There are several ways for people to get a green card, but one of the most common is through family immigration – and if you’re a U.S. citizen over the age of 21 with foreign national parents, you may be able to help them gain lawful permanent residency in the United States. This guide explains the process step-by-step so that you can better understand what’s involved in helping your parents obtain legal residency in the United States.
How to Help Your Parents Get Green Cards
Many people choose to work with a New York family immigration attorney to help their non-U.S. citizen parents get green cards. That’s because the paperwork can be confusing, and even a minor error can cause U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to kick back your petition.
Who Qualifies to Sponsor Their Parents for Green Cards in the United States?
The first step is to understand who qualifies to sponsor their parents for green cards in the United States. Generally, sponsoring a parent for a green card requires that the child is:
- At least 21 years old
- A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- Present and has lived in the United States for at least one continuous year prior to sponsoring their parent
- Able to show that they can financially support their parents
Related: Family immigration information
What is an Affidavit of Support?
You must show USCIS that you have enough income and assets to support your parents if they’re permitted to come to the United States. You do this by filling out and filing Form I-864, commonly known as an Affidavit of Support. An Affidavit of support is a legally binding contract, and it says that if your parents need you to, you’ll be able to provide for them. This contract between you and the U.S. government helps prevent your parents from being forced to rely on certain public assistance programs.
You don’t have to vow to support your parents forever, though. Your obligation ends if one of the following things happens:
- Your parents become U.S. citizens
- Your parents no longer have lawful permanent resident status
- Your parents leave the United States permanently
- Your parents pass away
- You, the sponsor, pass away
If you can’t show that you have enough income to support your parents, you may be able to get help from another family member or friend. This person also needs to sign an Affidavit of Support; in this case, the government considers you and your friend or family member to be joint sponsors.
Note: Your joint sponsor does not have to be related to you or your parents.
What Form Do You Need to File With USCIS to Get Green Cards for Your Parents?
To sponsor your parents for a green card, you’ll need to file Form I-130 with USCIS. This is known as a Petition for Alien Relative. The form asks for basic information about you, your parents and your relationship. You’ll also need to include supporting documentation, such as your birth certificate or passport to show that you’re a U.S. citizen, as well as evidence of your parents’ foreign citizenship.
If you’re adopted, you may still be able to sponsor your parents for a green card, but the process is different. You’ll need to include evidence of the legal adoption with your Form I-130.
The following table outlines which forms and documentation you must submit to USCIS to sponsor your parents for a green card based on several common circumstances.
Do You Need Separate Form I-130s for Each of Your Parents?
If your parents live together, you can include both of their names on a single I-130 form. If they don’t live together, you’ll need to file a separate form for each parent.
Do Parents of U.S. Citizens Have to Wait for a Visa to Become Available?
If you’re a U.S. citizen, there’s no waiting period for a visa to become available for your parents. They’ll be able to apply for a green card as soon as USCIS approves your I-130 petition.
What Happens After You File an I-130 for Your Parents?
After you file Form I-130, USCIS will review your application to make sure it’s complete and accurate. They may contact you if they need additional information or clarification about anything in your application.
Why Does It Matter Where Your Parents Live?
If your parents live in the United States, they can apply for a green card through a process called adjustment of status. The advantage of this process is that your parents can remain in the United States while their green card application is processing.
If your parents live outside the United States, they’ll need to go through consular processing to get their green cards. This means that they’ll need to complete an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
What Happens at a Green Card Interview?
The green card interview is the last step in the green card application process. It’s an opportunity for a USCIS officer (or, if your parents are outside of the U.S., a consular officer) to ask you and your parents questions about your relationship and your parents’ eligibility for a green card.
The interviewer will also review all of the documentation you’ve submitted to make sure that it’s complete and accurate. After the interview, if they’re approved for a green card, they’ll be notified to pick up their green cards at the embassy or consulate.
FAQ on Sponsoring Your Parents for U.S. Green Cards
Check out these common questions about sponsoring your parents for U.S. green cards. If you don’t see the answer to your question here, please feel free to call our office and schedule a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney.
Can My Parents Work in the U.S. if I Sponsor Them for Green Cards?
If your parents are granted green cards, they’ll be able to work anywhere they’d like in the United States. In fact, they don’t need to apply for work authorization at all; they’ll receive a stamp in their passports upon their arrival that authorizes them to work until they receive their permanent resident cards.
Can Your Parents Bring Your Siblings to the U.S. With Them?
Even if your siblings are minors, you can’t typically include them on your parents’ green card application. However, you can file separate Form I-130s for each of your siblings.
If your siblings are adults, you may still be able to sponsor them for lawful permanent residency in the United States. You may wish to talk to a New York immigration attorney about your options, which may include petitioning the government for family preference visas for them.
What Happens if USCIS Denies Your Green Card Petition for Your Parents?
If USCIS denies your parents’ green card application, you’ll be notified in writing of the decision. The letter will state the reason for the denial, and it will explain your right to appeal the decision. You may be able to appeal or, in some cases, file a new petition.
Can I Sponsor My Parents if I’m Under 21?
Generally, you must be 21 years of age or older to sponsor your parents for a green card.
Can I Sponsor My Parents for Green Cards if They’re Divorced?
If your parents are divorced, you may still be able to sponsor them for green cards. You’ll need to include evidence of your relationship with each parent, as well as sign an Affidavit of Support showing that you have the means to support them if necessary.
How Long Does it Take for USCIS to Review a Green Card Petition for a U.S. Citizen’s Parents?
The length of time it takes for USCIS to process your parents’ green card petitions can vary depending on the backlog of cases USCIS is currently processing. However, you can typically expect it to take at least several months for USCIS to review and approve them.
What Are the Chances of My Parents Getting a Green Card?
The chances of your parents getting a green card depend on a variety of factors, including their relationship to you, their country of origin, and whether they have any criminal convictions. The best way to help your parents get green cards is to ensure that they meet all qualification requirements before applying; from there, your best bet is to ensure your application is as complete as possible.
That’s why many people choose to work with an attorney to sponsor their parents. Working with an attorney doesn’t guarantee a certain outcome, but it does help ensure that your paperwork is filed properly and on time. Working with an attorney also gives you access to a legal professional who understands U.S. immigration law and can answer all your questions throughout the process (as well as help you file an appeal if necessary).
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About Sponsoring Your Parents for Green Cards?
If you need to talk to an immigration attorney, we may be able to help you. Call our office at 914-481-8822 to schedule a consultation with an experienced, knowledgeable immigration attorney who can answer your questions and give you the legal advice you need.