It is possible for a person to bring a sibling to the U.S. with permanent residence status, that is, a “green card”. There are certain requirements and restrictions, however. 

Generally, only U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old may sponsor their siblings to reside permanently in the United States. Lawful permanent residents, that is, “green card” holders, cannot sponsor their siblings to live permanently in the U.S. A qualified citizen would want to submit a Petition for Alien Relatives (I-130) and supporting documents as described in greater detail below.

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How Do the Immigration Authorities Define a Sibling?

Immigration law defines a sibling relationship as one in which each person is a child of at least one of the same parents. Siblings include:

  • Brothers and sisters;
  • Step-brothers and step-sisters;
  • Paternal half-brothers and half-sisters, that is half-siblings who have the same father; 
  • Maternal half-brothers and half-sisters, that is half-siblings who have the same mother; or
  • Adopted brothers and sisters.

What Materials Do I Need?

Certain steps must be followed if a person who is a U.S. citizen wants to sponsor a sibling’s immigration. First, a person must file a completed Petition for Alien Relatives with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Petition must be submitted along with all the documentation needed for the authorities to process the Petition. Which documents must be submitted with the Petition depends on the relationship between a person and their sibling. 

For example, if they have the same mother, they will not have to provide as much information as with a sibling relationship where there are different mothers. The person who submits the Petition for Alien Relative and the supporting documents is called the “petitioner”. 

Documents needed include:

Please note that Form I-130 is used by people who want to bring in foreign spouses also. So, when applying for a sibling, it is important to tick the “third box” of the first part which is “Relationship.”

The Form I130 is divided into 9 parts and has more than 100 questions, some of which are compulsory. Other questions are not compulsory or are not applicable when applying for siblings. The 9 parts are as follows::

  • Relationship;
  • Petitioner information;
  • Biographic information;
  • Beneficiary information (i.e. information about the petitioner’s sibling);
  • Other information (concerning whether the petitioner previously filed a petition or has brought in other siblings);
  • Contact information, a statement, a  declaration, and the signature of the petitioner;
  • Contact information, a declaration, and the signature of an interpreter, if one has been involved;
  • Contact information, a declaration, and the signature of the preparer (if prepared by someone other than the petitioner); and
  • Additional information.

When filling out the first part, which is “Relationship,” a petitioner should make sure to check off “brother” or “sister”. Also, a petitioner should clarify whether their sibling is related by blood or adopted. They do not have to be related by blood and the petitioner should remember to clarify the nature of the sibling relationship accordingly.

If a petitioner already knows that they cannot supply the necessary supporting documents or have other issues that will prevent their application from being processed, then the petitioner may need to contact an experienced immigration lawyer for guidance and advice.

Certain additional documents are required in cases of siblings through adoption, step parents or paternal half-siblings. They are:

If the petitioner and their sibling are related through adoption, they must also submit:

  • A copy of the adoption decree showing that the adoption took place before the petitioner and their sibling (the adopted child) became 16 years old.

If the petitioner and their sibling are related through a step-parent, then the following must be submitted:

  • Copies of documents showing that any prior marriage(s) of the natural parent and/or step-parent were terminated legally, AND
  • A copy of the certificate of the step-parent to the natural parent (age restrictions for meeting the definition of a step-child apply).

If the petitioner and their sibling have a common biological father, but different mothers, i.e. they are paternal half-siblings, the following must be submitted:

  • Copies of the certificates of the marriage of the father to each mother,  AND
  • Copies of documents showing that any prior marriages of either the father or mothers were legally terminated. 

Please keep in mind that if the name of the petitioner or the sibling has changed, then proof of the legal name change must be submitted as well. This might be a marriage certificate, divorce decree, adoption decree, or court judgment of name change, depending on why the name was changed.

How Long Will It Take Before I Can Bring My Sibling?

The nature of the petitioner’s relationship with the sibling and the number of other people applying for green cards determine when the sibling will obtain permanent resident status. USCIS imposes a quota limiting the number of green cards issued for each country every year. These quotas can depend on the number of visas that were issued for each category in the year before. Siblings from certain countries, such as India or Mexico, generally have long waits. Unfortunately, it can take as long as 12 years.

It is not possible for the sibling to enter the United States before the petition for the visa is granted. Usually the sibling is not eligible for a nonimmigrant visa, while waiting for the green card.

If the petition for the visa is denied, the petitioner will receive a denial letter. It will tell the petitioner how to file an appeal and where to file it. After the appeal form and the required fee have been processed, the appeal will be submitted to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Can the Sibling I Bring to the United States Bring a Spouse or Children with Them?

If the sibling you are sponsoring is married, then their spouse and children are also permitted to permanently reside in the United States. If the sibling you are sponsoring is unmarried and over 21, her children are also permitted to reside in the United States. But, if your sibling is unmarried and under 21, then she would have to sponsor her child once she is in the United States and has obtained permanent residency.

As with any immigration application, knowingly providing false information on an application or during the process can result in immigration fraud charges. So it is best to provide only true and correct information to the USCIS.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Bring My Sibling into the United States?

The law regarding Petitions for Alien Relatives is technical and complicated. It would be best to have an experienced immigration attorney help you navigate the process of applying for a green card for a sibling. An attorney understands the type of documentation that must be submitted with the petition and how to obtain such items. 

Because the wait for a green card may be lengthy, a person wants to submit a Petition that is correct and is supported by all of the required documents. It is important to get it right the first time. For this reason, the help of an experienced immigration lawyer is critical.