Bringing your loved ones to live with you in the United States can be an exciting and challenging journey. As a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you have the privilege of sponsoring certain family members for permanent residency in the United States. But what about cousins? Are they eligible for sponsorship? This blog post will explore the ins and outs of cousin sponsorship, including who you can sponsor, what a cousin is, and the challenges you may face during the sponsorship process. So, if you’re considering sponsoring your cousin to the USA, keep reading to learn more.
Who Can You Sponsor?
The United States offers several family-based immigration options for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor their family members. The family-based immigration system is divided into two main categories: immediate relative visas and family preference visas.
Immediate relative visas are reserved for the closest family members of U.S. citizens, including spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents. These visas have no numerical limits and are processed quickly compared to family preference visas.
Family preference visas, on the other hand, are for more distant relatives, including adult children, siblings, and married children of U.S. citizens, as well as spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents. These visas have limited numerical allocations and are subject to long waiting periods.
Within the family preference category, there are four preference levels:
- Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
- Spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of lawful permanent residents
- Unmarried sons and daughters (21 and over) of lawful permanent residents
- Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
- Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.
It’s important to note that only U.S. citizens can sponsor siblings and married children, while lawful permanent residents can only sponsor spouses and unmarried children.
What Is a Cousin?
A cousin is a relative who shares a common ancestor but is not a sibling or a direct descendant. Cousins can be classified into several types, including first cousins, second cousins, and so on, based on the degree of the relationship. First cousins share a set of grandparents, while second cousins share a set of great-grandparents.
In the context of immigration, cousins are considered distant relatives and fall under the family preference visa category. This means that U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can sponsor their cousins, but the process can be more complicated than sponsoring immediate relatives. Unlike immediate relatives, there is a limit to the number of family preference visas that can be issued each year, which can result in long waiting periods for visa processing.
Can You Sponsor a Cousin to the USA?
Yes, you can sponsor your cousin for permanent residency in the United States. However, cousin sponsorship falls under the family preference visa category, which means that it can be a lengthy and challenging process. As mentioned earlier, family preference visas have limited numerical allocations, and the demand for these visas far exceeds the supply. This results in long waiting periods, which can sometimes take several years.
Additionally, the process of sponsoring a cousin is more complex than sponsoring an immediate relative. To sponsor a cousin, you must first establish that you have a qualifying relationship with your cousin, provide evidence of financial support, and demonstrate that your cousin is not inadmissible to the United States based on health, criminal, or other grounds.
Furthermore, sponsoring a cousin requires the completion of multiple forms, including Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) and Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support). These forms require careful completion and documentation, as mistakes or incomplete information can result in delays or even denial of the application.
Alternatives to Cousin Sponsorship
If you’re unable to sponsor your cousin for permanent residency in the United States, there are other immigration options that you can explore. One alternative is the Diversity Visa Lottery program, which provides a limited number of visas to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The Diversity Visa Lottery is open to individuals from eligible countries who meet certain education or work experience requirements.
Another alternative is the employment-based immigration program. If your cousin has a unique skill set or a job offer from a U.S. employer, they may be eligible for an employment-based visa. The employment-based immigration program is divided into several categories, including extraordinary ability, advanced degree holders, and skilled workers.
If your cousin is in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, they may be able to change their status to a permanent resident through adjustment of status. This process requires that your cousin meets certain eligibility criteria, such as maintaining lawful status in the United States and completing the necessary forms and documentation.
How to Sponsor a Cousin
Sponsoring a cousin for permanent residency in the United States requires careful planning and documentation. Here are the steps involved in the process:
- Establish the qualifying relationship: To sponsor a cousin, you must establish that you have a qualifying relationship. This requires providing evidence of your family tree and demonstrating that you and your cousin share a common set of grandparents or great-grandparents.
- File Form I-130: Once you’ve established the qualifying relationship, you must file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form requires information about you and your cousin, including your biographical information, your relationship to your cousin, and your cousin’s biographical information.
- Provide evidence of financial support: As the sponsor, you must demonstrate that you have the financial means to support your cousin once they arrive in the United States. This requires completing Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) and providing documentation of your income and assets.
