A US citizen or permanent resident may sponsor their family members for permanent residency and/or US citizenship. For immediate relatives of US citizens (spouses, parents and unmarried children under age of 21), the process is streamlined and all the paperwork can be filed at the same time. All others must undertake a three stage process:
- The petitioner must file an immigrant petition for his or her relative;
- The beneficiary must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available; and
- If the relative may apply then apply for permanent residency and obtain a green card.
The filing of an immigrant petition does not give the beneficiary legal status. If the beneficiary wishes to wait for an immigrant visa number in the US, he or she must obtain a nonimmigrant family visa or work visa. Otherwise, the beneficiary must wait outside of the US.