Any U.S. citizen who thinks that their foreign sibling may want to become a legal permanent resident in the future should submit a petition NOW.

United States citizens and lawful permanent residents are eligible to petition family members for green cards. However, only United States citizens are eligible to petition brothers and sisters.

The procedure requires the citizen to petition for their foreign national sibling by completing Form I-130 and submitting it to the Citizenship and Immigration Services. In addition, proof of the relationship and petitioner’s legal status must be submitted at this stage of the process.

The foreign national sibling will wait several years to become a resident. This is because the number of visas is limited. Each petition (i.e., application) is assigned a priority date, the month and year when it is filed. Only when the Department of State indicates that the priority date is "current" can the foreigner then apply for legal permanent residency.

At the time of this article, sibling petitions are taking approximately 10 years to become “current" for residency. The visa bulletin released each month by the Department of State indicates the lengthy processing time before visas may be issued in family categories including sibling sponsors. That is preference category four.

U.S. citizens should file for siblings immediately because of immigration reform. The merit-based system passed by the Senate, and being considered by the House of Representatives, allocates a greater number of visas to foreigners based on their skills. Family relationships are less important. Such a law, which allows for fewer visas for siblings, would make the wait times much longer. It would be like letting in only five people through a door every hour, instead of 50.

Although the author is a Board-certified immigration expert, this guide is intended as general information and not specific legal advice. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship. Schedule a consultation with an attorney to address individual concerns.