The Immigration Law Guide
How to Sponsor an Immigrant
In this article, we explain how to sponsor an immigrant in 6 straight-forward steps and explore the requirements to become an immigration sponsor.
If you want to help someone abroad start a new chapter in the United States, then you’ve probably heard of immigration sponsorship. Whether the individual is your spouse, family member, friend, or employee, sponsoring an immigrant can be both rewarding and life-changing.
How to Sponsor an Immigrant: Step by Step Instructions
This is an overview of the process you must complete in order to sponsor an immigrant for a green card. If you have questions about any of these steps, consider reaching out to a qualified immigration lawyer for legal guidance.
Step 1: File a petition.
The first step involves filing a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As the petitioner, you may choose to do this via paper mail or electronically.
1) Family members file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
2) Employers file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker.
If your petition is approved by USCIS, you will receive a welcome letter from the National Visa Center (NVC).
Step 2: Pay the necessary fees.
While the NVC is processing your case, you can log in to the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to check your status and send and receive messages. Through this same portal, you can also pay the processing fees, which will be described in your welcome letter.
There are two fees to pay:
1) Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee
2) Affidavit of Support Fee
Step 3: File an Affidavit of Support.
You must fill out and file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support in order to accept financial responsibility for the applicant who is immigrating to the US. This is a legally enforceable contract. Learn more about your financial and legal responsibilities when sponsoring an immigrant.
Step 4: Provide supporting documents.
As the petitioner in your case, you will be responsible for providing supporting financial and civil documents. You must gather evidence of your finances and other information.
To determine the specific evidence you need to submit, you can use the Financial Evidence Assistant tool provided by the US Department of State.
At this time, the applicant in your case must also complete an online visa application and provide supporting documents.
Step 5: Wait for the applicant interview to take place.
Once you and the applicant have scanned and submitted all required documentation, your case will be reviewed by the NVC. This may take some time, but you can check the NVC Timeframes page to see which cases are currently under review.
If approved, the NVC will schedule a visa interview appointment and notify you as the petitioner as well as the applicant themselves. As the sponsor or petitioner, you do not attend the visa interview.
Step 6: Wait for approval or denial.
At the end of the interview process, the consular officer will inform the applicant whether their visa has been approved or denied.
If the application is approved:
The immigrant will receive specific information regarding when their visa and passport will be available through pick-up at the embassy or via mail.
If the application is denied:
You and the applicant will be informed regarding the legal reasons for their decision. Depending on the details of your case, you may be eligible for a waiver, in which case you will be given specific steps on how to proceed by the consular.
What are the requirements to become a sponsor?
Not everyone can qualify for sponsorship and in order to be approved, you’ll have to meet and provide proof of certain criteria.
To be eligible to become an immigration sponsor you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be a US citizen or current green-card holder
- Maintain residence in the US or one of its territories
- Meet the relevant income requirements
What is immigration sponsorship?
Immigration sponsorship gives individuals the opportunity to assist an immigrant in coming to the US by pledging long-term financial support upon their arrival.
The sponsor is legally and financially responsible for the immigrant via a contract with the US government. This is to prevent the immigrant from becoming dependent on government programs during their time in the US.
As a sponsor, you will be beholden to the associated financial and legal responsibilities until the immigrant:
- Is awarded US citizenship
- Earns 40 quarters of credited work (10 years)
- Dies or permanently leaves the US