Home Education The Ultimate Guide to Helping a Relative Move to the US

The Ultimate Guide to Helping a Relative Move to the US

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Many people with citizenship or permanent resident status have family members outside the country. There are often situations when these people might like to bring their family to live closer. Eligibility for a Green Card allows for some people to petition on the basis of a family member who lives in the US. The method can be a fantastic way to reunite your family. The process of getting them into the country and helping with their new life can be complicated. If you have a family member who wants to move to the US, lending any help you can will be very welcome. You can support their application for permanent residency. And you can give them assistance with integrating once they arrive. Here are answers to some of the questions you might have.

Securing a Green Card

To gain permanent residency in the US, your family member needs to have a Green Card. Being the family member of a US citizen or of someone who permanently resides in the country is one way to apply for it. If you are an American citizen, or you have your own Green Card, you may be able to secure one for your family member. However, if you aren’t a citizen, your relatives won’t receive as a high a priority. There are different categories of priority when it comes to granting residency. First, there are immediate relatives; then there are four “family preference” categories. Immediate relatives are the spouse of a US citizen and their unmarried children under 21. They also include citizens’ parents and adopted orphans.

The four family preference categories are as follows:

  1. First preference: Unmarried children of a US citizen of any age.
  2. Second preference: spouses, minor children and unmarried adult children of permanent residents.
  3. Third preference: married children of US citizens and their spouses and minor children.
  4. Fourth preference: brothers and sisters of a US citizen and their spouse and minor children.

The application process to obtain a Green Card using this route can take a long time. Most families hire an immigration attorney to help them with the process. Doing this will make sure that everything is done above board. The paperwork can be confusing. So an attorney will ensure you don’t make any unfortunate mistakes.

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Family Members Already in the Country

You might have a family member who is already legally residing in the US. If so, the process to get permanent residency is different. They need to apply for Adjustment of Status. This method allows them to apply for a Green Card without having to leave the country. For example, they might be on a temporary working visa. Things are slightly different. But it isn’t too far from applying for permanent residence when out of the country. You should still seek legal help to assist your family member with getting their Green Card.

Hiring an Immigration Lawyer

You should hire an immigration attorney. You should do this whether your family member is already in the country or has yet to arrive. Applying for permanent residency can take a while. And the application process involves a lot of paperwork. It can also be useful to find a lawyer if you’re not sure whether your relative can get permanent residency. They can look at their case and give you a better idea of whether they would be successful. It’s also useful if there are any factors that complicated things. For example, if your relative has a criminal record it can be harder to apply.

Visa Interview

One of the last things your relative needs to do to gain permanent residency is to have a visa interview. If you have a Green Card yourself or had one in the past, you will be familiar with how it works. Even if you haven’t done it yourself, you can help your relative with preparing for it. The person applying for residency needs to bring all the relevant documents. These include the documents they have already submitted. They also need proof of their relationship to you. If the applicant is your spouse, they will have to answer questions about your relationship. They will also ask about issues such as health and criminal history. Your relative can use an interpreter for the interview. They don’t have to be trained or qualified. However, it may not be allowed if you want to act as the interpreter.

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Image by David D

Arriving in the Country

If your relative isn’t already in the country, the final part of applying for residency is coming to the US. Arriving at their port of entry means they have to do a final interview. This will be with a Customs and Border Protection agent. Your family member already has permission to enter and remain in the country. But the agent needs to check. They will carry out an interview to ask various questions to verify that they are eligible to enter. These questions might cover issues such as illness, criminal history or any immigration violations.

Finding Housing

Of course, once your relative arrives in the country, they will need somewhere to live. They might live with you at first, but that won’t be ideal for everyone. If they’re your spouse or child, it’s likely they will stay with you for the foreseeable future. However, an adult child or a sibling might want to be more independent. You can help them to find housing. You can look for somewhere before they arrive, and help when they get there. If their English skills still need some work, you could go house hunting with them and act as an interpreter. You can also look for realtors who provide services in Spanish and other languages.

It’s also a good idea to look over their rental contract if they’re renting a home. Even hiring a lawyer could be a good move, to ensure that everything is in order. If they’re buying a home, the process is more complicated. They need the funds to purchase somewhere, and they might need assistance with everything. In many states, it isn’t standard to hire a lawyer because the realtor can help with legal issues. However, sometimes it’s a good idea.

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Helping Them Prepare for Work

Looking for work will be one of the first things someone will do when they get permanent residency. Of course, they might already have a job that they intend to take, or that they already work at. They may already live and work in the US. In which case, they won’t need to deal with this part of living in the country permanently. Your relative now has the right to work in the US, but they first need a social security number. This nine-digit number is essential for anyone who wants to get a job in the country. They should get a social security card with their name and number on it. They will need to apply for their social security card before they can start employment.

What If Your Family Member Can No Longer Work?

One of the reasons a social security number is necessary is to track your relative’s wages. As with US citizens, permanent residents can also receive social securities benefits. If they can’t work because of a disability, they may be able to get disability payments to support them. However, they must have been working in the US for a minimum of ten years. This will also make them eligible to receive other social security benefits. Any of their dependents will be able to benefit too. To receive disability benefits, your relative must have a particular condition. It needs to be on a specific list of disabilities, called the Blue Book. You can find a list of Social Security disabilities in Spanish and other languages. This makes it easier to understand the system. It’s particularly useful because understanding medical terms can be difficult.

Renewing a Green Card

A Green Card must be renewed every ten years. When the time comes for your family member to do this, they should start the process a good six months in advance. It can be done online or on paper, which makes it more convenient. By the time they have been in the country for a decade, they might not require much help from you. However, it’s always worth offering any help you can give.

Applying for US Citizenship

Your family member might decide that they want to apply to be a US citizen. They can do this after having permanent residency for five years. Not everyone wishes to choose this option. But those that do can do so after being a permanent resident for five years. They need to be able to speak, read and write in English. There are several other requirements. For example, they need to pass a US history test, which they will need to prepare for. They process can take a while, but you can support your relative in their aim.


Helping a family member move to America is a kind thing to do, but there can be a lot to sort out. Try to give them as much support as you can, but remember that they will need to do a lot of the work.