Visa sponsorship is a very common topic when discussing how to move to the U.S. In this article, you will find information on visa sponsorship, its importance, and how it works. Whether you’re an employer looking to sponsor an employee or an individual seeking to enter the US, this page will provide you with the essential information you need to know.

What is Visa Sponsorship in the U.S.?

Visa sponsorship in the United States is a critical process for individuals seeking to enter the country for various purposes, such as work, family reunification, or tourism. Essentially, a U.S. company or individual takes responsibility for a foreign national’s stay in the country. This sponsorship is a requirement for obtaining several types of visas.

The definition of “sponsorship” – the act of supporting a non-US citizen’s visa application by a US citizen, legal permanent resident or an authorized entity like an employer is known as visa sponsorship. This support indicates to the U.S. government that the applicant has a specific reason for visiting the country and that there is someone in the U.S. responsible for them during their stay. The sponsor typically ensures that the visa holder complies with the terms of their visa and does not become a public charge.

US Visa Sponsorship Definition Graphic

Family-Based Sponsorship Explained

Visa sponsorship is common for family-based green card purposes. U.S. citizens or permanent residents can sponsor their parents and relatives, including spouses, children, and siblings, to help them obtain a family-based immigrant visa.

Eligibility for Family Visa Sponsorship

For U.S. citizens or permanent residents looking to sponsor family members, they must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Sponsor’s Status: Must be a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident (Green Card holder).
  • Relationship: Must have a qualifying relationship with the beneficiary (e.g., spouse, child, parent, sibling).
  • Financial Requirements: Must meet certain income requirements to ensure the relative won’t become a public charge.
  • Legal Obligations: Commitment to support the family member for a period, typically until they become U.S. citizens or can support themselves.

Application Process for Family-Based Visa Sponsorship 

  • Step 1 – Establishing Sponsor Eligibility: The U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsor must first establish their eligibility by proving their legal status and relationship to the beneficiary.
  • Step 2 – Filing the Petition: The sponsor files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Step 3 – USCIS Review and Approval: USCIS reviews the petition. If approved, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC).
  • Step 4 – National Visa Center Processing: The NVC collects fees, affidavits of support, and civil documents. They schedule a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the beneficiary’s country.
  • Step 5 – Visa Application and Interview: The beneficiary completes the visa application and attends the interview.
  • Step 6 – Visa Approval and Travel: If approved, the beneficiary receives a visa to travel to the U.S.

Application Process for Family-Based Visa Sponsorship Flowchart

Employment-Based Sponsorship Explained

Employers in the U.S. can sponsor foreign workers for various employment-based visas. These include H-1B visas for specialty occupations, L-1 visas for intra-company transfers, and other categories depending on the nature of the employment and the employee’s qualifications.

Eligibility for Employment-Based Visa Sponsorship

U.S. employers seeking to sponsor a foreign national for employment must meet the following requriements:

  • Labor Certification: May be required to prove that there are no qualified U.S. workers available for the job.
  • Job Offer: Must provide a legitimate job offer relevant to the foreign national’s qualifications.
  • Ability to Pay: Must demonstrate the ability to pay the offered wage, which should be at par with the industry standard.
  • Compliance with Regulations: Adherence to all employment and immigration laws, including non-discriminatory hiring practices.

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Application Process for Employment-Based Visa Sponsorship 

  • Step 1 – Labor Certification (if required): The employer may need to obtain a labor certification from the Department of Labor.
  • Step 2 – Filing the Petition: The employer files Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or other relevant forms for non-immigrant workers with USCIS.
  • Step 3 – USCIS Review and Approval: USCIS reviews the petition and, if approved, sends it to the NVC.
  • Step 4 – NVC Processing and Interview Scheduling: Similar to family-based visas, the NVC processes the application and schedules an interview.
  • Step 5 – Visa Application and Interview: The employee completes the visa application process and attends the interview.
  • Step 6 – Visa Approval and Travel: Upon approval, the employee is granted a visa to enter the U.S.

Application Process for Employment-Based Visa Sponsorship Flowchart Final

Tourist Visa Sponsorship Explained

Although less common, sponsorship for tourist visas (B-2) can occur. This usually involves a U.S. resident inviting a non-resident to visit, providing assurance to the U.S. government regarding the visitor’s accommodations and financial support during their stay.

