If you are a U.S. citizen, and at least 21 years old, you can petition for your siblings (brothers or sisters) to live in the United States as green card holders (lawful permanent residents). Siblings include children from of at least one common parent. You do not necessarily need to be related to your sibling by blood. The legal definition of sibling includes step-brothers and step-sisters (so long as you were both 18 or under when your parents married, and your parents remained married) and adopted siblings (so long as your sibling – and if applicable, you -- were both under age 16 when adopted and meet other legal conditions for a valid adoption).
Unfortunately, your brother or sister will not receive the right to immigrate to the U.S. immediately, as described in "Green Cards for Your Family: Sponsorship Rules.” Due to annual limits on green cards given out in the relevant category, known as “Fourth Preference,” siblings wait an average minimum of ten years for the right to a U.S. green card -- and in many instances longer.
(Note: Green card holders may not themselves petition to bring siblings to live permanently in the United States. To make sure that you become a U.S. citizen as soon as possible, see the articles under “How to Become a U.S. Citizen.”)
The first step in petitioning for a sibling is to file a visa petition on Form I-130, available for free download from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This article describes how to fill out and submit that form.
If your foreign-born sibling is living abroad, he or she will have to wait until the I-130 is approved and his or her “priority date” becomes current before starting the green card application. To understand priority dates, see “How Long Is the Wait for Your Priority Date to Become Current?”
Approval of the I-130 confers absolutely no rights to live in the U.S. – in fact, living here can lead to the person accruing “unlawful presence,” and thus becoming inadmissible and possibly ineligible for a green card, as described in "Consequences of Unlawful Presence in the U.S. -- Three- and Ten-Year Time Bars." See an immigration attorney immediately if your sibling is living in the U.S. unlawfully.
I-130 Form: Step-by-Step Instructions
Page one of Form I-130 shows two columns. The left column, or Part B, asks for information about the petitioner -- that is, you, the U.S. citizen. The right column asks for information about the immigrant, referred to as "your relative."
Question 1: Check the third box, Brother/Sister.
Question 2 - 3: These questions concern whether you and your brother or sister are related by adoption. Again, you are allowed to petition for an adoptive sibling if certain conditions are met, most importantly that your sibling was adopted by your parent(s) before turning 16 years of age. See an immigration lawyer with any questions.
Part B- Petitioner’s Information:
Question 1: Enter your last name (surname) in capital letters, but the first and middle name in small letters.
Questions 2-5: Self-explanatory.
Question 6: This refers to your most recent marital status. For example, if you are currently married but previously divorced, just check "married."
Question 7: There's no need to mention personal nicknames, but do include any first or last names by which you have been commonly known, and which therefore might have made it onto paperwork that you will, now or later, be submitting to the immigration decision-makers.
Questions 8-9: Self explanatory.
Question 10: As a U.S. citizen, you can put N/A here, even if you were once a lawful permanent resident and had an Alien Registration Number (known as an A-Number).
Question 11 and 12: Add the names of any prior husbands and wives, for example where the relationship ended in annulment, divorce, or death. Indicate the date the marriage ended. (This question is mostly relevant to people petitioning for immigrant spouses, but you must fill it out nonetheless.)
Question 13: If you are a naturalized U.S. citizen (meaning you were not born a U.S. citizen or granted the status by virtue of your citizen parents, but became a citizen after an application and exam), this number can be found at the top right-hand side of your naturalization certificate. The date and place issued are also shown on the certificate.
Question 14a and 14b: As a U.S. citizen, you can write "N/A" here.
Part C- Beneficiary’s Information:
Now you will be answering questions about your immigrating brother or sister, also known as your "beneficiary."
Question 1: Your sibling’s current name, with last name (surname) in capital letters.
Questions 2-5: Self-explanatory.
Question 6: This refers only to the beneficiary’s most recent marital status. If your sibling is married, that person can also come to the U.S., as a “derivative.”
Question 7-8: Self-explanatory.
Question 9: Your sibling will not have a Social Security number until he or she has lived in the United States and had a work permit, a visa allowing work, or U.S. residence. If your sibling doesn’t have a Social Security number, write N/A here.
Question 10: The Alien Registration Number is an eight- or nine-digit number following a letter A that USCIS (formerly called INS) assigns to an immigrant based on an application for permanent (or, in some cases, temporary) residence or the person being placed in deportation/removal proceedings. Of course, if your sibling had such a previous application denied because the immigrant was inadmissible or lied on the application, or your sibling has been ordered removed from the U.S., call a lawyer before going any further.
Question 11 and 12: Self-explanatory.
Question 13: It is important to state whether the intending immigrant has been in the U.S., because certain types of negative immigration history may affect eligibility for a green card (or indeed any other application for U.S. entry).
