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Some of the steps involved in applying for a relative’s permanent residency

Once immigrants have established themselves in the United States by finding a place to live and securing a job, they often use it as an opportunity to send money to their home country who may be struggling financially. But immigrants can also use their new-found residency to help a relative become a permanent resident of the U.S.

To help immigrants go about this, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services offers some tips for how to get the process started and what they can expect.

According to the USCIS, immigrants start by filing an I-130 form, which is called a Petition for Alien Relative. Eligible relatives include an immigrant's spouse, their children, parents or siblings. Immigrants will need to have proof indicating they are, in fact, related to the person applying for permanent residency.

Once the petition has been filled out and submitted to the USCIS, it basically reserves a place in line with others who are also waiting to immigrate to the U.S. Where these relatives will be placed in that line is on a first come, first-serve basis, so the earlier the petition is filled out and handed in, the shorter the wait will generally be.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if the immigrant is a U.S. citizen and the relative is an immediate family member, there is no waiting list for these relatives. As a result, once the I-130 petition has been approved, the U.S. Department of State will invite them to apply for an immigrant visa.

While this can expedite the process, immigrants should be aware that their relatives can't stay in the U.S. while awaiting approval. USCIS says that if relatives live outside the U.S., they need to remain there until they have been approved. However, if an immigrant's family member already lives in the U.S. and entered legally, they can apply to update their status to permanent resident while awaiting the approval process.

By filing a petition for a relative's permanent residency, immigrants should be advised that there are some strings attached. For instance, USCIS that once a relative has been approved, the immigrant who originally filed the petition on behalf of their relative must agree to become their financial sponsor. Immigrants will be evaluated to see whether they have the assets to do this after filling out an I-864 form or what's called an Affidavit of Support. If the immigrant doesn't meet the necessary qualifications, another individual with enough assets will need to be identified before the process can move forward.

Helpful links:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant services
Form I-130
Form I-864

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