How to Obtain a Green Card for Parents?

Updated on 01/07/2022

It is a common occurrence that foreigners who become U.S. citizens want to have their parents join them in the United States. 

The children may have left their native country to come to the United States for educational or work opportunities, but they miss their parents and want their parents to join them in the United States.  They also may want their parents to receive certain health care services or other benefits in the United States that are not available in their home country.

With a green card, a parent can become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. 

Green card for parent

This article discusses how to obtain a green card for parents.

General Requirements

If you are a U.S. citizen and at least 21 years old, you can petition to obtain a green card for your parents (mother or father).

Parents of U.S. citizens are treated as “immediate relatives” under the U.S. immigration laws. 

As “immediate relatives”, parents are not subject to any quota or annual limit on the number of green cards issued to parents in any year.  As a result, unlike for other immigration categories, no waiting list is created for parent green cards, which avoids delays in the application process.

A critical point is thar only if you are a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old can you petition to obtain a green card for your parents.  If you are a green card holder, but not a U.S. citizen, you are not eligible to petition to obtain a green card for your parents.

Definition of “Parent” for Green Card Purposes

The definition of “parent” for green card purposes is quite broad.  It includes each of the following “parent” situations:

  • Birth parents, unless if the petitioning child gained U.S. citizenship through adoption or as a special immigrant juvenile.
  • Adoptive parents, unless if the adoption took place after the petitioning child turned 16 years of age, or if the petitioning child has not been in the legal custody and has not lived with the parents for at least two years before filing the petition.
  • Step-parents, unless if the marriage that created the relationship took place after the petitioning child turned 18 years of age.
  • Parents of children born out of wedlock (i.e., illegitimate children), unless with respect to a father if both the petitioning child was not legitimated before the petitioning child’s 18th birthday and there is no evidence that an emotional or financial bond existed between the petitioning child and the father before the petitioning child was married or reached the age of 21, whichever came first.

As described below, there is somewhat different specific documents and evidence that must be submitted for different types of “parent” situations.   

Not sure if you are eligible to apply for a green card for your parents? You can free check eligibility through DYgreencard.com without giving any personal information. When you are ready, we can help you prepare a complete application reviewed by an immigration lawyer to ensure its approval by USCIS. Learn more, or get started today!

Application Process

The application process to obtain a green card for parents begins with the preparation and filing of Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.  Form I-130 will be filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).

You need to pay a filing fee of $535 in connection with Form I-130.

Form I-130
Form I-130

Documents and Evidence

In addition to Form I-130, you also need to file certain supporting documents and evidence.  The specific supporting documents and evidence that need to be submitted will vary based on the specific “parent” situation, as follows:

  1. If the parent for whom you are trying to obtain a green card is your mother, you need to submit (a) a copy of your birth certificate showing your name and your mother’s name; and (b) evidence of your U.S. citizenship (including a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship or valid U.S. passport if you were not born in the United States).
  2. If the parent for whom you are trying to obtain a green card is your father, you need to submit (a) a copy of your birth certificate showing your name and the names of both parents; (b) a copy of your parents’ civil marriage certificate; and (c) evidence of your U.S. citizenship (including a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship or valid U.S. passport if you were not born in the United States).
  3. If the parent for whom you are trying to obtain a green card is an adoptive parent, you need to submit (a) a copy of your birth certificate; (b) a certified copy of the adoption certificate showing that the adoption took place before your 16th birthday; (c) a statement showing the dates and places you have lived together with your parent; and (d) evidence of your U.S. citizenship (including a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship or valid U.S. passport if you were not born in the United States).
  4. If the parent for whom you are trying to obtain a green card is a step-parent, you need to submit (a) a copy of your birth certificate showing the names of your birth parents; (b) a copy of the civil marriage certificate of your birth parent to your step-parent showing that the marriage occurred before your 18th birthday; (c) copies of any divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment decrees to show that any previous marriage entered into by your natural or step-parent ended legally; and (d) evidence of your U.S. citizenship (including a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship or valid U.S. passport if you were not born in the United States).
  5. If the parent for whom you are trying to obtain a green card is your father, and you were born out of wedlock and were not legitimated by your father before your 18th birthday, you need to submit (a) a copy of your birth certificate showing your name and your father’s name; (b) evidence that an emotional or financial bond existed between you and your father before you were married or reached the age of 21, whichever came first; and (c) evidence of your U.S. citizenship (including a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship or valid U.S. passport if you were not born in the United States).
  6. If the parent for whom you are trying to obtain a green card is your father, and you were born out of wedlock and were legitimated by your father before your 18th birthday, you need to submit (a) a copy of your birth certificate showing your name and your father’s name; (b) evidence that you were legitimated before your 18th birthday through the marriage of your natural parents, the laws of your state or country (of birth or residence), or the laws of your father’s state or country (of birth or residence); and (c) evidence of your U.S. citizenship (including a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship or valid U.S. passport if you were not born in the United States).

