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Sponsoring Immigrants Who Aren’t Relatives


Traditionally, family-based immigration has been the most common method for a foreigner to start a new life in the United States. The concept of allowing legal residents and American citizens to sponsor foreign relatives to join them in the U.S. makes perfect sense. It not only reunites families but also increases the likelihood of cultural and socioeconomic adaptation. Family-based immigration is exactly what the term implies, which usually means sponsoring someone who isn’t a relative isn’t possible, but there are some situations that can be considered to be exceptions.

The basics of family-based immigration are outlined by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as follows: 


  • Permanent residents can file petitions for their spouses and unmarried children
  • Natural-born and naturalized citizens can file petitions for their parents, married children, and siblings

Immediate relatives don’t always have a close degree of blood relation. For example, a naturalized citizen in Southern California who can prove she was raised by her Irish aunt and not her parents may be successful in bringing her aunt to the U.S. with the assistance of a San Diego immigration law firm.

Fiancées aren’t exactly relatives. They’re potential spouses, but they get first preference to come to the U.S. and marry their citizen sponsors under the K-1 visa program, so this can be considered an exception to the family-based immigration rule.

Legal residents and citizens can make commitments to provide financial support for visa applicants who aren’t their relatives. This isn’t a form of sponsorship, but it’s a nonnegotiable part of the immigration process. If USCIS case adjudicators believe an immigrant is at risk of becoming a public charge, meaning he or she doesn’t have the financial means to make a living in the U.S., a visa may not be issued. To prevent this situation, a nonrelative can file a Form I-864 Affidavit of Support form, but the provider of support must submit evidence of earning household income that surpasses 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

While it’s true that American employers are sponsors of H-1B visas for foreign workers, they cannot technically be considered exceptions to family-based immigration because H-1B visas fall under the nonimmigrant visa category. However, it should be noted that some skilled workers are able to obtain legal residence under some circumstances, but they would no longer rely on employer-sponsored petitions. San Diego immigrants who need help navigating the H-1B visa process should seek the advice of experienced immigration attorneys.

There’s a final immigrant category that has experienced what some may see as sponsorship but is more akin to lobbying and legal support. Foreigners who served as wartime translators for American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq may qualify for special immigrant visas they apply for on their own, although some applicants have been supported by the veterans with whom they served. Since only 50 of these visas are authorized each year, veterans who served with these translators often retain immigration law firms to ensure their former comrades in arms are able to obtain visas, particularly if the translators are being targeted by the Taliban or Iraqi insurgency groups.


If you would like more information about family-based immigration or you need the services of reliable, trustworthy immigration lawyers in San Diego, reach out to KS Visa Law today. Call 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.

April 2024