What is Visa Sponsorship?

Updated on January 5, 2024

At a Glance

  • Visa sponsorship in the U.S. serves purposes like employment, family reunification, and humanitarian reasons.
  • An employer sponsors a foreign worker when no suitable U.S. candidate is available.
  • U.S. citizens can sponsor family members, meeting specific criteria for approval.
  • Entities can financially sponsor foreign nationals based on humanitarian needs, each route requiring a detailed process and supporting documentation.

Visa Sponsorship is a set of documents that states and guarantees working status and job profile within the United States. Ideally, if you are looking to relocate to the US, you would need to find a job, and the employer, in turn, has to be willing to hire a non-resident employee for the particular job profile.

In other words, the employer would be aware of the fact that you are not a Legal Permanent Resident or a US citizen. In effect, they would have to guarantee to the US Visa department that you are about to be a legal working resident with a certain threshold salary. This process is called Visa Sponsorship, where the company agrees to sponsor you and submit documents to the USCIS accordingly.

Overview: 3 Types of Visa Sponsorship

There are three categories of visa sponsorship in the U.S.:

  • Family-based
  • Employment-based
  • Financial Sponsorship

Examples of Visa Sponsorship

Below, you will find some common types of USCIS visa sponsorship forms and information about them:

FormDescriptionPetitioner (Sponsor)BeneficiaryType
I-129FPetition for Alien Fiancé(e)U.S. citizenForeign national fiancéFamily
I-130Petition for Alien RelativeU.S. citizen or LPRForeign national relative in the immediate relative or family preference categoriesFamily
I-730Refugee/Asylee Relative PetitionRefugee/asyleeImmediate relative of refugee or asyleeFamily
I-129Petition for a Non-immigrant WorkerU.S. employerForeign workerEmployment
I-140Immigrant Petition for Alien WorkerU.S. employerForeign workerEmployment
I-360Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special ImmigrantSelf-petitionVariesSpecial Immigrant
I-526Immigrant Petition by Standalone InvestorSelf-petitionBusiness investorInvestment

Below, we’ll take a look at each of these types of sponsorship in more detail.

What is Family-based Visa Sponsorship?

Family-based sponsorship allows U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to bring family members to the U.S. for immigration purposes. There are two main categories:

  • Immediate Relative – This category is designed for close relatives of U.S. citizens. It covers spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens.
  • Family Preference – This is for extended family members. It includes adult children, siblings, and married children of U.S. citizens or green card holders. The sponsorship process begins with filing a petition, with the approval dependent on verifying the relationship and meeting certain criteria set for sponsors.

Types of Family-based Visa Sponsorship

There are various family-based visas for both temporary and permanent residency.

  • Green Card Sponsorship is the predominant method for family-based immigration, allowing over 600,000 people annually to gain green cards through relatives. Typically, a petitioner sponsors the relative by submitting Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, along with supporting documents. If the petitioner lacks the financial means, another individual or a joint sponsor may need to provide financial support.
  • K-1 Visa Sponsorship enables U.S. citizens to petition fiancés for marriage in the U.S. The U.S. citizen files Form I-129F to establish a qualifying relationship, and once approved, the foreign national applies for the K-1 visa, potentially including financial sponsorship from the petitioner, submitted via Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, to ensure self-reliance during the stay.
  • Visitor Sponsorship is applicable for various visitor visas like F-1 for students and B-2 for tourists. While B-2 visas typically do not mandate sponsorship, having a sponsor, submitting Form I-134 and relevant documents, can facilitate visa approval, ensuring visitors can cover their costs and will not rely on public funds.

Eligibility Requirements

Family-based sponsorship in U.S. immigration permits a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) to bring a family member to the U.S. Upon approval, these family members can secure immigrant visas or green cards.

Immediate Relative Category

Reserved for close relatives of U.S. citizens. Includes:

  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen.
  • Unmarried child under 21 years old of a U.S. citizen.
  • Parent of a U.S. citizen (sponsor must be 21 or older).
  • Benefits: No numerical caps; faster processing.

