I was on the phone with a client yesterday. He just became a US citizen. He was wondering what does it take to bring his brother or sister to the United States and obtain permanent residence. En Español.
Now you’re probably aware that there’s a long, long wait for a brother or sister of US citizens to come to the United States. The reason for this is that Congress has placed a cap on the number of these visas that are available every year. Depending on your country of origin, the wait can be as short as 13 years or as long as 20 years based on current numbers at the State Department that they issue through the visa bulletin.
If you’re in the United States on a green card and you’re thinking about sponsoring your brother or sister, you’re not going to be able to do it until you become a US citizen.
It’s a long, long wait and the process works like this. Once you become a US citizen you file what’s called an I-130. It’s a visa petition for an alien relative and that goes to USCIS. Due to the long delay in visas being available and the line for a green card to come to the United States is so long, USCIS doesn’t place a high priority on adjudicating and deciding these I-130s.
When you file your I-130, you’ll get a receipt notice and then you won’t hear from immigration for quite some time. Lately, we’ve been seeing people get their decisions about 4 or 5 years after their file.
This is because if you move and they can’t forward the mail to you, you might miss a deadline to reply to a question from the Immigration Service or you might miss the approval altogether. You really want to make sure that if you have any pending I-130 for your brother or sister, you’re updating USCIS with your address.
Another thing we’ve been noticing is that we’ve been getting a lot of push-back from USCIS on birth certificates and documents related to the brother or sister relationship. What do I mean? Well, one thing is, a lot of people that we work with come from countries where birth certificates were not so prevalent back in the home country when the US citizens sponsor or the foreign beneficiary were born. Let’s say people were born back in India in 1956. Well back in India, there might not have been birth certificates as readily available as there are now.
Now, most countries have adopted a birth certificate generation system and are issuing birth certificates, even for people born way back when but the problem is USCIS is taking a position that these late filed birth certificates are generated years later when the people are adults are not as compelling evidence as USCIS would like. I think this is generally ridiculous, but I can see their point. They want to make sure that there is a brother/sister relationship and the birth certificate is an important way to do that.
This means you might have to submit a lot of secondary evidence that shows that you’re in fact, brother and sister. This can include affidavits from older siblings or relatives, school records, family records, any kind of documents that you see that demonstrate that you are together; photographs of the two of you like school pictures. These are the kinds of things that really work.
One problem, in particular, is that when the parents of the brother and sister who are applying have passed away, it prevents us from being able to get DNA which is the silver bullet in establishing the brother-sister relationship. USCIS and the State Department won’t accept a match just between a brother and sister. You have to go up to the parents and get their DNA and then establish with the help of a DNA lab that the brother and sister are in fact related. This can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.
You really want to think this through when you’re getting the process started because what you don’t want is to file your I-130 which is a relatively straightforward process and then the case languishes for 4 or 5 years. Then, all of a sudden, you get a request for evidence from USCIS giving you 60 days to basically prove that your brother is your brother or your sister is your sister and you’re scrambling over those 60 days to either do DNA lab work or find old documents. Very stressful, and we’ve seen more than one case gets denied because the family was not able to get their documents together. These are cases where the people filed on their own and came to us after the request for evidence was issued.
One other thing to keep in mind, when we do the I-130 here at our office, we sort of split up the legal fee and the processing fee into 2 parts. One is the I-130 part with USCIS and the other is the State Department part with the NVC and the Embassy.
Right now, we are getting started on a brother of a US citizen I-130 and so we basically only charge half our legal fee for that because nobody knows where we are all going to be 13 years from now. You might want to use a different attorney, or I might never be around or whatever. You might not be around, so we don’t charge the whole thing upfront, we do it split 50-50, and then on the backend right now, it’s pretty exciting.
We are getting to help someone who had filed for her brother from Bosnia 13 years ago and now we are going through the second part of the process with the National Visa Center and the Embassy because his visa number finally became available, and he’s in line now to get his green card and come to the United States.
If you have any questions about our citizenship and immigration services or about sponsoring brothers and sisters to the United States to get them a green card, give us a call at (314) 961-8200, or email us at [email protected]. Thanks a lot.