U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can bring their family members to the United States through family-based immigration. It is the most common type of immigration case, it allows a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to sponsor certain family members and get their immigration approved.

But family-based immigration does not come without rules and limitations. Only certain family members can be sponsored and depending on who is applying, the process can either be quick or last several years.

Who Can You Sponsor?

Which family members can be sponsored depends on whether the sponsor is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.

U.S. Citizens

Citizens of the United States can sponsor four classes of family members:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings

Distant family members, such as cousins, aunts, or uncles, cannot be sponsored directly by a U.S. citizen.

Lawful Permanent Residents

Those with lawful permanent resident status, on the other hand, can only sponsor the following family members:

  • Spouse
  • Children

If the sponsor is a lawful permanent resident, no other family members are permitted to be sponsored directly by them.

How Long Will The Immigration Case Take?

There are different processing times for each group of family members. Some will run faster than others because of Congress’ system that gives priority to family members that are more closely related to the sponsor.

Immediate relatives, including spouses, children under 21, and parents, are not subject to the Visa Bulletin and hence move the fastest among other family-based immigration cases. Sponsoring siblings, however, moves the slowest and can last 12 to 15 years. For some countries, such as Mexico and the Philippines, the immigration case can take even longer.

Before sponsoring a family member to immigrate to the U.S., it’s recommended that the sponsor checks the Visa Bulletin and considers the processing times for their particular case.