Eligibility for Tourist Visa Sponsorship

While not always required, sponsorship for a tourist visa can occur in some instances:

  • Invitation Letter: A U.S. resident can provide an invitation letter, detailing their relationship with the visitor and the purpose of the visit.
  • Financial Support: The sponsor might need to provide evidence of their ability to support the visitor financially during their stay.
  • Intent of Visit: Assuring that the visit is for tourism purposes and the visitor will return to their home country post-visit.

Application Process for Tourist Visa Sponsorship

  • Step 1 – Invitation Letter (if applicable): The U.S. sponsor provides an invitation letter detailing the purpose of the visit and support.
  • Step 2 – Visa Application: The visitor applies for a B-2 tourist visa, completing all required forms and gathering necessary documentation.
  • Step 3 – Visa Interview: The applicant attends a visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
  • Step 4 – Visa Decision: Following the interview, a decision is made regarding the visa application.

Application Process for Tourist Visa Sponsorship Flowchart

Eligibility Criteria for Visa Sponsorship

When seeking U.S. visa sponsorship, whether for family, employment, or tourist purposes, understanding the eligibility criteria is crucial. These criteria differ based on the type of visa and the nature of the sponsorship. Above, we outlined the key eligibility requirements for each category of visa sponsorship.

However, there are some general considerations for all sponsors:

  • Legal Status: Sponsors must be in legal standing with U.S. immigration laws.
  • Documentary Proof: Required to submit evidence supporting their eligibility and relationship with the beneficiary.
  • Age Requirement: Generally, sponsors need to be at least 18 years old.

Types of Visas That Require Sponsorship

Below, you will find a table of some of the visas that might require sponsorship.



Petitioner (Sponsor)



Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)

U.S. citizen

Foreign national fiancé


Petition for Alien Relative

U.S. citizen or LPR

Foreign national relative in the immediate relative or family preference categories


Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition


Immediate relative of refugee or asylee


Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker

U.S. employer

Foreign worker


Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker

U.S. employer

Foreign worker


Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant



Special Immigrant

Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor


Business investor


Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative

U.S. citizen

Foreign adoptive child


Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA

U.S. citizen or LPR

Sponsored family member


Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status

Individual applicant or current visa holder

Self or dependents


Application for Employment Authorization

Individual applicant

Foreign national seeking work authorization


Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition

Visa holder or approved petitioner

Beneficiary of approved visa petition


Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

Individual applicant

Foreign national seeking to adjust to permanent resident status


Costs Associated with Visa Sponsorship

The cost of visa sponsorship is typically associated with the specific USCIS forms that require sponsorship. Below are the forms and their costs. However, it’s important to note that there is no charge for a sponsor to sponsor a visa. It’s crucial to check the current USCIS fee schedule, as these fees are subject to change.

  • I-129F – $535
  • I-130 – $535
  • I-730 – $0
  • I-129 – $460
  • I-140 – $700
  • I-360 – $435
  • I-526 – $3,675
  • I-800 – $0
  • I-864 – $0
  • I-539 – $370
  • I-765 – $410
  • I-824 – $465
  • I-485 – $750 to $1,225

Legal Obligations and Responsibilities

In family-based visa sponsorship, sponsors must sign an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864), legally agreeing to support the sponsored family member financially. This ensures that the family member does not become a public charge. The financial responsibility typically lasts until the family member becomes a U.S. citizen, can be credited with 40 quarters of work, departs the U.S. permanently, or dies. Additionally, if the sponsored family member receives certain public benefits, the sponsor may need to repay the cost of those benefits.

For employment-based visa sponsorship, employers must comply with specific labor conditions. This includes ensuring that the foreign worker is paid at least the prevailing wage and that employing a foreign worker does not adversely affect U.S. workers. Employers must also notify USCIS of specific changes, such as early termination of employment, and maintain records as prescribed by law. In some cases, employers might be responsible for the reasonable cost of return transportation to the worker’s last place of foreign residence if the employment is terminated before the end of the authorized period of stay.

While less formal than family or employment sponsorship, tourist visa sponsorship involves certain responsibilities. Sponsors should be prepared to provide financial support and maintenance during the visitor’s stay. They may also need to provide an invitation letter stating the purpose of the visit, their relationship with the visitor, and assurance of financial support.

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Alternatives to Visa Sponsorship

If you’re exploring ways to enter or remain in the United States without needing a sponsor, several visa categories offer this flexibility. These include the EB-1A, EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver), E-1 and E-2, and EB-5 visas. Each of these categories has unique requirements and benefits, making it suitable for different individuals based on their circumstances, skills, and intentions.

