How to Obtain a Green Card for Child?

Updated on 06/15/2021

As loving parents, we want to maximize the benefits that our children can receive.  One such benefit is a green card for child. By obtaining a green card, children can become lawful permanent residents of the United States.  With a green card, a child can have the right to live and work in the United States and receive certain health, educational, and other benefits.      

Green Card for Child

Definition of Child for Green Card Purposes

Before examining various ways to obtain a green card for child, it is helpful to understand the definition of a “child” under U.S. immigration law for green card purposes.

A child is defined as a person who is unmarried and under 21 years of age, and meets one of the following conditions:

  • A genetic child born in wedlock (the child’s parents were married);
  • A genetic child born out of wedlock (the child’s parents were not married), and either (a) the child’s mother is petitioning for the child to obtain a green card, or (b) the child’s faither is petitioning for the child to obtain a green card and either (i) the child was legitimated before the child’s 18th birthday under the laws of the child’s or the father’s place of residence, or (ii) there was a bona fide parent-child relationship with the father that existed prior to the child’s 21st birthday and while the child was unmarried;
  • A child born through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) to a non-genetic gestational mother who is treated as the child’s legal parent at the time of the child’s birth under the law of the relevant jurisdiction. ART involves reproduction without sexual intercourse through such techniques as in vitro fertilization;
  • A stepchild, if the marriage creating the stepchild relationship occurred before the child reached 18 years of age; or
  • An adopted child, if the child was adopted generally before the age of 16 and the adoptive parent had both legal custody of the child and jointly resided with the child for at least two years before the child reached 21 years of age.

A child who is married or 21 years of age or older will not fit within the definition of a “child” for green card purposes and instead is defined as a “son” or “daughter”.  However, as described below, it is still possible for such a “son” or “daughter” to obtain a green card.  

1. Children as Immediate Relatives

Children who qualify as “immediate relatives” probably have the easiest path to obtain a green card.

If a child is both 1) unmarried and 2) under 21 years of age, and also 3) has a U.S. citizen parent, the child can qualify for a green card as an immediate relative of the U.S. citizen parent.    

Green cards for immediate relatives are unlimited and always available.  Thus, green cards for a child of a U.S. citizen are unlimited and always available if the child is both unmarried and under 21 years of age.

In addition to having the immediate relative relationship, there are other eligibility requirements to obtain a green card for a child. You can free check eligibility without providing any personal information through DYgreencard.com.

There are two alternative procedures for how immediate relative children can obtain green cards based on whether or not they are located in the United States.

Adjustment of Status

If the immediate relative child is located in the United States and entered the United States legally (no matter in status or not), the child can obtain a green card through the “adjustment of status” process.

There are two key documents under the adjustment of status process.

First, the U.S. citizen parent must file Form I-130, “Petition for Alien Relative” with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Form I-130 will establish the existence of the immediate relative relationship between the U.S. citizen parent and the child. There is a filing fee of $535 in connection with Form I-130.

Second, either concurrently with Form I-130, while Form I-130 is pending, or after Form I-130 has been approved, the child must file Form I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status” with USCIS. In practice, it is highly recommended to concurrently file Form I-130 and I-485.

Among the documentation and other evidence that must be submitted with Form I-485 include a copy of Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice, for Form I-130, two passport-style photographs, a copy of the child’s government-issued identity document with photograph, a copy of the child’s birth certificate, documents to prove legal entry to the U.S., and certified police and court records of all criminal charges, arrests, or convictions for the child.

If the child is under 14 years of age, the Form I-485 requires a filing fee of $750 (if filed with the Form I-485 of at least one parent) or $1,140 (if not filed with the Form I-485 of at least one parent).  If the child is 14 years of age or older, the Form I-485 requires a filing fee of $1,140, plus a biometrics fee of $85. 

Consular Processing

If the immediate relative child is located outside of the United States, the child can obtain a green card through “consular processing”.

Consular processing involves applying at a U.S. Department of State consulate outside of the United States to obtain a green card.

For an immediate relative child to obtain a green card, consular processing will involve several steps, including the filing of Form I-130 with USCIS, submission of Form DS-260 and I-864 Affidavit of Support to the National Visa Center (NVC), an immigrant visa interview at a U.S. consulate, and the delivery of a “Visa Packet” to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer upon the child’s arrival in the United States.

