Family sponsorship is one of the most common paths for immigration to the United States. U.S. citizens or permanent residents can submit applications on behalf of qualifying family members, petitioning for the government to grant them an immigrant visa. Different family relationships qualify based on the immigration status of the sponsoring family member.
A U.S. citizen can petition for a:
- Parent (if the U.S. citizen child is at least 21)
- Sibling (if the U.S. citizen sibling is at least 21)
A permanent resident (green card holder) can petition for a:
- Unmarried child
Wait times for a visa vary widely based on family relationships, also known as their preference category. Immediate relatives (spouse, fiancé(e), unmarried child under 21, or parent) of U.S. citizens do not have to wait for visa availability once their applications are approved, so their processing times are much shorter than those in other preference categories.
Wait times can also vary based on nation of origin. For example, U.S. citizens who applied for a visa for their married child from Mexico have been waiting for over 25 years.
There’s a prevalent myth that it’s easy to immigrate to the U.S. if you have family members living here, but that is not the case. Qualifications for family sponsorships are limited to close relatives, and nationality plays a huge role in processing times. Many with a legal path to immigrate through family members are still forced to wait years or even decades for a visa.
Source for further reading: https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-eligibility-categories
 Note: Fiancé(e) visas are not technically immigrant visas. Instead they grant temporary permission for the fiancé(e) to legally enter the country in order to get married. The U.S. citizen spouse would later file a petition for them to adjust status after being married.
 Based on the State Department Visa Bulletin for May 2023.