Process for citizen to sponsor undocumented immediate family member for green card

I receive a lot of questions from American citizens who are eligible to sponsor their immediate family member (spouse, parents, and children below 21) but are unable to do so because these potential beneficiaries are illegally in the country in the fear that when they go for their consular processing interview, they will be banned from entering the United States for years depending upon the time that they have lived without status.  Thankfully, there is a process that can work for most of you in which the applicant will not receive a ban and can get a green card by being out of the country for merely days or weeks (there are separate paths for immediate family members of US servicemembers and those from visa waiver countries).  This is how it works (if you are comfortable completing rather simple forms, then, there is no need for an attorney.  You just have to be methodical and diligent.  You can do online research to find answer if you get stuck because there is already a lot of information online and you can ask questions in forums):

  1. File USCIS form I-130 to establish the relationship and eligibility.
  2. When you receive the I130 approval, you will get instructions on what to do next: basically more forms to fill (thankfully, the USCIS provides clear instructions on which forms to complete and how) and you should complete all the paperwork as instructed.  You should try to pay your fee online using a credit card here so that it will be easy for you to print the receipt which you will need for step below.
  3. Once you receive a receipt notice that your documents have arrived, you must now separately complete the USCIS Form I601A.  It  is important for you to understand that this form is for you to plead that if the government bans you from entering the US for years, it will cause extreme hardship to your family.  For example, if you have little children or sick family members or whatever else that will be the cause of hardship, it must be explained.  
  4. If USCIS Form I601A is approved and all other paperwork is complete, then, you will get a letter in the mail giving you a date of appointment at the US embassy/consulate in your native country.  A few days before the interview, you fly to your country to make sure that you do not miss the appointment.  Then show up for the appointment, and do a good job at the interview answering all questions honestly.  If you are approved, then, just book a flight back to USA and at the airport give them the paperwork that you will get from the embassy.  You will then be a green card holder but the actual card will take about 2 weeks to come in the mail. 

What if you are ineligible to apply for I601 A?  In case you are banned from entering the United States after the interview, you should explore the possibility of applying for a provisional waiver using the form USCIS I601.  Hopefully, you will be allowed to return right away; if not, you should simply wait for your ban to end.  Obviously, if you do not have an approved I601A before leaving or suspect that you will be banned from re-entry and will be unsuccessful pleading for a waiver, you need to consider whether you want to legalize your status or continue to live without legal status.