In addition to the $535 filing fee for the Form I-130, there will also be a $325+$120 application processing fee charged by NVC and $220 immigrant fee charged by USCIS in connection with consular processing.

You can learn more about obtaining a green card through consular processing in our article Apply for Green Card through Consular Processing.

At DYgreencard.com, we can help you prepare a standalone Form I-130 or combined I-130&I-485 with complete supporting documents. All you need to do is just answer a few questions and upload documents to our platform. Then we take care of the rest. Moreover, a skilled immigration lawyer will answer your questions and review your entire application package to ensure its approval by USCIS. Learn more, or start your application today!

2. Children Who Are Not Immediate Relatives Under Family-Based Preference Categories

Even if a child does not qualify as an immediate relative, it is still possible to obtain a green card for a child, although the path to obtaining a green card will take longer.

In four situations, children who are not immediate relatives can obtain green cards under the “family-based preference” categories of U.S. immigration law.  These four situations are as follows:

  • The child is unmarried and 21 years of age or older and has a U.S. citizen parent. Such children (sons and daughters) are in the F1 (first preference) family-based preference category;
  • The child is unmarried and under 21 years of age and has a permanent resident (U.S. green card holder) parent. Such children are in the F2A (second preference) family-based preference category;
  • The child is unmarried and 21 years of age or older and has a permanent resident (U.S. green card holder) parent. Such children (sons and daughters) are in the F2B (second preference) family-based preference category; and
  • The child is married and has a U.S. citizen parent. Such children (sons and daughters) are in the F3 (third preference) family-based preference category.

To summarize, under the family-based preference categories:

  1. ) A green card for a child of a U.S. citizen can be obtained if the child is 21 years of age or older or married; and
  2. ) A green card for a child of a permanent resident (U.S. green card holder) can be obtained if the child is unmarried and either is under 21 years of age or is 21 years of age or older.

Married children can only qualify for a green card under the family-based preference categories if they have a U.S. citizen parent; they will not qualify if they have a permanent resident parent.  

Unlike green cards for immediate relatives, green cards under the family-based preference categories are numerically limited, so they are not always immediately available.  Instead, the child must “wait in line” until there is green card availability in the child’s specific family-based preference category.

Green card availability under the family-based preference categories principally will depend on the number of green cards allocated to the applicable family-based preference category, the demand for green cards in such family-based preference category, the child’s country of birth (as there are certain specific country green card limitations), and the child’s applicable “Priority Date”.  In most cases, the child’s applicable “Priority Date” will be the date that the Form I-130 with respect to the child was filed.

The U.S. Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin showing what “Priority Dates” are available for green cards in each family-based preference category.

When the priority date is current, the specific procedure to obtain green cards in the family-based preference categories again will depend on whether children are located in the United States.  If they are located in the United States and keeping in a legal status, they will use the adjustment of status procedure; if they are not located in the United States, they will use consular processing.

At DYgreencard.com, we can help you prepare all types of family-based green card applications for your child at an affordable price, no matter you are a U.S. citizen, or a lawful permanent resident. All you need to do is just answer some simple questions and upload customized documents to our online platform. In addition, an immigration lawyer will answer your questions and review your application before its submission to USCIS. Learn more about what we can do for you.

3. Derivative Benefits

Derivative benefits offer another path to obtain a green card for a child.

The concept of derivative benefits is that a child can “derive” immigration benefits at the same time as the child’s parent obtains immigration benefits. 

The derivative child will receive a green card in the same category as the child’s parent applicant. This can be important if the child would thereby be in a higher green card “preference” category based on the child’s parent applicant and thereby face a shorter “waiting line” to obtain a green card.

Derivative benefits for a child are available in family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, refugee or asylum-based immigration, and diversity visa program (as known as green card lottery). Children generally must be unmarried and under 21 years of age to take advantage of derivative benefits.  This raises a concern of the child “aging out”, or reaching 21 years of age, before the parent’s green card application is approved.

Congress passed the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) in 2002 to address this problem.  The CSPA does not change the definition of a child for immigration purposes, but provides for the calculation of the child’s “CSPA age” to allow certain children to still qualify for derivative benefits after their 21st birthday. You can learn more about CSPA in our article How to Calculate Child’s Age under CSPA?        

