Can a U.S. citizen sponsor a stepsister or stepbrother for a U.S. green card?

U.S. immigration law recognizes step-sibling relationships if they meet certain requirements.


I became a U.S. citizen by marriage. My mother is happy to remain in my birth country, Kenya. After divorcing my father, she married another man, a widower, who brought with him a ten-year old child. The child, however, insists that his dream is to live in America, and keeps pestering me with letters asking me to bring him here. At first I thought that was impossible – we aren’t even related, and never lived in the same house – but having done a little reading, I’m now not so sure. Can I sponsor this child for a green card? And should I hold off for now, given that I am not ready to care for a child?


A U.S. citizen who is over the age of 21 can petition for his siblings – and the definition of siblings includes not only biological brothers and sisters, but step-brothers and step-sisters under certain circumstances.

The key is that both of you, at one time, met the legal definition of a “child” of a common parent. It doesn’t matter that you never lived in the same home, or your relative ages.

You, obviously, are your mother’s biological child. Your little step-brother appears to meet the definition of your mother’s “stepchild” under U.S. immigration law (specifically, sections 101(b)(1) and (b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act or I.N.A.), given that he had not yet reached the age of 18 when the marriage took place.

As for your worries about whether you can take care of a child, there’s no need for concern. Even if you were to file the visa petition tomorrow that starts the process off (Form I-130), your stepbrother would be unlikely to qualify for a green card for at least 12 years. That’s because he will be in the fourth preference category of the U.S. visa system, upon which an annual limit has been placed. The demand for these visas is high, resulting in a years-long waiting list.

And, the U.S. Congress has been talking about doing away with the fourth preference category altogether. Your best bet if you wish to honor (or humor) your step-brother’s dream is, therefore, to file the I-130 visa petition as soon as possible.

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