If you are a citizen, you can sponsor your wife, husband, children of any age,
even if married, parents, and brothers and sisters.
If you have a green card, you can sponsor your wife, husband and/or children of any age as long as they are not married.
If you are wife, husband, child under 21 or parent of a citizen, you are considered an immediate relative for immigration purposes and you are eligible to apply for a green card immediately. If you are in the U.S. you only need to prove that you entered the United States legally such as with visa or parole, even if your status has expired. The U.S. only looks at how you entered to decide your case, not your current status.
If the sponsor is not a citizen but has a green card, the wife, husband or children must be in status. Their visa or stay must not be expired. Also if you are an adult sponsored by your parent, or sponsored by your brother or sister, you must be in status to be eligible regardless of how you entered. Otherwise, you can only be approved for an immigrant visa from outside the United States.
If you meet these requirements, then you can file for your adjustment of status to become a permanent resident. You will need to file the I-130 relative petition with the application or proof that it was already filed. You will need to file other proof of eligibility including your passport and visa, proof of relationship with the family member such as marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc. You will also need a medical which is form made by a doctor approved by USCIS who knows what is required for the green card and how to complete form.
Another requirement for a green card application is an affidavit of support (I-864) in which the petitioner must show they have enough income to support the immigrant. This information is on immigration website where you can find the form I-864. He/she must provide a copy of the latest tax return, a job letter and the latest bank statement to prove income. The minimum income requirement depends on the size of the family and how many immigrants are being sponsored. For one person sponsoring one immigrant totaling two people, the minimum is $20,575. The minimum goes up about $5000 for each person in the family or the immigrant's family.
If the petitioner does not have enough income or doesn't file tax returns, she/he needs a joint sponsor, someone else who either has citizenship or green card who has minimum income requirements.
The immigration law that required immigrants to have legal status to apply as discussed above was in effect since May 1, 2001. If an immigrant in the United States was a beneficiary of a petition or labor certification filed by April 30, 2001, they can apply for a green card even if they entered the United States illegally or without inspection. They must prove that they were physically inside the United States on December 2000. If the immigrant had a petition by a husband or wife filed before April 30, 2001, he must also prove that marriage was real and not just a paper or contract marriage for green card. This is required even if the immigrant is applying for a different reason.
If an immigrant was the beneficiary of a petition filed before January 14, 1998, he does not need to prove presence in the United States at any time or that the marriage on which the petition is based was real.
If you are in removal proceedings and you have a pending case in Immigration Court, In that case, you must submit your application to the Immigration Judge as well as Department of Homeland Security. There are a few possible outcomes from there. If you are married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you can file an I-130 petition to USCIS. If approved, the judge will often terminate your case and let you apply for a green to USCIS. If the petition is not approved, he will likely adjourn the case to give time for your interview. Sometime, the judge will keep the case in court and schedule a hearing so he can consider the evidence to approve your green card. If your petition has a longer priority date such as with brother or sister or your parents if you are an adult, the Immigration Court may not allow you to wait years for your priority date to become current. In that case, you may need to make another type of application to stay in the United States. Also, if you are not eligible to adjust status to permanent resident, the judge will not terminate your proceedings or hold a hearing on your immigration application.
There are many requirements to get a green card. If you do not meet all of these requirements, you can only be approved if USCIS is willing to grant a "waiver" due to an extreme hardship of what the law calls a "qualifying relative" that is only a spouse or parent. Children are not considered qualifying relatives. Sometimes when you apply for a green card the USCIS finds that you did something wrong which makes you eligible for a green card only if you are granted a waiver. Sometimes, an officer decides this at the interview. Examples of hardships can include healthy problems of the relative, handicaps or disabilities, educational problems, responsibilities to other family members. Financial needs can be considered but cannot be the only hardship. The procedure is to file form I-601 with all evidence to prove hardships.
If you entered the United States illegally and can only be approved from your country, you must file form I-601A called a "provisional waiver" based on your approved I-130. During this time, you must also apply for an immigrant visa through the National Visa Center. If the waiver is approved, then you will be scheduled at the U.S. embassy in your country and you will have to travel there for your immigrant visa and return.
If you are already removed by Immigration Court, you are in the most difficult position to be in. If you entered illegally but married to a citizen, you cannot even file a provisional waiver. Not yet. There is another application you must file with USCIS called the I-212 to get permission to overcome your removal order. If approved, then you can file the I-601A. If you are eligible to adjust within the United States, you can file a motion to reopen to Immigration Court.
If you are in Immigration Court and have close family members who would suffer extreme hardship without you, you may apply for relief called "cancellation of removal". You are eligible if your close relative would face a special hardship, you have lived in the United States and filed tax returns for at least ten years. You can only make this application if you have been placed in removal proceedings.
Citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their family members who are outside the United States. If the immigrant has a wife and children, they can all immigrate at the same time. The exception is if a citizen sponsors their parents, the children cannot come with them.
To do this, you must file an I-130 petition just as you would when the immigrant is already in the United States. When it is approved it goes to an office called the National Visa Center which is part of the State Department. When the National Visa Center has it, you must fill out an online form called the DS-260 for each immigrating family member. You must do an affidavit of support as described above with the required documents. You must also submit what they call civil documents for all people immigrating: Birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates, if any, police certificates to certify they have no criminal record. Once complete, the case is scheduled at the embassy where the immigrants live for an appointment for immigrant visas.
If an immigrant is subject of an I-130 petition and in the United States but meets none of the eligibility requirements to apply for a green card in the United States, the only way he can get a green card is if he leaves the United States. If you entered the United States illegally or your visa has expired, etc. you would have to follow the procedure through the embassy as described above. The problem is that if you were living illegally in the United States for one year, you will be barred from returning legally for ten years. However, you don't need to wait that long if you do a waiver. That means that if you have a husband, wife or parent who has a green card or U.S. citizenship and they would suffer extreme hardship without you, the government will forgive you and you can return to the United States immediately with your immigrant visa. To do this, you need to follow the same procedure to go through the embassy. You can only file the waiver after the petition is approved and you have paid the fees to the National Visa Center.