How Long Does It Take to Petition a Sibling Over 21?
How Long Does It Take to Petition a Sibling Over 21?


Petitioning for a sibling over 21 to come to the United States is a common desire among U.S. citizens wanting to reunite with family members. However, the process involves navigating the complexities of immigration law, particularly when it comes to family-based immigration. In this blog, we’ll break down how long it takes to petition a sibling over 21.

What is a Petition for Alien Relative?

A Petition for Alien Relative, filed using Form I-130, is a document submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder). The purpose of the form is to establish a recognized family relationship between the petitioner and a foreign national relative who intends to immigrate to the United States. Filing this petition is the first step in the process for a relative to obtain a green card (permanent residency) in the U.S.

The I-130 petition can be used to sponsor various family members, including spouses, children, parents, and siblings, but the specifics of who can be sponsored and the priority of the application vary based on the petitioner’s status (U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident) and the beneficiary’s relationship to the petitioner. For example, U.S. citizens can petition for a wider range of relatives, including siblings and married children over 21, while green card holders are limited to sponsoring only their spouses and unmarried children.

Once the I-130 is approved, the foreign relative may proceed with the visa application process, which includes submitting required documents, attending a medical examination, and going to a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The timeline for the beneficiary to immigrate to the U.S. depends on their relationship to the petitioner and the current visa availability, as determined by the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.

How Long Does It Take to Petition a Sibling Over 21?

Petitioning a sibling over 21 to immigrate to the United States involves a multi-step process that can be lengthy, primarily due to the limited number of visas available each year for this category. Here’s an overview of the timeframes involved in petitioning a sibling over 21:

Filing the Petition

The process starts when a U.S. citizen files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The processing time for the I-130 can vary but generally takes several months. You can check the current processing times on the USCIS website, which updates periodically based on their workload.

Waiting for a Visa Number

After the I-130 is approved, the sibling must wait for a visa number to become available. Siblings of U.S. citizens fall under the Family Fourth Preference (F4) category, which has annual numerical limits. Due to these limits and high demand, the wait time for a visa number to become available can be lengthy.

Visa Bulletin and Priority Dates

The Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin each month, which shows which priority dates are currently being processed. The priority date is the date when the I-130 petition was filed. The waiting time for a visa number can vary significantly by country due to per-country caps. For some countries with high demand, such as Mexico, India, and the Philippines, the wait can be significantly longer.

Current Wait Times

As of the last update, the general wait time for a visa number to become available for siblings of U.S. citizens often exceeds 10 years. However, this can vary widely depending on the beneficiary’s country of origin.

Additional Processing Time

Once a visa number becomes available, the sibling can apply for an immigrant visa. This stage involves submitting documents to the National Visa Center (NVC), paying fees, and attending a medical examination and interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. This part of the process can take several more months.


The entire process from filing the I-130 petition to a sibling over 21 obtaining an immigrant visa can take upwards of 10 to 15 years, heavily influenced by the backlog for the F4 visa category and the beneficiary’s country of origin. Due to the complexity and length of this process, many petitioners and beneficiaries seek assistance from immigration lawyers to navigate the procedures and to stay informed about any changes in immigration policies that might affect their cases.

What is the Process to Petition for Alien Relative?

Petitioning for an alien relative to immigrate to the United States involves a multi-step process that requires careful attention to detail and compliance with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) procedures. Here’s a breakdown of the key steps involved in the process:

1. Determine Eligibility

First, determine if you’re eligible to file a petition. U.S. citizens can petition for spouses, children, parents, and siblings, while lawful permanent residents (green card holders) can petition for spouses and unmarried children.

2. File Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (petitioner) must complete and file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with USCIS, along with the required filing fee. This form establishes the qualifying relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary (the foreign relative).

3. Submit Evidence

Along with Form I-130, you must submit evidence to prove the relationship. This may include marriage certificates for spouses, birth certificates for children or parents, and evidence of legal changes to names, if applicable.