Question 14: Enter N/A if your sibling is living outside the United States. If living inside the U.S., state what visa status he or she legally entered in. If your sibling illegally entered the U.S., consult an attorney immediately – he or she is likely inadmissible to the United States, which will make it impossible to get a green card unless a narrow exception applies in your case.
Question 15: If the intending immigrant is currently in the U.S. on a legal work visa or work permit, state the employer’s name and address.
Question 16: If the immigrant is or has been in immigration court (removal or deportation) proceedings, be sure to contact an attorney before filing Form I-130.
Question 17: This is the continuation of Part C, so all questions still refer to the immigrant beneficiary. List all the immigrant's children, including any children by previous relationships. The children may be eligible to come to the U.S. and receive green cards as well, provided they remain unmarried and under the age of 21 until your sibling’s priority date is current.
Question 18: Self-explanatory.
Question 19: If your immigrating sibling is in the U.S. and no longer has an overseas address, write "N/A" here.
Question 20: If the immigrant's native language uses a non-Roman script (for example, Russian, Chinese, or Arabic), write the name and address in that script.
Question 21: This should be answered "N/A," as you are filing for your sibling.
Question 22: This question is only for immigrants who are already living in the U.S. and planning to apply for adjustment of status. See a lawyer if unsure whether the immigrant qualifies to use this application procedure – it’s unlikely unless he or she has a long-term valid visa. As a backup, you will also need to list the U.S. consulate in the immigrant's home country. USCIS will figure out which consulate the case will be sent to, based on where the immigrant lives and which of the U.S. consulates in that country actually handle immigrant visas. If the country listed doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the United States, USCIS will locate one in a nearby country to handle your sibling’s case.
Part D: Other Information (More questions for the Petitioner):
Question 1: This refers to other petitions being submitted simultaneously, (for example, if you are filing for your brother AND your sister, which you would need to do using two separate forms I-130), so that USCIS can process the petitions together.
Question 2: This question is meant to uncover the U.S. citizen petitioner’s history (if any) of petitioning other immigrants to come to the United States, just in case you’ve shown any patterns of suspicious use of the immigration laws.
You must sign the end of the application under Part E. If assisted by an attorney, he or she will sign under Part F, filling in the needed information.
Required Documents for Submission With the I-130
You will need to gather the following documents along with the signed forms and filing fees:
- Proof of U.S. citizen status. Depending on how you became a citizen, you should make a copy of your birth certificate, passport, certificate of naturalization, or Form FS-20 (Report of Birth Abroad of a United States Citizen).
- Proof of your sibling relationship: In most cases of blood-related siblings, all that you need to provide here are a copy of your and your sibling’s birth certificates listing your common parent(s). If you have the same father but different mothers, you’ll also need to provide certificates showing the various marriages’ termination and formation. For a step-sibling, you’ll need to provide a marriage certificate showing that the relevant marriage took place before both of your 18th birthdays. For an adopted sibling, include the adoption certificate(s). See the USCIS instructions to Form I-130 for details.
- Fees. The fee for an I-130 visa petition is, as of early 2013, $420. However, these fees go up fairly regularly, so double-check the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov or call USCIS at 800-375-5283 for the latest amount.
Where to File the Form I-130 Petition
After you, the U.S. citizen petitioner, have prepared and assembled all the forms and other items listed above, make a photocopy for your personal records. Then send the whole visa petition to the USCIS “lockbox” indicated on the website instructions for Form I-130.
The lockbox will process the fee payment, then forward the petition to a USCIS Service Center for further handling.
What Happens After Filing the I-130
A few weeks after sending in the visa petition, you should get a receipt notice from USCIS. The will tell you to check the USCIS website for information on how long the application is likely to remain in processing. Look for the receipt number in the upper left-hand corner, which you will need in order to check the status of the case online at www.uscis.gov. There, you can also sign up for automatic email updates about the case.
If USCIS needs additional documentation to complete the application, it will send you a letter asking for it. Eventually USCIS will send an approval or a denial of the visa petition. This may take a long time, but don’t worry – it won’t ultimately affect the case. The “priority date” establishing your sibling’s place on the (long) waiting list for a visa has already been set as of the date USCIS received the I-130 petition.
If USCIS denies the petition, it will provide a denial notice stating why. Your best bet is most likely to start over and refile the application (rather than attempt an appeal), and remedy the reason USCIS stated for the denial. But don’t just re-file if you don’t understand why the first one was denied – get an attorney’s help.
If USCIS approves the application, it will send you a notice and then forward the case to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing. Your sibling can expect to later receive communications from the NVC and/or consulate, and after the priority date has become current, to attend a visa interview there. See "Consular Processing Procedures" for more information on this procedure.
If your immigrating sibling is living in the U.S. and (by some miracle) is eligible to adjust status here, the next step after the priority date becomes current is to file an I-485 application for adjustment of status. Your sibling can expect to be called in for an interview at a USCIS office. See "Adjustment of Status Procedures" for more information.