In simple terms, visa sponsorship is when a family member or organization advocates for an individual’s visa. As the applicant for a visa, it means you have an advocate that supports your entry to the United States for the purposes stated in the visa. There are a variety of visa types and ways to get sponsored. Generally, sponsorship has a financial component as well.
Immigrant visas are for permanent immigration (green cards). But sponsoring a visa may apply to businesses helping an individual obtain a temporary work visa (such H-1B) or an organization that administers a visitor visa (like J-1).
Visa sponsorship is typically associated with a petition. The U.S.-based person or entity submits a petition on behalf of the foreign national. Once approved, the foreign national is generally able to apply for the desired visa.
Visa Sponsorship for Family
There are a variety of family-based visas for nonimmigrant (temporary) purposes and immigrant (permanent) purposes.
Green Card Sponsorship
Family-based immigration is the most common way to obtain a green card. In fact, over 600,000 people get a green card through a relative each year. Visa sponsorship comes from the petitioning relative but can also come from other sponsors.
The petitioner sponsors the relative by submitting Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and various supporting documents. If the petitioning relative does not have the financial means to sponsor a family member, someone else will need to step in to support the visa sponsorship. Certain qualifying household members may also contribute their incomes and/or a joint sponsor can submit another Form I-864.
K-1 Visa Sponsorship
U.S. citizens may also petition a fiancé for the purpose of coming to the United States for marriage. The process begins with a U.S. citizen filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS. The petition establishes there is a qualifying relationship. Once approved by USCIS, the foreign national applies for the K-1 visa through a U.S. embassy or consulate. Part of the K-1 visa application may include financial sponsorship from the U.S. citizen petitioner.
The petitioner submits Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, to help the visa applicant. The visa sponsorship helps ensure that the K-1 entrant will not become reliant on the government if they do not have adequate funds during the trip.
Every type of visitor visa has a specific purpose. And once that activity has concluded or the visa expires, the visitor is expected to depart. F-1 students may travel to the U.S. for the purpose of attending school. On the other hand, B-2 visitors may come for tourism, visiting friends and family, and other leisure travel purposes. The U.S. government wants reassurance that visitors can support themselves while they're here and depart when it is time to leave. A visa sponsorship for visitors can help facilitate the approval process.
Generally, the U.S. government does not require a visa sponsorship for B-2 visas. A foreign visitor who has a healthy financial background and who meets the other requirements for visa, can typically obtain a B-2 visitor visa without a sponsor. If a family member or friend is willing to sponsor the visitor, that means that the sponsor has agreed to cover the costs should the visitor no longer have the means to pay. It mitigates the possibility the visitor will become a public charge.
To sponsor a visitor, the supporter prepares Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support. He or she must submit the I-134 declaration, a letter of invitation, and supporting documents as evidence of their financial ability to bear the expenses of the trip.
Employment-Based Visa Sponsors
When American employers are unable to find qualified workers within the United States, various programs enable them to hire workers from outside the U.S. This is a great opportunity for foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for the purpose of employment. These jobs may be short engagements or could provide visa sponsorship for a green card.
Although there are various U.S. work visa types for foreign workers with specialized skills, most focus is on the popular H-1B visa. These visas are temporary and must be renewed regularly. Visa sponsorship means an employer is willing to obtain a work visa for highly-qualified candidates who live outside the United States. It's not a simple process for employers. They must prove that they were unable to fill their vacancies with qualified American workers before sponsoring a visa. When an organization sponsors an employment visa for a new employee, they help complete the application, prepare labor certification paperwork, and act as the petitioner for the visa.
3 Ways to Find a Sponsor for an Employment Visa
For employment-based green cards and work visas, the first step is to connect with potential visa sponsors. But how do you find one? Several databases exist to assist job search candidates like you. These websites may include extensive history on past sponsors, contacts, job types, qualifications and other valuable details.
Certain individuals may actually petition themselves for a green card. This is an extremely limited group of foreign nationals. To self-petition, the individual files Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, based on inclusion in one of the following categories:
- Widows and Widowers of U.S. Citizens may file if they were not legally separated or divorced from the citizen at the time of his or her death, have not remarried, and that they file the petition within two years of the citizen's death.
- Battered Spouses/Children/Parents may file if they were a victim of violence or extreme cruelty at the hands of a U.S citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent or U.S. citizen son or daughter.
- Special Immigrants may file if they are eligible under one of the various groups like religious workers or special immigrant juveniles.
Certain highly-skilled individuals may also self petition for employment-based visas. Generally, self-petitioners do not need a financial sponsor. Refer to the USCIS instructions for specific guidance.
Examples of Visa Sponsorship
There are a variety of USCIS forms to initiate the visa sponsorship process. Some of the common examples include:
|I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)||U.S. citizen||Foreign national fiancé||Family|
|I-130, Petition for Alien Relative||U.S. citizen or LPR||Foreign national relative in the immediate relative or family preference categories||Family|
|I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition||Refugee/asylee||Immediate relative of refugee or asylee||Family|
|I-129, Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker||U.S. employer||Foreign worker||Employment|
|I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker||U.S. employer||Foreign worker||Employment|
|I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant||Self-petition||Varies||Special Immigrant|
|I-526, Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor||Self-petition||Business investor||Investment|
Starting the Family Sponsorship
Both U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents may start the sponsorship process by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Although there are additional forms along the way, this is how the process begins.
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