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 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). (See I.N.A. Section 101(b)(1) and (2), 8 U.S.C. Section 1101(b)(1) and (2).)
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 a long time for the right to apply for U.S. permanent residence—the people applying for sibling visas in April of 2019 could expect to wait over 13 years or in many instances (depending on which country they are from), many years longer.
(Note: Green card holders may not petition to bring siblings to live permanently in the United States. If you have a green card, and want make sure that you become a U.S. citizen as soon as possible, see Nolo's articles on How to Become a U.S. Citizen.)
The first step in getting permanent residence in the U.S. for your sibling is for you to file a 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 the version of that form issued 02/13/2019, set to expire on 02/28/2021.
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 this process, 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.
There are several general rules to follow when filling out an I-130. It’s best to fill out the form on your computer, but if you’re writing answers by hand, use a pen with black ink.
If you find that there’s not enough space to give a full answer to a question, give the answer in Part 9.
If the form asks for information that you can’t possibly have, you can answer “none,” such as when the form asks for a middle name and you don’t have one. When the form asks a question that does not apply to you, this will probably be obvious to USCIS (based on other answers on the form), but sometimes not. To be safe, enter “N/A” (meaning “not applicable”) so USCIS doesn’t think you forgot to answer the question.
Part 1. Relationship
Question 1: Check the third box, Brother/Sister.
Question 2 - 4: These questions concern whether you and your brother or sister are related by adoption. You are allowed to petition for an adopted 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 2. Information About You (Petitioner)
Question 1: A U.S. citizen 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).
Questions 2: You might not have a USCIS Online Account Number (from a past application). If you don't, just leave this blank.
Questions 3: The U.S. citizen's Social Security Number goes here.
Question 4: Enter your last name (surname) in 4.a, and first and middle names in 4.b and 4.c. If you are married, use your current married name even if it is different from your sibling’s last name.
Question 5: 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 your birth certificate and other paperwork that you will, now or later, be submitting to the immigration decision-makers.
Questions 6-9: Self explanatory.
Question 10: The address at which you receive mail. If this changes, be sure to advise USCIS, because you're going to be receiving some important documents by mail.
Questions 11-15: If your mailing address is different from the address where you live, check "no," and fill in Questions 12 and 13. If your current address is less than five years old, fill in Questions 14 and 15.
Question 16: Enter the number of times you have been married, counting your current marriage (if any). (These questions are mostly important for petitioning spouses, but you, too, need to answer them.)
Question 17: This refers to your most recent marital status, so if you are married, check that box even if there was a previous divorce.
Questions 18-19: You can leave these blank if you’re unmarried. If married,enter the date and place that you and your spouse were legally married. If, for example, you had an official at city hall perform the actual wedding and then went to a church for a later ceremony, you would enter the date that occurred, and the city hall location.
Questions 20-23: Add names of any current or prior husbands and wives, for example where the relationship ended in annulment, divorce, or death.
Questions 24-35: Questions about your parents. Self-explanatory. If you really don't know the answer to something, say "Unknown."
Question 36: As a U.S. citizen, you should check the "U.S. citizen box, then fill out the following questions (through Question 39). If you were born in the U.S., you would not have a naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship. If you are a naturalized U.S. citizen (meaning not born a U.S. citizen or granted the status via parents, but you instead became a citizen after an application and exam), this number can be found at the top right-hand side of the naturalization certificate. Do not use the number that appears after “USCIS Registration No.” The date and place issued are also shown on the certificate. For place of issuance, use the city and state where your oath ceremony took place, not the city and state of the USCIS field office where your application was filed, or your residence at the time. If you have a certificate of citizenship after gaining U.S. citizenship through a parent, the certificate number is on the top right-hand side (don’t use the “USCIS Registration No.”). The date of issuance is expressly stated on the certificate—don’t use the date you became a citizen. The place of issuance will be the only city and state on the certificate, which is your residence at the time the certificate was issued.
Questions 40-41: You can leave these blank, because you are a U.S. citizen, not a green card holder.
Questions 42-49: Your work history. Mostly self-explanatory. If you aren't working, leave the employer entries blank, but under "Occupation" (Question 44) enter whatever is appropriate, such as "student," "stay-at-home parent," "self-employed," "disabled," or "unemployed," and enter the applicable dates. If you've worked within the past five years, fill out the other "employer" entries.
Part 3. Biographic Information
These questions are still about you, the U.S. citizen filing the petition. They are largely self-explanatory.
Part 4. Information About Beneficiary
Question 1: The Alien Registration Number is an eight- or nine-digit number following a letter A that USCIS (or the formerly named INS) would have assigned to your sibling if he or she had previously applied for permanent (or, in some cases, temporary) residence or been in deportation/removal proceedings. Of course, if that previous application was denied because the immigrant was inadmissible or lied on that application, call a lawyer before going any further.
Question 2: It's entirely possible that your immigrating sibling has no USCIS online account number, in which case you can leave this blank.
Question 3: The immigrant won’t 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 the immigrant has no Social Security number, leave this blank.
Question 4: The immigrant's current name.
Question 5: This is for other names that might be found on the immigrant's paperwork, including maiden name.
