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Bringing a Child to Live in the U.S.

If you are a U.S. citizen who plans on bringing a child to live in the United States, it is important to consider the child's age and marital status. For eligibility purposes, a "child" is anyone under 21 and unmarried. You also may petition on behalf of your unmarried sons and daughters over 21 and married sons and daughters of any age. Their children may also be included.

If you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), see "Bringing a Child to Live in the US: Info for Permanent Residents."

Documentation Requirements

1. Petition for Alien Relative

(Form I-130) - Remember to sign the form and enclose the proper filing fee.

2. Evidence of U.S. Citizenship - Submit a copy of one of the following documents:

  • U.S. birth certificate
  • U.S. passport
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  • Naturalization certificate
  • Certificate of citizenship

3. Proof of Name Change (if applicable) - Must submit a copy of one of the following documents:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce decree
  • Court judgment of name change
  • Adoption decree or some other proof if your name or your child's name has changed

4. Proof of Relationship - Additional documentation requirements vary by relationship type.

Biological Mother:

  • Copy of child's birth certificate

Biological Father:

  • Copy of child's birth certificate
  • Copy of father's marriage certificate establishing marriage to child's biological mother
  • If no longer married to child's biological mother, evidence of legal termination of marriage
  • Evidence of an established father-child relationship before the child turning 21 (or marrying) if you never married the child's mother and your child is not legitimized under the law


  • Copy of step-child's birth certificate
  • Copy of civil marriage certificate to step-child's biological mother or father
  • Proof of legal termination of all previous marriages for both the step-parent and the biological parent, such as divorce decree or death certificate

Adoptive Parent:

  • Copy of child's original birth certificate
  • Copy of adoption decree
  • Evidence that adoptive parent had two years of legal custody
  • Evidence that adoptive parent had two years of physical custody (i.e. time in which child lived with adoptive parent and the adoptive parent exercised parental control)

Filing on Behalf of Relative Living in the U.S.

U.S. citizens petitioning on behalf of a child living in the U.S. must file a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) while your child files an Application to Register Permanent Residence of Adjust Status (Form I-485).

For sons or daughters living in the U.S. who are married and/or over the age of 21, U.S. citizens must file form I-130 while your son or daughter files Form I-485 as soon as a visa become available.

Filing on Behalf of Relative Living Outside the U.S.

U.S. citizens filing on behalf of a child or adult son or daughter must file Form I-130. After the petition is approved and a visa is available, the petition will be sent to the consulate or embassy for further processing.

For more details, see the USCIS page "Bringing Children, Sons and Daughters to Live in the United States as Permanent Residents."

Need Help Bringing a Child to the U.S.? Contact a Lawyer for Help

Immigration laws are complicated and mistakes can be costly and time-consuming -- not to mention, mistakes could jeopardize that long-awaited family reunion. The assistance of a legal professional can help streamline the process. Contact a local immigration law attorney today and to help you get started.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with visa procedures.

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