With help from a U.S. sibling, a foreign national seeking a green card can immigrate to the U.S. In many cases, a U.S. citizen sibling “sponsors” a foreign brother or sister’s application for a visa — the first step in obtaining a green card. This page was designed to help U.S. citizens learn more about the process of obtaining a sibling green card and decide if they should contact an immigration lawyer.
The following topics are covered on this page:
- Brother or Sister Immigration
- Definition of Sibling
- Family-Preference Visa
- Applying for a Sibling Green Card
- Visa Attorney
While certain legal concepts are discussed on this page, it is not intended as a substitute for consulting a qualified attorney. Each family immigration case is different, and filing mistakes can be costly and lead to denial of application. To find out if an immigration attorney can help in your specific case, contact our office for more information.
Brother or Sister Immigration
There are two different categories of U.S. family members eligible to petition, or “sponsor,” foreign relatives for immigration stateside:
- If the sponsoring family member is a U.S. citizen, and qualifies as an “immediate relative,” they can obtain green cards for certain family members fairly easily. The U.S. government doesn’t put an annual limit on the number of immediate family visas issued each year, and once a petition is approved, there usually isn’t a waiting period for a visa. This category doesn’t apply to siblings.
- If the sponsoring U.S. family member qualifies as a “close relative,” they can sponsor certain types of green card applicants. Persons seeking to immigrate as a close relative usually do so under the family-preference system. Because a limited number of preference visas are issued each year, wait times should be expected.
Unfortunately, in the case of petitioners hoping to obtain a sibling green card, the only way to apply is under the second, or close-relative category. This means siblings are limited in their options for sponsoring immigration and are subject to longer wait times than persons filing under the immediate family category.
Once a foreign national is issued a green card, he or she is granted permanent resident status. This means they are eligible to live and work in the U.S. They also become eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. To learn more about how to become a citizen, visit our US citizenship page.
Definition of Sibling
The government generally defines siblings as children who share at least one common parent. There is no difference in petitioning if a person seeks a green card for a brother or a green card for a sister. U.S citizens who seek a green card for half siblings are eligible to petition under the law in certain cases. It is also possible for a sibling to petition for immigration on behalf of an adopted sibling or step sibling in certain cases. A sibling sponsoring a relative for green card must be a U.S. citizen, and at least 21 years old.
The U.S. Government considered the definition of the term sibling back in 1975 in the Matter of Garner , which continues to guide the immigration system today. At the time, the government was ruling on a visa application between a U.S. citizen and her half-sister. At issue was whether or not the U.S. citizen could petition for her half-sister who lived in England and was born out of wedlock to a common father.
While the government established that a sibling relationship exists when a petitioner and beneficiary are children of a common parent, it ultimately denied the particular petitioners’ appeal. It was determined that the foreign national didn’t qualify for immigration because her relationship with her father wasn’t legitimated until he was married, which occurred after her 18th birthday.
This example of immigration law is meant to demonstrate the subtleties that arise when considering something as seemingly simple as the definition of sibling. If you have questions about whether or not you qualify as a sibling under current immigration laws, contact our office for more information.
Family Preference for Brothers or Sisters
While there are multiple family-preference categories (spouses of lawful residents, adult children etc.), the category that applies to siblings is known as the fourth preference visa. The U.S. Department of State limits the number of fourth preference visas issued annually to 65,000.
Applying for a Sibling Green Card
The process of applying for a green card for brother or a green card for sister begins with the U.S. citizen filing a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130). This form is filed through US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Unlike the immediate family category, the petitioner in a family-preference case must wait for a visa to become available before the foreign national can file an Application to Register Permanent Status (Form I-485). Once this form is approved, a green card will be issued.
The documentation required to file for a sibling green card includes birth certificates demonstrating the siblings have at least one common parent, as well as proof of the U.S. petitioner’s citizenship. In cases involving adopted siblings or step siblings, adoption decrees will be necessary as will copies of marriage certificates and marriage termination papers.
Do I Need an Attorney?
Whether you are petitioning for a green card for brother or a green card for sister, you should retain the services of a lawyer. Immigration law is complex, and the federal bureaucracy is vast. A qualified attorney will help the client avoid filing errors that could be costly, time consuming, and lead to application denials.
If you are attempting to obtain a sibling green card for a sister or brother and would like to find out how an experienced attorney can help you, contact our office for more information.
 Matter of Garner, 15 I&N Dec. 215 (BIA 1975)