Half-Siblings and Step-Siblings Pursuing Green Cards
A foreign national can come to the U.S. on a petition filed by a brother or sister who is a U.S. citizen. The situation can be more complicated for foreign nationals who are half-brothers, half-sisters, stepbrothers, or stepsisters of U.S. citizens. A “sibling” is defined as someone who has at least one parent in common with the U.S. citizen sponsor, so the definition can extend to half-siblings and step-siblings. The general rule is that a U.S. citizen who is 21 or older can bring siblings (brothers or sisters) to the U.S. They would fall within the fourth preference category of family visas.
If the U.S. citizen’s or their half- or step-sibling’s name has changed, USCIS will also ask for proof of the legal name change.
The burden of proof is somewhat higher for paternal half-siblings than it is for full siblings. (Paternal half-siblings share the same father but have different mothers.) To bring a paternal half-sibling to the U.S., a U.S. citizen must prove that their shared father was married to the U.S. citizen’s mother, that marriage has legally ended, and the shared father has legally married the mother of the foreign national half-sibling. If the mother of the foreign national half-sibling was previously married, the U.S. citizen sponsor will need to show that her previous marriage ended before she entered into her current marriage.
Green Cards for Step-Siblings
The same general rule applies, but the U.S. citizen petitioner and the foreign national stepsister or stepbrother must each have been a “child” of a common parent. This means that they must meet the definition of a child under U.S. immigration laws. They do not need to prove that they ever lived in the same location. At least one of them must meet the definition of a “stepchild” under the Immigration and Nationality Act. In general, this means that one of them was under the age of 18 when their parents were married.
Drawbacks of Applying for Half-Siblings and Step-Siblings
Half-siblings and step-siblings have a very low level of priority in the immigration system. They will not be able to come to the U.S. and get a green card for many years after the initial petition is filed. (Siblings in general have a very low priority compared to other family members.) Currently, the average wait for siblings is over a decade. If they are coming from Mexico or another country with a high rate of immigration, they may need to wait two decades or more. This may make some U.S. citizens reconsider whether it is worthwhile to fill out the application.
Wait times are not fixed and may become shorter with time if the rate of immigration from their country decreases, and USCIS starts to catch up with its review backlog. On the other hand, it is also possible that the fourth preference visa category will not survive much longer, eliminating the opportunity for foreign national siblings to come to the U.S. Filing a petition sooner rather than later may preserve their rights if Congress eventually removes the category.
Did You Know?
It is very unlikely that a half- or step-sibling waiting for a green card would be granted a temporary visa.
While they wait to come to the U.S., the foreign national sibling likely must remain in their home country. The only way for them to come to the U.S. during the waiting period would be getting a temporary visa from a U.S. consulate on a different basis. They might be able to get a visitor visa, but this is unlikely. The U.S. consulate in their country likely would notice that they are pursuing an immigrant visa and would suspect that they would abuse the temporary visa to stay in the U.S. until they get permanent legal status.