How Does Immigration Sponsorship Work?

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Immigration sponsorship can be provided by family members or companies, depending on the type of visa being received. Certain visas require sponsorship in order to be deemed valid by the USCIS. In these cases, the sponsor acts as a guarantor that the individual being sponsored has good intentions and plans on holding down a job, supporting a family and integrating into U.S. society.

Family Sponsor Requirements

The sponsor for a family visa must be a United States citizen or hold a Green Card. There are two types of family sponsors: immediate relatives and non-immediate family members.

Immediate relatives include spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age and parents. This category is used by people seeking to bring their parents, spouses and minor children over to the United States. Non-immediate family members include siblings, married children and unmarried children over 21 years of age. Grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts may not immigrate through family sponsorship.

The process is expedited for immediate relatives, but the sponsor must still prove viable income and maintain a stable enough lifestyle to maintain a steady relationship with the United States Customs and Immigration Services agency over the several years it will take for the immigrant to receive his or her own Green Card. They must also continually vouch for the immigrant's reputation as well as maintain a consistent relationship with the immigrant verifiable by law. Sponsors must also maintain clean criminal records.

Work Sponsorship Requirements

In order to sponsor an immigrant to come to the United States, a company must be registered with the United States and have a clean criminal record. It must show proof that it intends to employ the immigrant as a full-time worker and pay him or her a living, average wage according to the field in which the immigrant will be employed. This is generally accepted to be the state minimum wage.

Additionally, the company will have to fill out a variety of forms and may need to pay a fee to the U.S. Government in order to sponsor an incoming worker. These fees can be in excess of $2,000 per worker for the initial visa sponsorship and may even exceed $10,000 over the course of the entire Green Card sponsorship application.

Forms and Responsibilities

Whether filing for family or employer-based sponsorship, the process involves a lot of responsibility with the USCIS. It begins with filing paperwork, and over the course of the following 2-3 years, a company or family member will need to fill out paperwork, pay fees and help the USCIS sure that the immigrant is conducting himself or herself lawfully.

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