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Can a U.S. citizen in Florida help a relative get a green card?

Many U.S. citizens in Florida have family members overseas who would like to come to the U.S. and become permanent residents. U.S. immigration law allows U.S. citizens to sponsor their immediate relatives for legal permanent resident status, often referred to as a green card. Immediate relatives are defined to include the citizen's spouse; parents and siblings if the citizen is over age 21; and the citizen's married or unmarried children.

The U.S. citizen must be prepared to prove they can financially support the relative when the relative arrives in the U.S. The citizen must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The citizen must also submit documentation proving their relationship to the relative they are sponsoring.

Once the Form I-130 is filed and the relationship proved, the foreign-born relative will receive a place in line, based on the date the petition was filed, with other people from the same region or country with a similar relationship to a U.S. citizen. When the relative gets to the head of the line, they must still meet the requirements for entry to the U.S. and pass a background check.

A U.S. citizen cannot directly sponsor an immediate relative's children or spouse. Once the relative is at the front of the waiting line, however, the relative's spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 can apply for immigrant visas.

For eligible relatives of U.S. citizens, permanent residency status can be the first step on the road to citizenship. Those who are interested in sponsoring a relative for a green card, or pursuing other family immigration options, may wish to consult an immigration lawyer.

Source: U.S. Customs & Immigration Service, "I am a U.S. citizen: How do I help my relative become a U.S. permanent resident?" accessed Dec. 11, 2016

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