Questions 6-9: Self explanatory.
Question 10: This question is partly because USCIS is on the lookout for visa fraud, and is asking about prior visa petitions so it can check the immigrant's files on this. But it’s not a problem if someone has filed a visa petition for the same sibling (for instance, a child, or another U.S. citizen sister or brother), and it’s still pending.
Questions 11-16: Self-explanatory.
Question 17: Count up the number of times your immigrating sibling has been married, including the current marriage (if any).
Question 18: Enter your sibling's marital status as of right now.
Question 19: Date of your sibling's present marriage (if married.)
Questions 20-24: Enter information about your sibling's legal marriage(s) if any.
Questions 25-44: Enter all your immigrating sibling's children. Providing a complete list of children is important, in case the immigrant wishes to petition for them at any time in the future. Any names that are left out will likely lead USCIS to deny later petitions of this sort.
Question 45: Answer "yes" even if the immigrant is not currently in the U.S., but has been here in the past. Certain types of negative immigration history may affect eligibility for a green card (or indeed any type of admission to the U.S.), so see an attorney if, for example, the immigrant overstayed a past visa or was placed in removal (deportation) proceedings.
Question 46.a: If your sibling is living inside the U.S., state how he or she arrived, for example as a visitor, H-1B worker, or on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). But if the arrival was "without inspection," consult an attorney immediately; the immigrant's accrual of unlawful presence in the U.S. is likely to make him or her inadmissible (ineligible for a green card) unless he or she qualifies for a waiver.
Question 46.b: The I-94 number was formerly found on a card that entrants in the U.S. received from the border/port officials and was placed in their passport. Now, however, it's an online document, and you can get the immigrant's record and number from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website. Write “D/S”—for “duration of status”—if your sibling was admitted on a student visa or exchange visitor visa with no specific end date.
Question 46.c: Enter the date the immigrant entered the United States.
Question 46.d: This is NOT the date the immigrant's visa expired or expires. You must check the I-94 for the date when his or her right to remain in the U.S. legally ran out. "D/S" is usually only granted to students.
Questions 47-50: Enter the number that the immigrant's home country put in his or her passport. Or, if the immigrant used some other type of travel document (such as parole or a refugee travel document) enter that number in Question 48.
Questions 51-52: State the immigrant's employer’s name, address, and other information.
Question 53-56: If the immigrant has been placed in Immigration Court proceedings, see a lawyer before submitting this form, particularly if the case was lost. It's possible the immigrant is not eligible to file for a green card at this time.
Questions 57-58: This needs to be filled in only for applicants from countries such as Russia, China, Korea, Japan, various Arab nations, or others that do not use Western "ABC" letters for their written language.
Questions 59-60: Leave blank; this is only for petitioners filing for spouses.
Question 61: This question is only for immigrants who are already living in the U.S. and planning to apply for a green card using the procedure known as adjustment of status. See a lawyer if unsure whether the immigrant qualifies to use this application procedure. Not everyone does.
Question 62: If your immigrating sibling isn't in the U.S., or is in the U.S. but can't use the procedure known as "adjustment of status," you will need to list the consulate in the immigrant's home country. USCIS will make the final decision on which consulate your case will be sent to, based on where the immigrant lives and which of the State Department'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 a consulate in a nearby country to handle the case.
Part 5. Other Information
Now we’re back to questions related to the U.S. citizen petitioning sibling.
Questions 1-5: These questions addresses two potential issues. First, USCIS wants to know whether you already tried to petition for this immigrant before, but had the petition denied. Second, USCIS wants to know if you have petitioned for other immigrants to come to the United States. As you can probably imagine, if you have a history of providing false information on immigration applications, USCIS will look very carefully at this petition.
For place of filing, use the city and state you were living in when you filed the petition. The “result” is whether your I-130 petition was approved or denied (not whether the green card application was approved or denied).
Questions 6-9: These refer to other petitions being submitted simultaneously, (such as for another sibling), mainly so that USCIS can process the petitions together and schedule their interviews on the same date.
Part 6. Petitioner's Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature
The U.S. citizen petitioning for a sibling must affirm that he or she understands and swears to the information in this petition, provide contact information, and sign here.
Part 7. Interpreter's Contact Information, Certification, and Signature
If you had help from a foreign-language interpreter in filling out the Form I-130, that person needs to fill in this section (or sign it after you've filled it in).
Part 8. Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of Person Preparing This Petition if Other Than the Petitioner
If filling out this application unassisted, write N/A here. A little typing assistance or advice from a friend doesn’t count; the only people who need to complete this line are lawyers or agencies who fill out these forms on others’ behalf.
Part 9. Additional Information
This provides added space, in case you need it to finish your answers to any of the questions.
You will need to gather the following documents along with the signed forms and filing fees:
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. You then have a choice: You can either file online or send the whole petition packet 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.
Soon after sending in the petition, you should get a receipt notice from USCIS. This 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 I-130 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 refile 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, he or she can file an I-485 application for adjustment of status with the I-130, or later. Your sibling can expect to be called in for an interview at a USCIS office. See Adjustment of Status Procedures for more information.