and being pushed off their parents’ petitions because of processing delays.
- A good attorney will subtract the processing time from the age of the individual on the approval date to protect such children.
Being Sponsored by a Stepparent
Let us consider the example of a 23-year old woman whose mother had obtained a green card through marriage to her stepfather. The young lady had been 16 years old when her mother married her stepfather. That was also when the initial papers were filed, and her name was on the original paperwork. Now that she is 23, can her stepfather still sponsor her?
The answer is not an easy one. We are often worried about individuals aging out. After they turn 21, the laws change for an individual. In such cases, what matters is the individual’s age when the biological parent married the stepparent. In the above example, because the young lady’s mother married her stepfather before she turned 18 –in this case, it was 16 – her stepfather may sponsor her. It does not matter if you are over 21 when your stepparent files for you. What matters is your age at the time your biological parent married your stepparent.
Ideally, if someone is under 21 and they came in legally, they can adjust their status in the US. If they happen to be living abroad, then the stepparent would file the I-130 visa petition, and the individual would attend the interview at the US Embassy abroad.
- As long as the biological parent married the stepparent before the child turned 18, the stepparent may sponsor the child.
- The stepparent may file the papers even after the child is over 21 years old, as long as the above statement holds true.
Sponsoring Your Family If You Just Obtained a Green Card
Unfortunately, as a green card holder, you may not sponsor your parents or siblings. Only a US citizen may do so. However, as a green card holder, you may sponsor various other family members like a spouse, minor children, adult unmarried children. If you are considering sponsoring your family, we encourage you to check the Visa Bulletin, which is published by the Department of State, in order to understand the backlog.
For a spouse and unmarried minor children, it takes about 1.5 years. For adult unmarried children, it takes 7 years. That is the typical backlog. Because you have to wait 5 years in order to become a US citizen, very often it is best if a green card holder files for their family members as soon as they become a green card holder. That way, the priority date is already set, and later, if someone chooses to become a green card holder, the process will be accelerated.
We advise you to file for the family members that you are allowed to file for, and then as soon as you are able to file for citizenship in about 5 years, you can file for other family members like married children, your parents and your siblings. Although if you obtain a green card through marriage to a US citizen, the process will likely be accelerated up to 3 years after you become a citizen.
- With a green card, you may sponsor a spouse, unmarried minor children, and unmarried adult children only.
- With a US citizenship (through naturalization or birth), you may sponsor your parents, siblings, and married children.
These are troubled times. With families being rend asunder by political strife, we labor to reunite families in an effort to bring back love, peace and togetherness in our community. If you are trying to reunite your family in the US, contact Susan Scheer, an Immigration Lawyer in NJ.