U.S. citizens and green card holders may sponsor their unmarried child of any age to obtain permanent residency and come to the United States. However, a child that is married may only be brought to the United States by a parent who is a U.S. citizen.

How Do the Immigration Authorities Define a Child?

Immigration law separates children into different categories based on two conditions: marital status and age. Generally, a child is:

  • Born to parents married to each other
  • Born to parents not married to each other when child is born
  • A stepchild if the marriage creating the relationship was before the child turned 18
  • Adopted

What Materials Will I Need?

The materials you must provide to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services vary depending on who is petitioning to bring the child. For example, if the child was born out of wedlock and never legitimated, you will need to furnish different materials than if you were married at the time of the child’s birth. Some common documents include:

  • Copy of your birth certificate
  • Copy of the child’s birth certificate
  • U.S. Passport, Certificate of Nationalization or Citizenship
  • Legal evidence of any name changes
  • Custody decrees

How Long Will It Take Before I Can Bring My Child?

If your child is unmarried and under 21, they are considered an immediate relative and do not have to be placed on a green card wait list or be subjected to the number of green cards issued to their country. Unfortunately, if your child is over 21, or married, they are placed on a wait list and it may take as long as 6 years before they are issued permanent residency.

May the Child I Bring to the United States Bring a Spouse or Children with Them?

If the child you are sponsoring is married, then their spouse and children are also permitted to permanently reside in the United States. If the child you are sponsoring is unmarried, and over 21, their children are also permitted to reside in the United States. But, if your child is unmarried, and under 21, then they would have to sponsor the child once they are in the United States and have obtained permanent residency.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Bring My Child into the United States?

Being separated from a child can be a very emotional experience. An experienced immigration attorney can help you determine what documents you need so that your petition to bring your child to the United States is approved as quickly as possible. An immigration lawyer also can help you file your petition and suggest methods to bring other relatives to the United States.