Family Preference Category

For extended family relationships with annual limits. Categories include:

  • F1: Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens.
  • F2A: Spouses and kids (below 21) of green card holders.
  • F2B: Adult unmarried children of green card holders.
  • F3: Married children of U.S. citizens.
  • F4: Siblings of U.S. citizens (sponsor must be 21 or older).

Process

A U.S. citizen or green card holder initiates the process by filing a petition. Approval depends on relationship verification, sponsor’s income, and clean criminal record. Post approval, family members can pursue visa applications or green card procedures.

What is Employment-based Visa Sponsorship?

Employment-based sponsorship enables U.S. employers to bring foreign professionals to work or live permanently in the U.S. A critical requirement is that employers must demonstrate the absence of qualified U.S. candidates for the position. The process entails submitting relevant documentation, proving the unavailability of U.S. workers, verifying the foreign employee’s qualifications, and complying with labor standards.

Eligibility Requirements

A U.S. employer can sponsor a foreign employee to work or reside in the U.S. The employer must prove the absence of suitable U.S. candidates for the role.

Process

The employer typically handles the process by submitting necessary documentation and fees. The employer must prove no qualified U.S. candidate availability, validate the employee’s qualifications, and meet labor requirements. Successful petition approval allows the foreign employee to apply for a visa or green card.

How to Sponsor an Immigrant For Work

To sponsor an immigrant for work in the U.S., there are a number of steps required:

  1. Ensure the position qualifies as a specialty occupation
  2. Determine the rate of pay for the position
  3. Notify the U.S. workforce
  4. Submit a Labor Condition Application to the DOL for certification
  5. Register with the USCIS for the annual H-1B Lottery
  6. Await the Lottery selection results
  7. Submit a completed Form I-129 to USCIS
  8. Instruct your prospective worker to apply for a visa or admission

Visa Sponsorship Letters

Contrary to popular belief, Visa sponsorship letter is not exactly a letter. It refers to a set of documents that are submitted by the employer sponsoring the Visa to the US Government. When they open up a job post and look for applications in that sphere from foreign nationals, they exhibit their willingness to hire somebody from outside the country.

In effect, they produce a job offer for the potential employee and then send supporting documents to the US Citizen and Immigration Services. This document contains several forms and other files that relate to the employee’s recruitment details and justify the company’s needs to hire a non-US citizen. These documents also include statements where the company ensures that they are willingly going through this recruitment. This set of documents is called the Visa Sponsorship Letters.

Non-Immigrant Sponsorship

Non-immigrant sponsorships are only used for a temporary basis where the individual cannot ultimately become a US citizen. This is valid for individuals who are only temporarily moving to the country. This means Non-immigrant visa holders are not eligible for Green Cards, indicating that the Visa does not qualify for US citizenship later.

If the job requires you to travel for a short period of time only, this would be the ideal Visa sponsorship for you. However, this means that you would require an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work in the United States.

While there are a number of different non-immigrant Visas, the following require sponsorship from an employer.

Work Visa Sponsorship

Employer Visa sponsorship also comes in handy for immigrant Visa or Green Cards. For individuals who hold Immigrant Visa Sponsorship, they do not require a separate Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work in the country.

With this Visa, not only can you live in the United States, but also become a Legal Permanent Resident. In effect, you can enroll in a school, purchase property, or even get yourself a Driver’s License with this Visa arrangement.

These immigrant Visas are segregated into multiple categories depending upon the purpose of the Visa. Some of the Visas in the category include:

  • EB-1 Visa
  • EB-2 Visa
  • EB-3 Visa
  • EB-4 Visa

How To Get A Sponsorship Letter?

