Strategies for Family Green Card Success

(Page 2 of 2 of Green Cards for Your Family: Sponsorship Rules )

There are some important steps you can take to speed up your family member's progress toward a green card.

Apply for U.S. Citizenship

If you are a U.S. permanent resident, not a citizen, you can in many situations help by applying for citizenship as soon as you're eligible. That's usually five years after getting your green card. For more information, see Nolo's article Applying for U.S. Citizenship and the book Becoming a U.S. Citizen: A Guide to the Law, Exam, & Interview, by Ilona Bray (Nolo).

As soon as you're a citizen, your family members move to a different, sometimes faster immigration category. For example, your spouse would become an "immediate relative," and could apply for a green card right away. Your parents would go from having no immigration rights to being immediate relatives, and your children would become immediate relatives or move to higher preference categories, depending on their age and whether they are married.

Beware, though — as of September 2015 the adult unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents have actually been waiting less time for visas to become available than the adult unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Consult with an immigration attorney before apply for U.S. citizenship if you’ve already petitioned for a family member.

Warn Your Waiting Children Not to Marry

Children who marry have it tough when it comes to immigrating. If you're a permanent resident and you have petitioned for an unmarried child, that child's marriage will destroy the right to immigrate under your petition. If you're a U.S. citizen and your child marries, that will drop the child down into the third preference category, meaning a long wait.

Make sure your children know these risks before they marry. It won't matter that they were unmarried when you started the immigration process for them; they have to be unmarried when they pick up their immigrant visa or green card.

Have Multiple U.S. Family Members Sponsor the Same Immigrant

Hopeful immigrants (beneficiaries) shouldn't pin all of their hopes on one petitioner. If something goes wrong -- for example, the petitioner dies or divorces the beneficiary before the beneficiary gets a green card -- the opportunity is, in most cases, lost.

There is no harm in having more than one U.S. citizen or resident file visa petitions for a waiting immigrant. For instance, both parents could file for a child, to insure against the death of one parent. Or a person married to a permanent resident could have both the resident and their U.S. citizen parent file a visa petition for them.

For More Information

To understand all the requirements for getting U.S. permanent residence, see How to Get a Green Card, by Ilona Bray (Nolo).

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