EB-1A: Extraordinary Ability

The EB-1A visa is for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. This is demonstrated through sustained national or international acclaim and recognized achievements. Applicants must show that they will continue to work in their area of extraordinary ability and that their presence will significantly benefit the United States. The key advantage of the EB-1A is that no job offer or labor certification is required, allowing for self-petitioning.

EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver)

The EB-2 NIW visa category is for professionals holding advanced degrees or those with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. The National Interest Waiver allows these individuals to bypass the labor certification process typically required for an EB-2 visa. Applicants must demonstrate that their work has substantial intrinsic merit, is national in scope, and waiving the labor certification will benefit the U.S.

E-1 and E-2: Treaty Traders and Investors

E-1 and E-2 visas are for citizens of countries with which the United States maintains treaties of commerce and navigation. The E-1 visa is for individuals engaged in substantial international trade between the U.S. and their home country. In contrast, the E-2 visa is for those who invest a significant amount of capital in a U.S. business. Both visas require a substantial presence in the U.S. to develop and direct the trade or investment operations.

EB-5: Immigrant Investor Program

The EB-5 visa provides a method for eligible immigrant investors to become lawful permanent residents. To qualify, individuals must invest a significant amount of capital in a new commercial enterprise in the United States and plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. This program is ideal for high-net-worth individuals looking to gain residency through investment.

Each of these visa categories offers distinct pathways for living and working in the U.S. without the need for a sponsor. It’s crucial to understand the specific criteria and legal requirements of each option and consider consulting with an immigration attorney to explore the best pathway for your individual situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about sponsoring a visa to the U.S.

How do I get a visa sponsorship?

To obtain visa sponsorship, you must first identify the type of visa you are applying for (family, employment, or tourist). For family visas, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member must sponsor you. For employment visas, a U.S. employer must offer you a job and agree to sponsor your visa. For tourist visas, a U.S. resident can sponsor your visit in some cases, although this is less common.

Is a visa the same as a sponsorship?

No, visas and sponsorships are not the same. A visa is a document that allows you to enter and stay in the U.S. for a specific purpose and period. Sponsorship, on the other hand, refers to the support provided by a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or employer in the visa application process, affirming their responsibility for you during your stay in the U.S.

How much does visa sponsorship cost?

The cost of visa sponsorship varies between $0 to $4,000+ and this is attributed to the required forms. However, there is no fee for a sponsor to sponsor a visa. For employment visas, costs can include filing fees for the petition, processing fees, and potentially legal fees. For family visas, there are filing fees for the petition and additional costs for processing the visa application. These costs are usually borne by the sponsor or the applicant.

What is the meaning of sponsorship for a visa?

Sponsorship for a visa means a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or authorized entity (like an employer) is supporting a non-citizen’s visa application and taking responsibility for them during their stay in the U.S. This includes financial responsibility and ensuring the visa holder complies with all visa regulations.

How long does visa sponsorship take?

The duration of the visa sponsorship process varies. For employment visas, it can take several months to over a year, depending on the visa category and current processing times. Family visa sponsorship can take from a few months to several years, depending on the relationship between the sponsor and the applicant and the current immigration quotas.

Can someone sponsor me to the USA?

Yes, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident can sponsor a relative, and a U.S. employer can sponsor an employee. The sponsor must meet certain eligibility criteria and agree to take on the legal responsibilities of sponsorship.

Can US companies offer visa sponsorship?

Yes, U.S. companies can offer visa sponsorship for employment. They must follow the legal process for obtaining an employment visa for the prospective employee, which includes filing the necessary petitions with USCIS and possibly the Department of Labor.

Who needs sponsorship for employment visa status?

Foreign nationals who wish to work in the U.S. on a non-immigrant employment visa (like H-1B, L-1, etc.) generally require sponsorship from a U.S. employer. The employer must file a petition on the employee’s behalf and prove that the foreign national’s skills are needed and that hiring them will not adversely affect U.S. workers.

How do you get sponsorship for a work visa?

To get sponsorship for a work visa, you typically need to secure a job offer from a U.S. employer willing to sponsor your visa. The employer must then file a petition with USCIS and fulfill all legal requirements for sponsorship, including labor certification in some cases. It’s important to have the necessary qualifications and experience that match the job requirements.