Getting a sponsorship letter is a long and detailed process. More often than not, the employer hires a lawyer to take care of the process. Documentation and justification should be accurate. Here are some of the steps followed:

  • The first step requires the employee to get an offer from a US employer. This also includes the contract that goes into the sponsorship documents.
  • For a non-immigrant Visa, a Labor Certification has to be produced to the Department of Labor, stating that the employer could not find a suitable potential employee within the country.
  • The petition, along with the documents, is submitted to the USCIS. This set of documentation includes contracts, itineraries, qualifications of the individual, and the likes.
  • With the submission of all the necessary documents, the USCIS processes the Visa sponsorship application. This takes some time, depending upon the total number of pending cases with the USCIS. Sometimes, it takes months for the application to be processed.
  • If the application is approved and the report is positive, both the employer and employee will be informed about the same. At this point in time, the employee can start the actual Visa application process in their home country, with the US Embassy.
  • In the situation that the application is rejected, again, the employer and employee are informed accordingly. This also includes the reason for the rejection, which could be the lack of employee qualification or inadequate documentation.

Financial Visa Sponsorship (Humanitarian Programs)

This type of sponsorship provides a pathway for entities to sponsor foreign nationals based on humanitarian reasons, without the need for family or employer connections. Current programs under this umbrella include initiatives for Ukrainian refugees and specific migrants like those from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. The process requires sponsors to prove their financial ability to support the individual, ensuring that the sponsored individuals have the means to support themselves while in the U.S.

Eligibility Requirements

Beyond family and work sponsorships, there’s financial sponsorship. This allows entities to sponsor foreign nationals, irrespective of familial or employer ties, primarily for humanitarian reasons.

Current Programs:

  • Ukrainian refugees under the Uniting for Ukraine initiative.
  • Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, or Venezuelan migrants via the humanitarian parole program.

Process

Sponsors must prove their financial capacity to support the individual. This can come from income, assets, or other financial avenues. The government ensures that the beneficiaries can support themselves in the U.S. However, financial backing does not guarantee program approval. Other eligibility criteria must be met.

Who Can Sponsor a Visa?

Obtaining a visa sponsorship in the U.S. involves different pathways, each contingent upon the nature of the relationship between the sponsor and the visa applicant.

Who Can Sponsor a Family-Based Immigrant?

Family-based visa sponsorship primarily involves U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents sponsoring a family member for immigration. This can be for immediate relatives, like spouses, children, or parents, or for more distant family relationships under family preference categories. The sponsoring individual typically needs to prove the legitimacy of the relationship and, in many cases, their capability to financially support the beneficiary.

Who Can Sponsor and Employment-Based Immigrant?

For those seeking Visa sponsorship through employment, the primary route is securing a job offer from a U.S. company. The employer acts as the visa sponsor and manages the relevant documentation. However, sponsorship is typically granted under specific conditions.

A significant criterion is that the company must first advertise the job position, with the necessary paperwork sent to the Department of Labor. If the role remains vacant, indicating no suitable U.S. citizen was available, the company can then claim the necessity of hiring a foreign national. In essence, an employer can sponsor a visa if they have a valid job vacancy and can demonstrate the need for a foreign candidate.

Who Can Petition Financial Sponsorship on an Immigrant?

Apart from employment and family-based sponsorships, there’s another avenue termed financial sponsorship. This allows individuals or organizations to sponsor foreign nationals based on humanitarian grounds, even if they’re not linked by family ties or a job offer. Examples include sponsorship programs for refugees from specific regions or countries. The crux here is the financial capacity of the sponsor to ensure the beneficiary’s needs are met during their U.S. stay.

In all cases, visa sponsorship is a significant commitment, and both parties must be diligent in fulfilling the necessary requirements.

How Much Does It Cost to Sponsor a Visa?

When considering visa sponsorship, it’s crucial to understand not only the process but also the associated costs. Each form has its own fee set by USCIS, which can change over time due to administrative or policy adjustments. In this section, we’ll break down the costs associated with each of the common USCIS forms related to visa sponsorship.

