Brothers and Sisters are family

By: Alex Cuic, Esquire, Robert Brown LLC

There are specific ways that one can bring a relative residing overseas to the United States as an immigrant. Most every one knows that marriage to a United States citizen is one of the ways. However, there are several other relationships that permit, a United States citizen, to bringing a family to reside here as a permanent resident. Today, we will discuss the often overlooked brother or sister sibling petition.

If you are a United States citizen twenty-one (21) years of age or older, you are eligible to petition for a brother or sister to become a lawful permanent resident. However, what many are unaware of is that "sibling" is a broadly defined term. Not only does a "sibling" include your brother or sister of whom you share common parents, but it also includes step-brothers and sisters, half-brothers and sisters and even adopted siblings. Depending on the parental marital status or relationship, certain distinct and specific documentation may be required.

In addition to the broad class of sibling relationships that are available, another benefit is that separate petitions are not required for your sibling's husband or wife or even their unmarried children under twenty-one (21) years of age. Simply stated, when applying, you will only need to complete one petition for your siblings entire family, instead of filing separate petitions for each family member.

Keep in mind however, once you petition for your sibling and their family members, there may be a significant waiting period before an immigrant visa will become available to them. Once your application is approved, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will then send the approved visa petition to the Department of State's National Visa Center (NVC), where it will remain until an immigrant visa number is available. The National Visa Center will notify your sibling when their petition is received and when their, and their family's, visa number is available.

Thus, when petitioning for your sibling, your petition will receive a "priority date" which is essentially a date of receipt for your application. Each month, the United States Department of State publishes a monthly visa bulletin which lists which particular priority dates are being processed for different immigration categories and birth countries. Since each immigration category has a limited number of visas, the NVC will process immigrant visas according to an individual's priority date, meaning that your sibling will need to wait until their priority date is current before being able to obtain an immigrant visa. Sibling petitions are considered a "fourth preference" family based category with respect to immigrant visas. Given this preference category, the time in between your petition and your sibling obtaining their immigrant visa is, based on the January 2009 visa bulletin, presently is about an eleven (11) year wait. The wait may be longer or shorter depending on which country your sibling is from. However, although the wait is lengthy, think of your application as an investment into your siblings immigration future, which may not bring an immediate reward, but holds the promise of his or her arrival in the United States at a future time.

So why should you petition for your sibling? First, it affords your sibling an opportunity to immigrate to the United States, reside here as a permanent resident and reunite with you and your family. Also, with discussions of possible immigration reform, this avenue of permanent residency may fall to the way-side and eventually eliminated. Should this occur, without you applying for your bother or sister, you may never be able to do so again. However, if you have already petitioned and this immigrant category is eliminated, chances are your petition, will continue to be processed and your sibling will be afforded the opportunity to reside in the United States. Given the minimal costs and high amount of benefit, the smart choice is to apply for your brother or sister today.

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