Immigrating to the U.S. through a U.S. citizen child is possible, but there are some limitations. The biggest limitation has to do with the child’s required age. Only parents of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old are considered eligible to immigrate.

Parents can be considered “immediate relatives” who are eligible for lawful permanent residence through a green card right away once they complete the application process. With their U.S. residence, they can live and work in the United States permanently.

Generally, only U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old may sponsor their parents to reside in the United States permanently. Lawful permanent residents, such as green card holders, cannot bring their parents to the United States.

What Are Common Issues for Parents of U.S. Citizens in Qualifying for a Green Card?

Some parents of U.S. citizens who are already living in the United States unlawfully and have already done so for six months or more are inadmissible. This can create a time bar on receiving residence for up to ten years. The time ban can potentially be cured by applying for a waiver of inadmissibility. A waiver of inadmissibility involves proving that a qualifying U.S. relative would suffer extreme hardship if the visa were denied. Only spouses or parents count for this purpose. Children do not.

The children of immigrating parents might incur significant financial responsibility. The U.S. government will expect them to prove that their household income is sufficient to support their family and parents at 125% or more above the U.S. poverty level.

The parents must genuinely intend to live in the United States. A green card is not a travel document. Suppose permanent residents stay outside the U.S. too long. In that case, U.S. border authorities might come to notice that they truly “live” somewhere else and have “abandoned” their U.S. residence. The border authorities can deny reentry to the United States in these cases.

Immigration Prospects for Parents of U.S. Citizen Living in the U.S. Unlawfully

Many families living in the U.S. have a child who is a U.S. citizen, but the parents are undocumented immigrants.

Perhaps the parents came to the U.S. unlawfully, or on a visa that has since expired, and gave birth to the child in the United States. In some cases, the parents brought the child from another country, and the child qualified for a green card while the parents did not. Some children come to the U.S. on a visa and eventually become citizens, then invite parents to visit in the U.S., and the parents never leave.

If a parents’ unlawful stay was at least 180 days long, they become “inadmissible” to the U.S. for three years. If the unlawful stay was one year long, they have become “inadmissible” to the U.S. for ten years.

If the parents perform the final step of applying for a green card by personally interviewing with an immigration official in another country, they will not be allowed to return to the U.S. for three or ten years without a waiver.

For some parents; namely the ones who entered on a visa or through the visa waiver program; they will not be required to leave the U.S. The parents can stay and receive their green card through a procedure known as “adjustment of status” by attending their interview at an office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is true even if they overstayed the visa. However, the parent cannot have misused the visa or obtained it simply to come to the U.S. and get a green card.

Parents who entered the U.S. without inspection are not allowed to adjust their status unless they fall into an exceptional category.

What Are the Immigration Prospects for Parents of U.S. Citizens Living in the U.S.?

If parents of a U.S. citizen are living in the U.S. on a valid visa, they should be able to adjust their status as immediate relatives by submitting all their paperwork and attending their interview at a USCIS office.

The only hurdle would be if the parents committed visa fraud by applying for the U.S. nonimmigrant visa to gain U.S. entry only to adjust status. If the parents applied for a B-2 visitor visa, they are supposed to have truly intended to be tourists and only later decided to apply for a green card.

What Are the Immigration Prospects for Parents of U.S. Citizens Living Outside the United States?

For parents living outside the U.S. who haven’t done anything to make them inadmissible, the application process to get a green card through a U.S. citizen child should be straightforward.
The parents should expect to complete “consular processing,” which involves submitting their paperwork and attending their visa interview at a U.S. consulate in their home country before coming to the U.S. on an immigrant visa. Upon entry, they become lawful permanent residents. The actual green card will likely arrive several weeks later.

What Materials Will I Need?

The materials you must provide the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services vary depending on which parent you want to bring. For example, if you were born out of wedlock and never legitimated by your father, you will need to furnish different materials than if you were sponsoring your mother. Some standard documents include:

  • A copy of your birth certificate
  • Your U.S. passport
  • Legal evidence of any name changes
  • Civil marriage certificate

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

Because your parents are considered immediate relatives, they do not have to sit on a green card waitlist or be subjected to the number of green cards issued to their country.
It may take up to a year while the application is processed. You must provide all of the documentation needed for the authorities to process your application.

If I Was Adopted, Can I Bring My Birth Parents?

Legally adopted children may not sponsor their birth parents to reside in the United States permanently. An immigration attorney can suggest alternate methods for adopted children to bring their birth parents to the United States.

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

Because the immigration authorities require different information depending on your legal relationship with your parents, an immigration attorney can help you determine which documents you need so that your petition is approved as quickly as possible. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you file your petition and suggest methods to bring other relatives to the United States.

Don’t let problems at the U.S. border stop you from living with your family. An immigration lawyer can walk you through the steps needed depending on your legal relationship with your parents. Use LegalMatch to find an experienced lawyer who can handle your parents’ immigration issues today. There is no fee to schedule a consultation and our services are entirely confidential. Find the right lawyer for your needs today on LegalMatch.