If your name or your parent’s name has changed, you also need to provide proof of the legal name change (by way of such documents as a marriage certificate, a divorce decree, an adoption decree, or a court judgment of a name change).

If Parent Not Already in US – Consular Processing

Consular Processing (Immigrant Visa Processing)
Consular Processing (also known as Immigrant Visa Processing)

If the USCIS approves Form I-130, and the applicable parent is not already in the United States, to obtain a green card for the parent, consular processing will next occur.  Consular processing will involve the following steps:

  • The USCIS will send the parent’s case to the National Visa Center (“NVC”). NVC will issue the parent a NVC case and invoice number which will be used to log in NVC’s electronic processing portal of CEAC.
  • Payment will now be required of an Immigrant Visa Application Processing fee of $325 and an Affidavit of Support fee of $120.
  • The Affidavit of Support fee is required in connection with Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. Under the Affidavit of Support, the petitioning child accepts financial responsibility for the parent who is coming to live in the United States.
  • After the Immigrant Visa Application Processing fee and the Affidavit of Support fee have been paid, the parent must complete and submit Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration. After Form DS-260, various supporting documents of the parent generally will need to be submitted, including passport ID page, U.S. passport size photo, birth certificate, court and prison records, marriage certificate, marriage termination documents, military records, and police certificates, as may be applicable.
  • If NVC determines that all the required documents submitted to NVC are complete, you will receive an email that your case is documentarily complete and NVC will work with the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate to schedule an immigrant visa interview appointment for your parent.
  • After NVC schedules a visa interview appointment, they will send you an email noting the appointment date and time.  The parent will need to schedule and complete a medical examination with an authorized physician. Meanwhile, the parent needs to register for courier service and gather required documents for the interview.
  • The parent will attend an interview at a designated U.S. embassy or consulate. As part of the interview process, ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken.
  • The visa officer at the interview will decide whether the parent’s green card application will be approved. If approved, an immigrant visa stamp will be produced on the passport and the parent can enter the U.S. with it.
  • $220 immigrant fee must be paid after the immigrant visa stamp is issued. By doing so, the parent will receive a physical green card within 120 days after arriving in the U.S.

If Parent Already in US – Adjustment of Status Processing

If the parent is already in the United States (such as entered on a temporary visa), to obtain a green card for the parent, adjustment of status processing will occur. 

Under adjustment of status processing, you are able to file Form I-485, Adjustment of Status, together with Form I-130; you do not have to wait for the I-130 to first be approved.  As such, adjustment of status processing can be much quicker than consular processing.

Form I-485

With the Form I-485, various supporting documents generally will need to be submitted, including passport ID page, birth certificate of the parent, two passport-size photos of the parent, evidence to prove the parent’s last legal entry to the U.S., Form I-864, Affidavit of Support and its supporting documents, Form I-693, medical exam report.

The filing fee for Form I-485 is $1,140. If the parent is 78 years of age or younger, $85 biometrics fee is also required.

After filing the application packet with USCIS, generally within 3-6 weeks, you will receive I-797 receipt notices from the USCIS to indicate that your applications are in process. Later, you will receive biometrics appointment notice which requires the parent to appear at the appointment to get their fingerprint and picture taken.

Different from consular processing, most green card applications for parents will be exempt from an interview. Thus, after the parent finish the biometrics appointment, they just need to wait patiently to get the final adjudication from the USCIS. If the USCIS approves the applications, they will receive their physical green card upon the approval of the I-485 application.

Possible Inadmissibility

Even if a parent is eligible to obtain a green card, the parent may still be denied a green card based on grounds of inadmissibility.

Among the possible reasons for which a parent may be inadmissible to gain entry to the United States (under Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act) are:

  • Various health-related grounds (including having certain communicable diseases, failing to submit proof of vaccination, and engaging in drug abuse).
  • Various criminal-related grounds (including crimes involving moral turpitude, drug-related offenses, prostitution, human trafficking, and money laundering).
  • Various security-related grounds (including persons engaged in espionage, sabotage, or terrorist activities).
  • Persons likely to become a “public charge” – “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence”.
  • Persons who enter the United States without permission.
  • Persons who are subject to inadmissible bar because of removal proceeding or unlawful presence.

