bigstock-Immigration-3151682Most people know that citizens of the United States are able to sponsor foreign citizens for visas and green cards (lawful permanent resident status), but current lawful permanent residents are also allowed to sponsor foreign citizens. Lawful permanent residents, as current green card holders, are allowed by the U.S. to sponsor spouses and unmarried children of any age. The rules for foreign citizenship sponsorship are a little different for lawful permanent residents than U.S. citizens; for example, only U.S. citizens are allowed to sponsor married children.

The Application Process

For the current lawful permanent resident to sponsor a husband, wife, or unmarried child, the resident will have to begin the process by filing Form I-130 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Form I-130 is also known as a Petition for Alien Relative. By filling out this form, the sponsoring permanent resident helps the sponsored foreign citizen get a place in line for green card approval.

The place in line is determined by the date that the petition was filed, so filing sooner is typically better. The amount of time between filing the petition and reaching the front of the line can take several years, due in large part to high demand for these types of visas and limits on the number of these types of visas that the government will issue.

Dealing with Status Changes

Since lawful permanent residents are able to sponsor unmarried children, the child’s petition will be automatically revoked if the child does happen to marry. Therefore, if a lawful permanent resident is trying to sponsor a child who is engaged to be married or in a serious relationship, it would be in the child’s best interests if any actual wedding plans were postponed until after a petition decision has been reached. However, if the sponsoring lawful permanent resident is upgraded to naturalized U.S. citizen before a child marries, then the recently upgraded U.S. citizen would be allowed to sponsor his or her married child.

An Application Does Not Allow Residency

Unfortunately, an application to sponsor a foreign citizen does not allow the foreign citizen entrance into the United States nor does it allow the foreign citizen to wait in the United States while his or her application is being filed. Unless the foreign citizen can enter the country legally on his or her own, his or her unlawful presence in the U.S. could have a negative effect on the outcome of a petition when his or her application reaches the front of the line.

Always Best to Speak with an Attorney

The application process and all the rules for sponsoring a foreign citizen as a lawful permanent resident can be pretty confusing for anyone without knowledge of immigration law. For this reason, prospective sponsors of foreign citizens, whether the sponsor is a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen, are encouraged to seek the advice of experienced immigration legal counsel. An experienced immigration attorney can explain the entire process to the prospective sponsor to ensure the person he or she wants to sponsor can apply for resident status as quickly and with as little trouble as possible.