How many persons can be on one petition?

Published: Tuesday | May 1, 2012 Comments 0
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

My grandmother, who is a United States green-card holder, filed a petition in 2005 for my mother - her daughter. My mother in turn placed us, her five children, on her filing. Is that too many persons for that one petition? Does it affect the filing?

- CH

Dear CH,

As a lawful permanent resident or green card holder, your grandmother is permitted to file a petition for alien relative for her adult, unmarried daughter. If her daughter marries while she is still a green-card holder, the petition becomes invalid and your grandmother would have to become a US citizen and re-file for her then-married daughter.

If your grandmother filed for her unmarried daughter in 2005, she would be in the F2B-preference category. in May, 2012 the State Department is processing persons with priority dates earlier than February 22, 2004. This would mean your grandmother filed for your mother seven years ago and your grandmother has had her green card for more than five years. If your grandmother is otherwise eligible, she should apply to become a US citizen. Once this occurs, your grandmother should advise the National Visa Center of her newly acquired US citizenship and request that the petition be upgraded to the F1-preference category. In May, 2012 the priority date being processed in the F1 category is May 1, 2005.

Faster process

As a US citizen, your grandmother's petition for your mother would be processed a little faster. Becoming a US citizen could also make your grandmother eligible for some additional US-government benefits and gives her the flexibility of living in Jamaica again, if she wished, without jeopardising her social-security benefits.

When a person files for a family member to migrate to the US, the intending immigrant must overcome the presumption that they will become a public charge upon the government and people of the US. To overcome that presumption, the US government requires the sponsor to complete an affidavit of support (AOS). The sponsor has to disclose income showing earnings 125 per cent above the US poverty guidelines. The sponsor can use salary, social security, retirement or interest income in the calculation. In your family's case, your grandmother would have to add her five grandchildren, plus her daughter and herself, for a total of a family of seven. This is assuming that your grandmother doesn't claim anyone on her tax return. If your grandmother already filed for other family members within the past 10 years, and they have not yet become US citizens, they have to be disclosed on the AOS form and would increase the family size.

However, if it is a family of seven, your grandmother has to show income of at least US$43,662. If other family members live in the same house with your grandmother, they can add their income as household members to qualify the AOS. If your grandmother's income is less than US$43,662, she can produce documentation to show she has liquid assets (e.g. equity in a house, cash in the bank or cash value in life insurance) that is at least five times the amount she is short in her earnings.

Joint sponsor

If your grandmother cannot do any of the above, she would have to secure a joint sponsor (or several) who can take on the financial responsibility of one or more of all six of you who would be migrating to the US. Like your grandmother, the joint sponsor would have to sign the AOS attesting to the US government, showing willingness to take care of your family until you all become US citizens, or worked at least 10 years in the US. The signing of is a tremendous responsibility and the AOS is a binding contract upon which the immigrant can sue the sponsor to enforce.

If your grandmother does not make enough money to meet the financial requirements, she should start asking family and friends who are green-card holders, or US citizens, if they would be willing to help the family.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises law in Florida in the areas of Immigration, Family, Corporate & Personal Injury Law. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida. info@walkerhuntington.com


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