Definition of Key Terms
These key terms are highlighted in blue on this page to help clarify the application process.
Adjustment of Status
The process of obtaining a "Green Card" if you are already inside the U.S.
Department of State (DOS)
The agency that processes the Green Card Application if the applicant is applying outside the U.S.
The form that tells you what your Priority Date is
Immigrant Visa (applicant is outside the US) or Adjustment of Status (applicant is inside the US). Step 2 of the family-sponsorship process
Lawful Permanent Resident Status
Green Card Status
Form I-130. Step 1 of the family-sponsorship process
The document issued by a foreign consulate that allows the bearer to enter the U.S. in "Immigrant Status." The bearer becomes a Lawful Permanent Resident upon entry into the U.S.
The date that the Immigrant Petition is filed
The US Citizen who files Form I-130 on behalf of a brother or sister
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services
(USCIS, formerly the INS)
The agency that processes the Immigrant Petition. It is also the agency that processes the Green Card Application if the applicant is applying in the U.S.
Department of State publication that announces when a Priority Date is current.
In order to file an Immigrant Petition for your brother or sister, you must be a U.S. Citizen and at least 21 years of age. If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident, you are not eligible to sponsor your brothers or sisters for "Green Card" Status.
Sponsoring your brother or sister for a Green Card Status is a two-step process. The first step is filing the Immigrant Petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the INS). The second step in the process is applying for the Green Card. Find out more about what it takes to sponsor your sibling for a Green Card. Purchase our step-by-step guide to Green Card Through Family Sponsorship, which provides everything you need to know to navigate the process.
In the typical scenario, your brother or sister will be outside the U.S. and will apply for the Green Card at a U.S. consulate in his or her country of residence. Already have an Approved Immigrant Petition? Immigration Direct offers valuable information about the Immigrant Visa Process and Interview. Click here to get our Immigrant Visa e-kit, which provides an easy-to-understand overview of the Immigrant Visa process from start to finish. Click here to get our DVD, with important tips on preparing for the Immigrant Visa Interview.
In the less common scenario, the Green Card application is made with USCIS after your brother or sister has entered the U.S in some other visa status. Interested in learning about visa options? Get more information on the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa process. Learn the requirements to qualify for H-1B visa status. Click here to find out more about L-1 visas for inter-company transfers. Click here to find out what it takes to qualify as a Treaty Investor.
Before your brother or sister can apply for the Green Card, two things must have happened. First, the I-130 Immigrant Petition must have been approved. Second, your brother or sister’s Priority Date must be current. Already have an Approved Immigrant Petition? Click here to find out if your Priority Date is current so that you can proceed to the next step.
What is a "Priority Date"?
The "Priority Date" is the date that you file the Immigrant Petition on behalf of your brother or sister. If you have already filed an Immigrant Petition, you can find your "Priority Date" on the top, left-hand corner of the Form I-797 Receipt Notice or Approval Notice you received after your filed Form I-130 with USCIS.
What does it mean for a Priority Date to be "current"?
If a Priority Date is "current" it means that there is a "visa slot" available for your brother or sister. If your brother or sister’s Priority Date is "current", click here to start the Green Card application.
U.S. immigration law limits the number of people who enter the U.S. as Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) on the basis of sponsorship by a U.S. citizen sibling. Specifically, the U.S. has 65,000 "visa slots" reserved for individuals who are immigrating as the brother or sister of a U.S. citizen. Each year, the number of Approved Immigrant Petitions exceeds the number of "visa slots." Because of this, a backlog has occurred.
The Department of State processes visa applicants on a "first-come, first-serve" basis, which is determined by when the Immigrant Petition was filed. The Department of State allows visa applicants whose Immigrant Petitions were filed earliest to fill all the available slots. For this reason, it is important to file the Immigrant Petition as soon as possible. Click here to get started with the Form I-130, Immigrant Petition.
The Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin that tells applicants when their Priority Date is current. Your brother or sister can check if their Priority Date is current by comparing the Priority Date that appears on the left-hand corner of the I-797 Approval Notice for the I-130 Immigrant Petition with the date that is published in the Department of State’s monthly Visa Bulletin. Your sibling can figure out what the current Priority Date is by looking at the row marked "4th" and the column that indicates his or her country of nationality. If the Priority Date on the I-797 Approval Notice is the same as or earlier than the date that appears in the cell reserved for applicants from your sibling’s country in the "4th" Family preference category, then a visa number is available and your sibling can proceed with the "Green Card" application. Click here to compare your brother or sister’s Priority Date with the current Visa Bulletin.
How long will it take for my brother or sister’s Priority Date to become current?
The answer to this depends in part on your brother or sister’s country of birth. If your brother or sister was born in China, India, Mexico or Philippines, he or she may have to wait longer than other applicants for a visa number to become available. This is because applicants from these four countries have historically had higher rates of immigration to the U.S. than applicants from any other country and the Department of State does not permit family-based applicants from one country to immigrate at a higher rate than immigrants from any other country.
For all applicants, the wait to immigrate as the brother or sister of a U.S. citizen is very lengthy. Individuals can expect to wait approximately ten years for a Priority Date to become current. Applicants from India and China currently have the same wait time as applicants from most other countries, but applicants from Mexico can expect to wait thirteen years, and applicants from Philippines can expect to wait 22 years. Click here to see a list of visa wait times for all categories.
Can my brother or sister enter the U.S. before the Priority Date is current?
Your brother or sister will not be eligible to apply for a Green Card until his or her Priority Date is current. However, your sibling may be able to enter the U.S. on a "non-immigrant" visa while waiting for an immigrant visa number to become available. Please note that it will be difficult or impossible to obtain certain "non-immigrant" visas after an Immigrant Petition has been filed on behalf of your sibling. However, certain employment-based categories allow an applicant to enter the U.S. in a "non-immigrant" status even after an Immigrant Petition has been filed. Interested in learning more about employment visas? Click here to get our informative e-kit on navigating the H-1B process. Click here to find out more about L-1 visas for inter-company transfers.
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