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Green Card for Parents

Many naturalized U.S. citizens have family members who still live abroad. Luckily, there are options that allow those family members to gain permanent residency. In the content that follows, we’ll go over how to get a green card for parents of U.S. citizens as well as the eligibility requirements both you and your family will have to meet.

First, Verify Your Status as a U.S. Citizen

Before we begin, it is important to understand the distinction between a U.S. citizen and a permanent resident. If you have a green card for permanent residency, you are not considered a U.S. citizen and you cannot sponsor your parents’ petition for permanent residency. You may, however, petition for a green card for a spouse or any unmarried children who are under the age of 21.

Verify Your Eligibility to Sponsor a Green Card Petition

In order for you to get a green card for a parent, you must be able to support them at 125 percent of the national poverty level. This is to ensure that they have financial support and will not require assistance from the U.S. government.

Verify Your Parents’ Eligibility for a Green Card

Certain factors could make your parents ineligible for permanent residency. For example, if the parent you wish to sponsor has a criminal record or existing immigration violations, they will not be admissible. Other examples include dangerous physical or mental disabilities and diseases that could be a potential threat to the public.

Steps for How to Get a Green Card for Parents of US Citizens

While your parents could certainly explore other options for obtaining a green card, the main benefit of applying as your relatives is that they won’t have to wait for an immigration visa to become available. This is because there is an unlimited number of visas available for immediate family members of U.S. citizens.

The first step in the process is to file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with the USCIS. You will need to file a separate form for each parent. Because this form testifies your parent-child relationship, you will also need to include documented evidence of the relationship: a copy of your U.S. passport, your naturalization certificate, and a copy of your birth certificate with your parents’ names on it. Do NOT send the original copies of any of these documents.

If your parents live outside the United States

Once the USCIS receives and approves your parents’ application, they will then send it to the US consulate located in your parents’ country of citizenship. During this time, you will need to submit Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) to the USCIS. Once the consulate is ready, they will contact your parents to schedule an interview for an immigrant visa. This visa will allow your parents to come to the United States and complete the process for permanent residency.

If your parents live in the United States

If your parents are already living in the United States, it is still possible for you to sponsor their petition for permanent residency. However, they must be residing in the United States legally. For example, if your parents are currently in the country with work visas, they may petition for a green card through adjustment of status without having to leave the country. In this case, you would file Form I-485 (Application to Petition Permanent Residence of Adjustment of Status) and Form I-130 simultaneously.

However, if your parents are living in the United States illegally, they could be ineligible for permanent residency since they have violated immigration law. In this case, it is best to speak with an immigration lawyer immediately in order to determine the best course of action.

Maintaining a Permanent Residence in the US

Many people mistakenly believe that they can hold a permanent residence abroad and use their green card as a travel visa. However, this is not the case. In order for your parents to maintain their status as green card holders, their primary residence must be within the United States. Leaving the U.S. for more than six months at a time could be a sign to the American government that they have abandoned their residence, which would be grounds for green card revocation.

If your parent needs to stay outside of the U.S. for a long period of time due to matters beyond their control (such as severe illness or death of a close relative), they should provide a letter from a doctor or a death certificate as proof. If they are lucky enough to know ahead of time that they will be gone for more than six months, it is best that they file Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) before they depart.

Getting a Green Card for Just One Parent

It is possible for just one of your parents to get a green card. However, there are different rules that apply depending on which parent it is. For example, if you are petitioning for a green card for your father but he was not married to your mother and did not formally adopt or otherwise legitimize you before the age of 18, you will need to prove to the U.S. government that a substantial relationship exists between the two of you. The table below outlines the requirements for most parent-child relationship scenarios.

 

If the Parent You Wish to Sponsor is...

Then You Must Submit the Following Forms and Evidence...

Your biological mother

  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).
  • A copy of your birth certificate that shows your mother’s name.
  • A copy of your U.S. passport, Certificate of Naturalization, or other legal documentation of your status as a U.S. citizen.

Your biological father

  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).
  • A copy of your birth certificate that shows both your mother’s name and your father’s name.
  • A copy of your U.S. passport or Certificate of Naturalization, or other legal documentation of your status as a U.S. citizen.
  • A copy of your parents’ marriage certificate.

Your biological father who was not married to your mother did not formally adopt or legitimize you before your 18th birthday.

  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).
  • A copy of your birth certificate that shows both your name and your father’s name.
  • A copy of your U.S. passport or Certificate of Naturalization, or other legal documentation of your status as a U.S. citizen.
  • Evidence of a legitimate and substantial relationship between you and your father that has existed since before you turned 21 or married.

Your biological father who was not married to your mother DIDformally adopt or legitimize you before your 18th birthday.

  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).
  • A copy of your birth certificate that shows both your name and your father’s name.
  • A copy of your U.S. passport or Certificate of Naturalization, or other legal documentation of your status as a U.S. citizen.
  • Evidence that your father did formally adopt or legitimize you prior to your 18th birthday. This would include a former marriage to your biological mother, laws of the state or country in which you were born, or laws of the state or country in which your father was born.

Your legal step-parent

  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).
  • A copy of your birth certificate that shows your parents’ names.
  • A copy of a marriage certificate that proves your step-parent’s marriage to your biological parent occurred prior to your 18th birthday.
  • If any other marriage between your step-parent and another individual existed prior to the marriage to your biological parent, you will need to submit evidence that this marriage was legally dissolved. This could include a death certificate, divorce decree, or annulment decree.

Your legal adoptive parent

  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).
  • A copy of your birth certificate.
  • A copy of your Certificate of Naturalization.
  • A copy of your adoption certificate that proves that the adoption was legal and occurred prior to your 16th birthday.
  • An official statement attesting to the dates and places where you have lived with your legal adoptive parent.

 

FAQ about how to get a green card for parents of US citizens:

Q: Do my parents need to apply for work authorization after they get their green cards?

A: No. Once your parents are permanent residents, they will be legally allowed to work in the United States. If they wish to apply for work before they receive their permanent resident card, the passport stamp they receive when they first enter the U.S. will serve as proof of their eligibility to work.

Q: What if my parents’ petition for a green card is denied? Can you recommend another method for how to get a green card for parents of US citizens?

A: If your parents’ petition for a green card is denied, you may file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals. The process for doing so will be outlined in the denial letter you receive. Your parents can also apply for a green card through in other ways. Take a look at our latest eBook, “A Guide to Residency: Top 4 Green Card Options,” to learn about the alternatives.

Q: Can I have my parents come to the U.S. on a travel visa and then apply for their green cards?

A: Technically you can, but it’s not recommended. This is a violation of the terms of their travel visa, which could result in a long-term ban on admissibility. In order for this to work, you’d have to prove to the U.S. government that your parents original intent was to leave once their travel visa expired, but that extenuating circumstances prompted them to petition for green card status (such as asylum). As you can imagine, this would be pretty difficult to do.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to get a green card for parents of US citizens, you can start gathering the documents, forms, and evidence needed to get green cards for your own parents. However, the immigration process is often fraught with unforeseen complications that can cause significant delays. An experienced immigration lawyer will be able to help expedite the green card process so that your family can join you in the U.S. as soon as possible. To schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of the seasoned attorneys at Katz Law Ltd., contact our office today.

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