4. USCIS Reviews the Petition

Once submitted, USCIS will review the petition. If additional information or documentation is needed, USCIS may request further evidence (RFE).

5. USCIS Decision

After reviewing the petition and all submitted evidence, USCIS will decide. If the petition is approved, USCIS will notify the petitioner and forward the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC).

6. Wait for Visa Availability

Most family preference categories have a cap on the number of visas issued each year, leading to wait times. The beneficiary must wait for a visa to become available, according to the Visa Bulletin, updated monthly by the Department of State.

7. National Visa Center (NVC) Processing

Once the visa is near availability, the NVC will notify the petitioner and beneficiary to submit the necessary immigrant visa application forms, pay the required fees, and submit supporting documents, such as affidavits of support, police certificates, and medical examinations.

8. Schedule and Attend the Visa Interview

The beneficiary will be scheduled for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. They must bring all required documentation to the interview.

9. Visa Decision

After the interview, the consular officer will decide whether to grant the immigrant visa. If approved, the beneficiary can travel to the United States. Upon entry, they will be admitted as permanent residents and receive their green card in the mail.

10. Follow-up After Arrival

If the beneficiary is a spouse, and the marriage is less than two years old at the time of entering the U.S., they will receive a conditional green card valid for two years. They must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, 90 days before the two-year anniversary of receiving their conditional status to obtain a permanent green card.

This intricate process can vary significantly depending on specific circumstances, including the beneficiary’s country of origin and the current visa demand. Seeking guidance from a knowledgeable immigration attorney can help navigate the complexities of the process and increase the chances of a successful petition.

How a Complex Family Immigration Lawyer Can Help 

As a law firm with experience in complex family immigration, we understand the intricacies and challenges that can arise during the family-based immigration process. Our team of skilled immigration lawyers is dedicated to providing comprehensive legal support to navigate the complexities of reuniting families within the United States. Here’s how we can help:

Experienced Navigation of the Legal Process

Family immigration law involves numerous forms, strict deadlines, and intricate legal procedures. We guide our clients through every step of the process, ensuring that all paperwork is accurately completed and submitted on time. Our experience helps prevent common mistakes that can delay or jeopardize immigration cases.

Handling Complex Cases

We have experience in managing complex family immigration cases involving previous denials, inadmissibility issues, waivers, and appeals. Our legal team develops personalized strategies to address each case’s unique challenges, maximizing the chances of a successful outcome.

Family Reunification Strategies

Our primary goal is to reunite families as quickly and smoothly as possible. We explore all potential legal avenues for family reunification, including family preference visas, adjustments of status, and consular processing. Our approach is tailored to each client’s specific circumstances, considering factors such as country of origin and the presence of any complicating legal issues.

Legal Representation in Immigration Proceedings

Should the need arise, our lawyers provide robust representation in immigration court proceedings, interviews, and appeals. We advocate fiercely on behalf of our clients, presenting compelling evidence and arguments to support their cases.

Keeping Clients Informed

Immigration laws and policies can change rapidly. We keep our clients informed about any developments affecting their cases, offering peace of mind and allowing for timely adjustments to our legal strategies.

Emotional and Practical Support

We understand the emotional toll that immigration challenges can take on families. Our firm offers legal assistance and emotional and practical support throughout the process. We strive to make the immigration journey as stress-free as possible for our clients.

Why Choose Us?

Our firm combines legal experience in complex family immigration with a compassionate approach to client service. We recognize the importance of family and work tirelessly to help our clients achieve their immigration goals. With years of experience, a track record of success, and a deep commitment to our clients, we are ideally positioned to assist with even the most challenging family immigration cases.

Ready to Start Your Family Immigration Journey?

If you face complexities in your family immigration case, don’t navigate this journey alone. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. Let our experienced immigration lawyers help you reunite with your family and start a new chapter in the United States.

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