Can an aunt ask her niece?

In my Consulta Migratoria® column this week, I answer a question from a reader who wants to emigrate her niece.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on each person's immigration history.

Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before starting any procedure.

This is the column:

I am an American citizen and I want to order for my niece who lives in El Salvador, is it possible? -Carlota A.

Carlota, under immigration law, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident cannot file a direct relative petition for a nephew.

As a U.S. citizen, you can only file family petitions for your parents, spouse, children, and siblings. Your children and siblings can be single or married.

If you petition for a brother or sister who has unmarried children under the age of 21, they may be included in that family petition on a derivative basis.

You do not tell me your niece's age or marital status. In order to be included in your brother's or sister's petition, she must be unmarried and under the age of 21.

However, this is a lengthy process. If your brother or sister's petition is approved, the next step is to wait for an immigrant visa. Currently, that wait is approximately 13 years for citizens of El Salvador.

That means that even if your niece is included in a parent's petition, she could be excluded if in the process she turns 21 and is not protected by the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), which under certain circumstances, preserves an alien's minority status for purposes of permanent residence.

I recommend that you consult with an immigration attorney to evaluate your niece's situation and determine her legal options to travel legally to the United States.