Can a U.S. citizen sponsor a half-sister or half-brother for a green card?

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Question:

I was born in the U.S., after which my father divorced my mother and returned to the Philippines. He remarried, and they had children, so I now have half-siblings. My father would love for them to have the possibility of U.S. citizenship as well, and has contacted me about this. Is it possible for me to sponsor my half-brothers and half-sisters for U.S. immigration even though we don’t share the same mother?

Answer:

This sounds like a likely prospect for your family. A U.S. citizen may, by law, petition to have brothers and sisters (siblings) immigrate to the United States in certain circumstances. The definition of sibling in the U.S. immigration law includes people who were the children of at least one common parent – that is, half-blood siblings. (See for the definition of “child” Section 101(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act or I.N.A.).

Because you are “paternal half-siblings” (the common parent being your father) you will need to provide documentation to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing that your father was once married to your mother, that their marriage has legally ended, and that he has married your half-siblings’ mother (and that if she was ever married, that marriage, too has legally ended).

One question, however, is how old you currently are. You must be at least age 21 to petition for your siblings. And you should also realize that even after filing the visa petition that starts off the process (on Form I-130), it will be an astonishing number of years before your half-siblings can complete the process of obtaining their green cards. Due to high demand from the Philippines, the average wait in the sibling category – which is called “fourth preference” or F4 – is now around 23 years. The wait could change by the time your half-siblings are in the system, depending on how many others apply around the same time they do, and how great the backlog is before them – but it is almost guaranteed to be a very long wait.

And they will not be allowed to live in the U.S. during this time, unless they can convince a U.S. consulate to issue a temporary visa (for example, as a student or visitor). But consulates are reluctant to do that in cases where the person has a family-based visa petition on file, fearing that the person will misuse the visa to attempt to stay in the U.S. permanently before they’ve got a green card.

Another concern is that the U.S. Congress has been making noises about eliminating the fourth preference visa category. Given all these issues, filing the I-130 visa petition as soon as possible might be a good idea. Consult an experienced immigration attorney for a full analysis. 

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