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Bringing Children of U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents into the U.S.

Learning how to reunite with your children by bringing them with you to the United States may feel challenging and overwhelming. You must meet legal requirements on top of the emotional toll of being away from your children. Although it might be difficult, there are ways for you to bring immediate relatives to the United States.

This article gives an overview of bringing your sons and daughters to the United States.

Are My Children Eligible for a Green Card?

Consider the essential factors. Included among them are age and marital status of the child.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a "child" for immigration purposes is an unmarried person under 21 years of age. A "daughter" or "son" is a married person 21 or older.

If you are a U.S. citizen, you may petition for your children who are in the following categories:

  • Unmarried children under 21
  • Unmarried sons and daughters (21 or older)
  • Married sons and daughters (any age)

If you are a lawful permanent resident or a green card holder, you may petition for your children in any of the following categories:

  • Unmarried children under 21
  • Unmarried sons and daughters 21 or older

LPRs can't petition for their married sons and daughters of any age.

What Documents Are Required to Petition My Child to Come to the United States?

As a petitioner, you should show certain documents to bring your child to the United States. Included among these documents are:

Form I-130, or the Petition for Alien Relative

Evidence of your U.S. citizenship, which may include the following:

  • A copy of your U.S. passport or
  • A copy of your U.S. birth certificate
  • A copy of the Consular Report of Birth Abroad or
  • A copy of your certificate of citizenship
  • A copy of your naturalization certificate

If you are a lawful permanent resident, you should show your immigration status:

  • A copy of the green card (Form I-551)
  • A copy of your foreign passport showing temporary proof of your permanent residency

If there is a name change for you or your child, you must also show proof of a legal name change. This may include presenting a divorce decree, adoption decree, marriage certificate, court judgment of change of name, etc.

Proof of parent-child relationship

What Proof of Parent-Child Relationship Do I Have to Submit?

The following are the documents that you have to submit depending on your relationship with the child:

Relationship with the child Documents to submit

Biological mother or a non-genetic legal gestation mother The child's birth certificate issued by civil authorities

  • Biological father A copy of the child's birth certificate issued by civil authorities
  • A copy of the marriage certificate if married to the child's biological or legal gestational mother.
  • Proof of marriage's annulment or legal dissolution if no longer married to the child's mother

But, if they were never married to the biological mother of the child before they turned 18, the documents that you need to present may differ: If local laws of the place of residence of your child acknowledge that the child was legitimized, you do not need to produce more information. If your child was not legitimized under the law, you should submit evidence that you had a genuine father-child relationship before the child turned 21 or entered into marriage. These documents should show proof of your emotional or financial support in your child's life.

  • Stepparent A copy of the stepchild's birth certificate issued by civil authorities
  • A copy of your marriage certificate to the parent of the stepchild
  • Proof of legal termination of all other previous marriages for you and the biological or gestational parent
  • Adoptive parent A copy of the original birth certificate of the adopted child
  • A copy of the adoption decree of the child
  • Proof that you had two years of legal custody of the child
  • Proof that you had two years of physical custody of the child

Can My Child Come to the U.S. While the Immigrant Visa Petition Is Pending?

Yes. If you are a U.S. citizen, after you file your Form I-130, your child can apply for a nonimmigrant K-4 visa. This will allow your child to come to the U.S. while the petition for permanent resident status is pending. With a K-4 visa, your child can live, work, or attend school in the United States. To apply for this benefit, you can file Form I-129F.

Remember that your child does not have to have a K-4 visa. This is only an option for parents who wish to be with their children while the petition is pending. Your child can stay in their home country while processing the petition.

You may process the Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-140) overseas. Once you file the form, USCIS will forward it for consular processing. The U.S. consulate or U.S. embassy will give notification and updates about the processing.

Steps for Your Child's Visa Petition

To petition your child to live in the United States, you need to take the following steps:

  1. Fill out the petition. Complete the Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-140)
  2. Submit the petition. After completing the form, please submit it to the USCIS Lock Box facility or the U.S. Consular office. You should submit this form along with other supporting documents.
  3. Pay the filing fee. The USCIS gives detailed instructions on how to file an immigrant fee.
  4. Wait for the acknowledgment receipt. After you submit the petition and pay the filing fee, the USCIS will send a notice of receipt. There are instances when the USCIS asks for more documents, such as a request for further evidence or asking you to provide more documentation.
  5. Receipt of USCIS approval notice. Once the USCIS approves your petition, it will get forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). After that, you will receive an approval notice (Form I-797). This notice will have the "priority date," which is vital in tracking your child's availability of the U.S. immigrant visa.
  6. Watch the U.S. Visa BulletinIt is crucial to regularly check the visa bulletin, published monthly by the U.S. Department of State. Here, you can check the visa availability of your child's preference category.
  7. Undergo a medical examination. Your child should undergo a medical exam from an approved physician. The USCIS website has a directory of approved civil surgeons.
  8. Attend the visa interviewYour child must attend the scheduled visa interview with the USCIS office, the U.S. consulate, or the embassy. The child must participate in this interview and bring all the required documents. Preparing the child to answer questions related to their background is also essential.
  9. Final decision and immigrant visa issuance. Once the USCIS approves the visa petition, the next step will depend on whether the child is inside or outside the United States. If the child is inside the United States, you may apply for adjustment of status by filing Form I-485. This will allow your child to change their status from nonimmigrants to lawful permanent residents. But, if the child is outside of the U.S., the approved visa petition will get forwarded to the NVC for processing. The NVC will then coordinate the case with the U.S. consulate in the child's home country for consular processing.
  10. Traveling to the United States. Once the child has a U.S. visa, they can travel to the United States. Bring all the immigrant documents provided by the U.S. embassy, U.S. consulate, or the NVC, along with their passport and travel documents.

Note that there are eligibility requirements before you can petition your child to come to the United States. This article by FindLaw talks in detail about immigration eligibility and preference categories.

Seek Legal Advice from an Immigration Attorney

Migrating to the United States can be overwhelming and daunting. Your worries get heightened when an immediate family member, like your child, is involved. If you have questions or concerns about U.S. immigration laws, seek legal advice from an immigration attorney. With their experience and knowledge in visa processing, they can provide legal advice tailored to your case. They can guide you through the immigration process relating to your child's green card application.

An immigration attorney is also helpful in understanding the intricate rules of immigration laws, such as waivers, processing times, and other eligibility requirements.

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