Inadmissibility is complicated. Fortunately, DYgreencard.com can help you figure out whether your parent is admissible or not. Try our free check eligibility now without providing any private information. When you are ready, we can help you prepare a complete I-130 alone or I-485 alone or combined I-130& I-485 application package reviewed by a skilled immigration lawyer. Learn more, or get started today!

Timing

While nothing can be guaranteed, the entire application process to obtain a green card for your parents can take anywhere from approximately 6 to 24 months.

Other Issues

Appeals

If the petition to obtain a green card for a parent is denied, you may have the right to appeal the decision.

You will receive a denial letter that tells you how to appeal and how much time you have to file the appeal.  After you file the appeal and pay the required fee to appeal, the case will be referred to the Board of Immigration Appeals for a decision.

Work Authorization

If a parent wants to work in the United States while the parent’s I-485 green card application is pending, the parent can file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, at no extra cost. 

Form I-765
Form I-765

USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) to the parent if it approves Form I-765.  The parent then can submit the EAD to employers to establish that the parent is authorized to work in the United States.

Application for Travel Document

Another form that a parent may want to consider filing while the parent’s I-485 green card application is pending is Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. There is no filing fee, either.

Form I-131
Form I-131

If the parent is in the United States, but needs to spend time outside of the United States while the parent’s green card application is pending (under adjustment of status processing), it can be difficult for the parent to return to the United States.  Form I-131 can grant the parent “advance parole” – making it easier to leave and re-enter the United States. However, do not file it if the parent has been out of status for more than 180 days before the filing of I-485 application because 3-year or 10 year inadmissible bar will be triggered upon the departure of the parent.

Implications of Having a Green Card

With a green card, a parent can have the right to live and work in the United States and receive certain health, educational, and other benefits.  While a green card can provide a parent with many advantages, there are certain other implications of having a green card that also should be considered.

Taxation

Green card holders (similar to U.S. citizens) are taxable in the United States on their worldwide income.  This rule applies regardless of from where the income is sourced, even if sourced from the green card holder’s native country.

For example, if a French national has a green card and sells real estate in France, any income from the real estate sale would be taxable in the United States, even though the income is sourced from France.

For a parent who obtains a green card, three tax-related issues should be addressed.

First, will income of the parent now be taxable at a higher rate of taxation in the United States than it was taxed before?

Second, will income of the parent now be subject to “double taxation” in the United States and also a second country (for example, in the above example, France)?  Please keep in mind that there may be applicable foreign tax credits or tax treaty provisions that can mitigate any such “double taxation”.

Third, who will prepare required U.S. tax returns for the parent (who may thereby need to incur tax return preparation charges)?

These tax-related issues do not mean that obtaining a green card is bad for a parent, but they should be assessed in advance to understand all of the “tax” implications for the parent in obtaining a green card. It is advisable to have consultation with a competent CPA or tax consultant.          

Staying in the U.S.

It is important to remember that a green card is intended to establish that a person is a lawful “permanent” resident of the United States.  As a result, a parent who obtains a green card should stay in the United States as much as possible.

While short-term, temporary trips outside of the United States should not raise an issue, trips of six months or longer outside of the United States can lead to an argument that the parent’s “permanent” country of residence is not the United States.  If a parent travels outside of the United States for a year or more, a rebuttable presumption is created that the parent has abandoned “permanent” residence status in the United States, and the parent could lose green card rights.

Nevertheless, the parent can apply for a re-entry permit which allows them to continuously stay outside the U.S. for maximum two years while keeping their permanent resident status in the U.S.

In summary:

  • A U.S. citizen child who is at least 21 years old can petition to obtain a green card for the child’s parents (mother or father).
  • As the parent is treated as an “immediate relative” of the child, it is very possible for the parent to obtain the green card in a generally short period of time (relative to the many delays often present in the U.S. immigration process for other immigration benefits).
  • While the green card can provide many valuable benefits for the parent in the United States, the tax and future U.S. “permanent” resident implications of obtaining a green card should be understood in advance before proceeding with the green card application.

With this article, children and their parents should be better informed on how to obtain a green card for parents.  We, DYgreencard.com are more than happy to help you out. Learn more, or get started today!

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