  • I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) – The filing fee for Form I-129F is $535. This fee covers the processing and evaluation of the petition for those U.S. citizens who wish to bring their foreign national fiancé(e) to the United States.
  • I-130, Petition for Alien Relative – The current fee for Form I-130 stands at $535. This is a common form used to establish a qualifying relationship with a relative who might be eligible for immigration to the U.S., such as spouses, parents, and siblings.
  • I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition – Form I-730 does not have a filing fee. Refugees or asylees can use this form to petition for certain family members to join them in the U.S. The absence of a fee recognizes the humanitarian nature of the form.
  • I-129, Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker – The base filing fee for Form I-129 is $460, but it may vary based on the type of worker and other considerations. Employers use this form to request a specific class of non-immigrant workers. Additional fees may be applicable depending on the nature and classification of the employment.
  • I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker – Form I-140 has a standard filing fee of $700. U.S. employers use this to petition for a foreign worker to become a permanent resident in the U.S., mainly for employment-based green cards.
  • I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant – The base fee for Form I-360 is $435, though some petitioners, such as battered spouses and children, may qualify for a fee waiver. This form serves a variety of special immigrants, including religious workers, juveniles in need of protection, and more.
  • I-526, Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor – The fee for Form I-526 is $3,675. This form is used by business investors who wish to immigrate to the U.S. through the EB-5 visa program, aiming at those who will invest significant sums in new U.S. enterprises.

It’s essential to note that these fees are periodically updated by the USCIS. Always refer to the USCIS website or consult with an immigration attorney for the most recent and accurate fee schedules. Additionally, apart from the form filing fees, applicants may also incur other costs, such as those related to medical examinations, document translations, or legal representation.

How Long Is A Visa Sponsorship Valid?

The validity of the Visa Sponsorship depends on the type of Visa you are working with. For instance, if you opt for an Immigrant Visa, it is a permanent solution. This effectively means you are a Green Card holder with a validity of 10 years, followed by unlimited extensions. You can also apply for permanent citizenship after five years of your stay in the United States.

On the other hand, if you have a non-immigrant visa, it would be valid for one year or three years, depending on the type of Visa. When the Visa sponsorship approaches the expiration date, the employer can again apply to the USCIS for an extension. However, in this case, you can only extend the sponsorship for a maximum of 2 or 3 times.

Helpful Visa Sponsorship Resources

Other Stilt Resources

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Visa Sponsorship?

Visa sponsorship refers to the act of a U.S. employer, family member, or other entity taking responsibility for sponsoring an individual’s visa application. This is commonly required for various types of U.S. visas, including work and family-based visas.

How Does Employer Visa Sponsorship Work?

In employer visa sponsorship, a U.S. employer offers a job to a foreign national and sponsors their visa application. This process often involves proving that no U.S. worker is available for the job and filing necessary forms with the U.S. government.

What Types of Visas Require Sponsorship?

Visas that commonly require sponsorship include employment-based visas like H-1B, L-1, O-1, and family-based visas where a U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsors a relative.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Visa Sponsor?

A visa sponsor’s responsibilities vary by visa type but typically include ensuring the visa holder complies with visa conditions, and for some visa types, financially supporting the visa holder.

Can Anyone Be a Visa Sponsor?

Not everyone can be a visa sponsor. For employment visas, only authorized U.S. employers can sponsor. For family visas, sponsors must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents meeting certain income criteria.

How Long is the Visa Sponsorship Valid?

Visa sponsorship validity aligns with the visa duration, which varies based on the type of visa. Employment visas can last from a few months to several years, while family visa sponsorships can be longer.

What is the Process for Sponsorship for a Work Visa?

The sponsorship process for a work visa involves the employer filing a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), obtaining a labor certification if required, and the visa applicant then applying for the visa.

Does Visa Sponsorship Guarantee Visa Approval?

Visa sponsorship does not guarantee visa approval. The final decision rests with U.S. immigration authorities, who assess the applicant’s eligibility and admissibility.

Can a Visa Sponsorship be Withdrawn?

Yes, a visa sponsorship can be withdrawn by the sponsor before the visa is issued. For employment visas, if the employment is terminated, the sponsorship typically ends.

Are There Costs Associated with Visa Sponsorship?

There are costs associated with visa sponsorship, including filing fees paid by the sponsor. In employment visa cases, certain fees must be paid by the employer and cannot be passed on to the employee.