Can I Sponsor My Cousin to the USA?

can i sponsor my cousin to usa

As a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR/green card holder), you may be able to sponsor certain family members to obtain a green card and permanent residency in the United States.

However, the eligibility criteria and process vary depending on your relationship with the relative you wish to sponsor.

Unfortunately, as a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you cannot directly sponsor a cousin to obtain a green card or immigrant visa. While the U.S. immigration system allows for sponsoring certain close family members, cousins do not fall under the eligible categories.

However, there may be alternative pathways for your cousin to legally immigrate to the United States, depending on your specific circumstances. Let’s explore the family-based immigration options and requirements.

Who Qualifies as an “Immediate Relative” for Sponsorship?

When it comes to family-based immigration, the closest relatives of U.S. citizens are considered “immediate relatives” and have the highest priority for obtaining green cards. These individuals face no annual quotas or significant backlogs. As U.S. citizens ourselves, we can sponsor the following immediate relatives:

  • Spouses (IR1/CR1 visa)
  • Unmarried children under 21 (IR2 visa)
  • Orphan children adopted abroad (IR3 visa) or to be adopted in the U.S. (IR4 visa)
  • Parents, provided the U.S. citizen child is at least 21 years old (IR5 visa)
  • Widow(er) of a U.S. citizen (IW visa)

Unfortunately, as you can see, cousins are not included in this exclusive category. The bonds of family are precious, but the law explicitly defines immediate relatives eligible for sponsorship.

Can a U.S. Citizen Sponsor Their Cousin?

The short answer is no – U.S. citizens cannot directly petition for their cousins to obtain permanent resident status. While this may seem harsh, the reasoning behind these limitations is to preserve visa availability for the closest familial relationships.

Family Preference Visa Categories

Beyond immediate relatives, there are a limited number of family-based immigrant visas available each year through the preference categories. However, these visas are still restricted to specific relationships with U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs/green card holders).

Family of U.S. Citizens

For U.S. citizens, the following relatives may qualify for a family preference visa, subject to annual caps and potential backlogs:

  • F1 visas: Unmarried sons and daughters aged 21 or older
  • F3 visas: Married sons and daughters of any age, along with their spouses and children
  • F4 visas: Brothers and sisters aged 21 or older, including their spouses and children (provided the U.S. citizen is at least 21)

As you can see, cousins are still not an eligible relationship for sponsorship through these categories.

Family of Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders)

Lawful permanent residents have even more limited sponsorship abilities compared to U.S. citizens. They can petition for:

  • F2A visas: Spouses and unmarried children under 21
  • F2B visas: Unmarried sons and daughters aged 21 or older

Again, cousins cannot be sponsored through these green card holder categories either.

The Sponsorship Process for Family-Based Immigration

While your cousin may not qualify for sponsorship directly from you, let’s briefly review the typical process in case other relatives do meet the eligibility criteria:

  1. The U.S. citizen or LPR petitioner files an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, establishing a valid family relationship.
  2. Once the petition is approved, the noncitizen relative must wait for an available visa based on their priority date and category backlogs (unless they are an immediate relative).
  3. When a visa becomes available, the relative applies for an immigrant visa at the U.S. consulate if living abroad or for adjustment of status if already in the U.S. (if the petitioner is an LPR, there are restrictions on applying for a green card in the U.S.)
  4. Supporting documents like birth/marriage certificates, financial evidence, medical exams, and more are required.
  5. Interviews are conducted to assess eligibility and admissibility.
  6. If approved, the relative receives their green card as a lawful permanent resident.

As you can imagine, this multi-step process requires meticulous preparation and patience – which is where our experience becomes invaluable.

Working With an Experienced Family Immigration Lawyer

While sponsoring a cousin may not be an option under current U.S. immigration law, that doesn’t mean there are no pathways for them to legally immigrate.

Our experienced attorneys can evaluate your cousin’s unique situation and explore alternatives like:

  • Diversity visa program (green card lottery)
  • Refugee or asylee status depending on country conditions
  • Family-based immigration through a spouse or other eligible relative
  • Temporary non-immigrant visas like student visas

The immigration journey can be arduous, but we’re here to light your path every step of the way. By understanding your rights and all available options, you can drastically improve your cousin’s chances of legally joining you in the United States.

Unlock Every Possibility with Trusted Immigration Attorneys

While the family ties may seem close enough to warrant sponsorship, the law is explicit in excluding cousins from the family-based immigrant visa categories for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. However, all hope is not lost – alternative pathways like employment-based petitions or the diversity visa program could provide a legal avenue for your cousin to pursue their American dream.

If you’re feeling discouraged or overwhelmed by immigration law, our team at the Law Office of Lina Baroudi is here to guide you. We’ve helped countless families navigate these challenges with compassion. Don’t go it alone – reach out today, and let’s explore every possible solution to reunite you with the family members you cherish most.

Author Bio

Lina Baroudi is the owner and managing attorney at the Law Office of Lina Baroudi. Lina is a dedicated immigration attorney with over ten years of experience in the field. As an immigrant herself, having moved to the United States from Syria at a young age, Ms. Baroudi understands the challenges and complexities that immigrants face. Her personal connection to immigrant rights fuels her passion and commitment to achieving success for her clients.

Throughout her career, Lina has been recognized for her excellence in immigration law. She was listed in the California 2015-2020 Rising Stars List by Super Lawyers, an honor given to only 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state. Lina’s proficiency in the field is further evidenced by her role as a Law Clerk at the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District, where she gained invaluable experience and knowledge. She also received the prestigious Witkin Award for Academic Excellence in Immigration Law during her time at Golden Gate University School of Law.

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