Understanding sponsorship categories for family-based immigration

On behalf of Immigration & Nationality Law Group on Wednesday, October 30, 2019.

People come to the United States for various opportunities. Those who choose to make a new life here desire to aid their loved ones in doing the same.

In certain instances, it is possible to help loved ones migrate to the U.S. However, it is important to understand the sponsorship process and requirements.


In order to qualify as a sponsor, an applicant must be a citizen or a permanent resident of the United States. Along with the party having proper naturalization, the sponsor must also have an appropriate relationship with the party he or she seeks to sponsor. The categories include

  • Spouse
  • Parents and siblings
  • Children

The status of the sponsor determines which groups the party is able to sponsor. For example, citizens may sponsor their parents, but permanent residents cannot. In addition, the status of the party receiving sponsorship plays a role and may determine what relative class the party fits into. Those who migrate over have the opportunity to become permanent residents as well by obtaining their green card. Though it is a lengthy process, those who do obtain it then have the opportunity to sponsor others. 

Immediate relatives

Citizens have the ability to claim parties as immediate relatives, which can aid in speeding up the process. Immediate relatives are the sponsor's spouse, parents, and children who are under the age of 21 and are unmarried. Children over 21 and those who are married may still qualify but not under immediate relative status.

Preference relatives

Citizens and permanent residents may also seek to sponsor those who qualify as preference relatives. These individuals fall under four categories:

  1. Unmarried children of citizens, and their minor children
  2. Permanent residents' spouses, and minor or unmarried children
  3. Citizens' married children and their spouses, and their minor children
  4. Citizens' siblings and their spouses, and their minor children

Those who qualify under preference relatives can expect a longer wait time in comparison with immediate relatives.

Though the immigration process can be tedious, for many people it is worth it. Having a working knowledge of the process and any changing laws and requirements is critical.