- Wait for visa processing: After you’ve submitted the petition and supporting documentation, you must wait for visa processing. The wait time can vary depending on the demand for family preference visas and other factors.
- Attend the visa interview: Once your cousin’s visa is processed, they will be required to attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. At the interview, they will be asked questions about their background and their intent to immigrate to the United States.
- Travel to the United States: After the visa interview, your cousin will be able to travel to the United States and become a permanent resident.
What Happens After You Sponsor a Cousin?
After you sponsor a cousin for permanent residency in the United States, your cousin will become a lawful permanent resident and receive a green card. As a green card holder, your cousin will have the right to live and work in the United States permanently and travel outside the country for temporary periods.
As the sponsor, you will be responsible for providing financial support for your cousin for a period of time. You will be required to complete Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) and provide documentation of your income and assets to demonstrate that you have the financial means to support your cousin. The length of the support obligation can vary depending on your cousin’s age, employment status, and other factors.
It’s important to note that sponsoring a cousin for permanent residency in the United States is a significant responsibility that requires careful planning and preparation. You will be responsible for ensuring that your cousin complies with all immigration regulations and maintains their lawful permanent resident status. If your cousin violates any immigration regulations or commits certain criminal offenses, they may be subject to deportation.
Common Issues with Cousin Sponsorship
While sponsoring a cousin for permanent residency in the United States is a viable option, there are several common issues that can arise during the process. Here are some of the most common issues:
- Qualifying relationship: To sponsor a cousin, you must demonstrate that you have a qualifying relationship. This can be difficult if your family tree is complex or if there are gaps in your documentation.
- Financial support: As the sponsor, you must demonstrate that you have the financial means to support your cousin once they arrive in the United States. This requires completing Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) and providing documentation of your income and assets. If you do not meet the income requirements, your cousin’s application may be denied.
- Visa backlog: Family preference visas are subject to annual numerical limits, which can result in significant visa backlogs. The wait time for a family preference visa can vary depending on the demand for visas and other factors.
- Changes in circumstances: If your circumstances change during the sponsorship process, such as a loss of income or a change in marital status, it can affect your ability to sponsor your cousin.
- Immigration violations: If your cousin has violated immigration regulations or committed certain criminal offenses, they may be ineligible for permanent residency in the United States.
How Long Does Cousin Sponsorship Take?
The length of time it takes to sponsor a cousin for permanent residency in the United States can vary depending on several factors, including the demand for visas and the efficiency of the immigration system. In general, the process can take several years.
First, you must file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The processing time for this form can vary depending on the demand for family preference visas and other factors.
Once your cousin’s petition is approved, they will be placed on a waiting list for a visa. The wait time for a visa can vary depending on the country of origin and the category of family preference. For example, the wait time for a cousin from the Philippines in the F4 family preference category can be up to 23 years, while the wait time for a cousin from Mexico in the same category can be up to 20 years.
After your cousin’s visa becomes available, they will be required to attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The wait time for the visa interview can also vary depending on the demand for visa appointments and other factors.
Overall, the process of sponsoring a cousin for permanent residency in the United States can take several years, and it’s important to be prepared for a long wait.
Can You Appeal a Cousin Sponsorship Denial?
If your cousin’s application for permanent residency is denied, there may be options for appeal. The first step is to request a review of the decision by the USCIS. This is known as a Motion to Reopen or a Motion to Reconsider. The USCIS will review the decision and may overturn it if new evidence or information is presented.
If the USCIS denies the motion to reopen or reconsider, your cousin may be able to appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The BIA is a federal administrative court that reviews decisions made by the USCIS and other immigration agencies. Your cousin must file a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the USCIS decision.
If the BIA denies the appeal, your cousin may be able to appeal the decision to a federal court. This process can be lengthy and expensive, and it’s important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney if you’re considering this option.
While sponsoring a cousin to the United States is possible, it’s important to consider the challenges and limitations of the family preference visa category. If you’re considering sponsoring a cousin, it’s important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can guide you through the process and help you navigate any potential roadblocks.
Moreover, sponsoring a cousin for permanent residency in the United States is a significant responsibility. You will be responsible for providing financial support for your cousin and ensuring that they comply with all immigration regulations. This can be a long-term commitment that requires careful consideration and planning.