It is not as simple as writing a letter or calling in a reference. If you have a family member that is looking to work in the United States, you will need to file a petition. You should note, however, that whether your loved one obtains a green card will depend on a few factors.

How you are related to your family member makes a difference. Your immediate relatives get priority in green card sponsorship. These relatives include spouses, children and parents. You will need to prove, or establish, this immediate relationship. If they are not an immediate relative, they will need to wait until a visa is available because the U.S. only has a certain number of visas available per year.

The family member for whom you are petitioning will be known as the “beneficiary” in the petition. Once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approves your petition, the beneficiary will have to apply to become a lawful permanent resident (also known as a green card holder).

What are my next steps?

You can obtain a Petition for Alien Relative, or the I-130, from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Know that there is a waiting list. So, the sooner you can start your end of the process, the better.

Also, filing fees for the green card petition can be costly, and the process can be complicated. Do not risk wasting your resources by filing your petition alone. To help protect your family member’s green card application status, reach out to an experienced immigration lawyer.

Note also that you can only petition for a family member. If you are looking to help a friend, they will need to obtain residency through a different means of immigration.