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Immigration FAQs

What Is the Difference Between Limited and Unlimited Family Immigrant Visas?

The U.S. citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has many categories of visas. Family-based visas are broken into subgroups based on familial relationship. The USCIS will only issue a certain number of visas in some subgroups.

There is no limit on the number of family visas for immediate relatives, including spouses, unmarried children under age 21, and parents.

More distant family and certain other relationships are broken into family preference categories, each of which has annual limits. If the number of available visas in a category has been reached for the year, new approved visas will be put on a wait list. Sometimes the wait can be several years after approval before the visa gets issued.

Why Do I Need to Have a Certain Income to Sponsor a Family Member's Immigration?

The United States wants to be sure that people who come to live here have a way to support themselves. When you sponsor relatives to immigrate to the United States, you promise to financially support them if they cannot support themselves. You make this promise by filing an affidavit of support, along with proof of employment. The U.S. government feels you can meet this obligation if your income is at least 125 percent of the poverty level.

Are There Age Limits or Other Requirements to Sponsor a Family Member?

The USCIS has age, residency and income requirements for sponsors:

  • Sponsors filing petitions for siblings or parents must be at least 21. There is no age limit for other family immigrant visas.
  • Sponsors who need to file an affidavit of support must be at least 18 and meet the minimum income level.
  • Sponsors must actually live in the United States. The USCIS may sometimes allow a sponsor to live in another country, as long as it is temporary and the sponsor still has a home in the United States.

Who Qualifies to Enter the Diversity Lottery Program?

This program awards immigrant visas to applicants from countries whose immigration rates to the United States are low. If you are a citizen of one of these countries, you may apply. Keep in mind that the program grants visas randomly from about twice as many qualified applicants as there are visas available.  Learn more about it here.

For questions specific to your own case, talk with an immigration lawyer.