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Sponsoring a relative for permanent residence status

Lawful permanent residents in Pennsylvania have the ability to petition on behalf of certain relatives and then to sponsor those relatives to help them become lawful permanent residents themselves. People may only petition for certain types of relatives, however, and must be able to meet the requirements for doing so.

Lawful permanent residents may petition on behalf of their spouses and unmarried children of any age. They are unable to petition on behalf of a married child, however. Only U.S. citizens are allowed to petition for married children. The process starts by the resident completing the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service Form I-130, which is the Petition for Alien Relative form. Along with the form, documentation proving the claimed relationship must also be filed.

The relatives will then be given a place in line depending on the filing date of the petition. People should be aware that the wait may take a few years. When the person reaches his or her place, USCIS contacts them. The sponsor must then complete a Form I-864, which is an affidavit of support through which the permanent resident agrees to financially support the relative. In the event a lawful permanent resident becomes a U.S. citizen, he or she may then upgrade the petition status and visas will be made immediately available to the waiting spouse and children.

As the process and wait time is much shorter for U.S. citizens petitioning on behalf of their family members than for permanent residents, people who are eligible may want to consider filing a citizenship application. Doing so may shave years off the immigration process for the person's spouse and children, and may also allow the new citizen to petition for married children as well.

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "How do I help my relative become a U.S. permanent resident?", accessed on Feb. 10, 2015

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