Uncle Sam hands out up to 675,000 green cards annually, with the lion’s share going to relatives of American citizens. Approval rates for residency applications are high, so it’s best to apply while the odds are in your favor. But you can’t do so without a sponsor.
Think of green card sponsorship as your monetary safety net. It grants you some much-needed stability during the unpredictable waiting game for your green card status.
But it’s easy to be confused about the rules of sponsorship and what your rights are. To help you migrate faster, let’s dive into what you need to know about snagging that coveted green card support.
What Does It Mean to Be “Sponsored” for a Green Card?
Being “sponsored” means that you’re receiving help to immigrate to the United States.
Most people think sponsorship is getting paid to move to the US, but this isn’t entirely true. The sponsor promises that the immigrant won’t need any financial help from the government until their green card status is permanent.
To put it simply, your sponsor should provide you with food, medical assistance, and housing. They’re not obligated to dish out cash beyond your basic needs.
Who Can Be Sponsored for a Green Card?
Family members of US citizens are the easiest to sponsor. This includes spouses, parents, children (including stepchildren and adopted children), and siblings.
Employees of US businesses can also be sponsored. The company has to submit a green card application on their behalf.
Refugees are also eligible if they were victims of violence while living abroad. They must apply one year after entering the U.S. The same goes for asylees.
Who Can Sponsor a Green Card?
Any adult US citizen or lawful permanent resident can be a sponsor. They must be at least 18 when submitting Form I-130 to USCIS.
A sponsor must also be financially stable. While there aren’t any preferred green card sponsorship jobs, the supporter must have an income that can handle the immigrant’s necessary expenses. If someone is unable to cover these costs, another US citizen must step in as a co-sponsor.
What Documents Do Sponsors Need?
Sponsors must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relatives. In addition to this, there must be proof of their address and employment history for the past five years. They must also bring papers related to previous immigration proceedings.
Proving one’s financial means is also necessary. That means demonstrating an income that’s at least 125% above what the government considers poverty. You can prove your assets by providing pay stubs, proof of employment, and copies of your tax returns.
How Much Does It Cost to Sponsor Someone for a Green Card?
Sponsoring an immigrant is free. There’s a $535 fee associated with filing Form I-130, but this is related to the application process and not the cost of sponsoring someone.
Some sponsors fund their relatives’ green card applications, but this is not required. If your sponsor is willing to take this step, give them a detailed rundown of the costs associated with obtaining a green card.
For example, immigrants must pay for medical exams. They also have to cover fees associated with travel documents and attending interviews at U.S. embassies.
Does Green Card Sponsorship Guarantee Permanent Residence?
Unfortunately, sponsorship is only one element of the immigration process, and it doesn’t guarantee a green card. Many factors can prevent a green card from being issued.
While the sponsoring party might tick all the USCIS boxes, it won’t matter if the immigrant doesn’t have a good chance of being financially independent after the sponsorship ends. An applicant with huge debt or a chronic condition has a lower chance of getting approval. Of course, this depends on how wealthy the sponsor is.
What Is the Process for Getting a Green Card?
Achieving lawful permanent residency in the United States requires the completion of an immigrant petition and a green card application. An external party is responsible for filing the immigrant petition. Self-petitioning is also an option for those who don’t have a sponsor.
There are various eligibility categories for obtaining a green card:
- Diversity lottery
- Longtime resident
For more detailed information on the process and eligibility requirements, visit the official websites of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If you’re physically present in the United States, it’s possible to obtain a green card by adjusting your status. For those elsewhere on the globe, you can apply for consular processing.
How Long Does It Take To Get Permanent Residence After Being Sponsored?
It depends on how swiftly the government decides to process your application. You should plan to wait at least 6 months, but the process usually takes longer.
If your application is missing documents or has errors, this will cause a delay. You can also expect it to take longer if you’re applying through consular processing rather than adjusting your status.
How to Enjoy Your New Life as a US Citizen
There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to green card sponsorship. Most importantly, make sure you and your sponsor are both ready for this commitment. If you have any doubts about whether they can financially support you, it’s best to wait.
Self-petitioning is also a great option for those who don’t have the support of a sponsor or family member.
Whether you’re migrating alone or with help, traveling to the US isn’t easy. Browse our travel section for tips on making a hassle-free trip.