Children of Family-Based Green Card Applicants

If the child’s parent is a principal green card applicant under one of family-based immigration categories (F1, F2, F3, F4), the child is eligible to obtain a green card as the dependent of the parent. The child can immigrate with the parent at the same time or later by taking advantage of the follow-to-join benefits (see next section in detail).

Children of Employment-Based Green Card Applicants

Derivative benefits for a child are particularly useful when the child’s parent will apply for an employment-based green card, and the child cannot otherwise obtain a green card.  Among the employment-based green cards are:

  • EB-1 (for workers of exceptional and extraordinary ability, certain professors and researchers, and certain multinational managers and executives)
  • EB-2 (for certain professionals with advanced degree)
  • EB-3 (for professionals and skilled workers)
  • EB-4 (for certain religious workers)
  • EB-5 (for certain investors)

Children of Refugees or Asylees

Children with a parent who was a refugee or granted asylum in the United States have an additional path to obtain a green card. 

Asylum is a legal procedure that enables someone who believes their life is in danger to seek refuge in the United States.  The difference between refugees and asylees is that refugees are granted their status while outside of the United States, while asylees make their claim from inside the United States.

Unmarried children who are under 21 years of age can qualify for a green card as the child of a refugee or asylee if the following requirements are met:

  • First, the child must have been a child of the applicable refugee or asylee parent at the time that the refugee or asylee received their status. Thus, at minimum, the child must have been born or conceived as of the time the applicable parent received refugee or asylee status.
  • Second, the parent must have been a principal refugee or asylee, and not a derivative refugee or asylee.
  • Third, the parent must not have persecuted others.

To receive derivative benefits for the child, the parent should either include the child in his or her refugee or asylum application or file Form I-730, “Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition”.  The good news is that there is no filing fee required to be paid with Form I-730. Form I-730 generally must be filed within two years after the parent obtains refugee or asylee status.

After the child is granted as derivative refugee or asylum status, the child can file Form I-485 to obtain a green card after being physically present in the United States for one year. Click here to learn more about applying for green card based on refugee or asylum status.

Through DYgreencard.com, you can have a complete I-485 application ready to file with USCIS based on your refugee or asylum status. All of your application documents will be reviewed by a professional immigration lawyer. Learn more, or get started today!

Children of Green Card Lottery Applicants

People born in certain countries may be able to obtain a green card through a program called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery (DV lottery), also known as the green card lottery.  Each year, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) offers approximately 55,000 immigrants the opportunity to obtain legal permanent residence (a green card) in the United States through this program. Apparently, those countries with large number of immigrants like Mexico, Mainland China, India, Philippines, and Vietnam are not in the list of diversity visa program.

If the child’s parent is selected in the diversity visa program, the child can immigrate to the United States with the parent and thus obtain a green card.

4. Following-to-Join Benefits

Because of various reasons, your child is not able to immigrate to the United States with you at the same time. If that the case, you probably could take advantage of “following-to-join” benefits to obtain a green card for your child. Under following-to-join benefits, a child can “follow” a parent who already has a green card and “join” the parent in the United States with the child’s own green card.

There are several requirements that must be met to obtain a green card for a child under following-to-join benefits.

  • First, the child must be unmarried and under 21 years of age.
  • Second, the child’s parent must have obtained a green card through a family-based preference, an employment-based preference, or the diversity visa lottery. If the child’s parent obtained a green card based on an immediate relative petition, the child is ineligible for following-to-join benefits.
  • Third, the child must have been born or conceived before the child’s parent obtained a green card. If the child was born or conceived after the parent obtained a green card, the child is ineligible for following-to-join benefits.

You apply for following-to-join benefits on Form I-824, “Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition”.  The filing fee for Form I-824 is $465. In some situations, you can obtain a green card for child either by filing Form I-824 or by filing Form I-130. If you are not sure which one to proceed, you can consult an immigration lawyer for help.

While there are various ways to obtain a green card for child, at DYgreencard.com, we can help you understand what the best approach is for you based on your factual circumstances and then assist you in preparing all the necessary green card forms for your child’s application.  Whether it be a green card for a child of a U.S. citizen, a green card for a child of a permanent resident, or otherwise, if you want to obtain a green card for your child, please contact us to schedule a free consultation with a skilled immigration lawyer.

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