It is the ultimate goal of the United States to provide visas to immediate relatives of all U.S. residents, whether they are citizens or lawful permanent residents. However, as a green card holder as opposed to a full-fledged U.S. citizen, the process of bringing your foreign-born child into the country will take you a while longer. There is no waiting period for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, but the spouses and unmarried children under age 21 of lawful permanent residents are put into secondary preference category 2A, where they usually stay on a waiting list for a visa number for about 5 years. Though this seems like an incredibly long wait, it’s better to file your petition now and reserve your child’s place in line than to put it off any longer. If you complete your naturalization and become a U.S. citizen while your child is waiting for their priority date to become current, your child will be upgraded to “immediate relative” and be put on the fast track to immigration. If citizenship doesn’t appear to be in your near future, don’t worry—you will be living in the U.S. with your child before you know it.
If you are in the process of applying for a green card for your spouse, you can include your children on the same visa petition as your spouse so they can immigrate at the same time. As long as your children are unmarried and under 21, they are considered “derivative beneficiaries.” You simply fill in the blanks on your spouse’s I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) where it asks for the names of your children. This is a rare occasion where you will not have to prove that you are the child’s parent (yet!). Your children and your spouse will be given the same priority date, and will eventually receive a visa number at the same time. If your child gets married before their priority date becomes current, they will lose all privileges as derivative beneficiaries and have to find another way to immigrate. If they turn 21 before their priority date becomes current, they will be moved to preference category 2B and have to wait even longer to immigrate. We’ll explain this in more depth later.
Except in the case of your children immigrating at the same time as your spouse, you will need to file a separate I-130 petition for each of your children. Again, your child will only qualify as an “Unmarried Child of a Lawful Permanent Resident” in preference category 2A if they are unmarried and under age 21. After they turn 21, their status will convert to an “Unmarried Son of Daughter of a Lawful Permanent Resident,” or category 2B. This seemingly minor distinction will result in a significant delay in your child’s visa number availability. Those in category 2B often wait more than nine years for their priority date to become current. Also, do not forget that once your child is married they no longer qualify for permanent residence through you. Your child should postpone any wedding plans if they are planning to immigrate as your beneficiary. Do not be too concerned about the 21-year-old age limit; a law called the Child Status Protection Act was created in 2002 to help your children retain their visa eligibility if they turn 21 while waiting for their priority date to become current. Your child’s age is “locked-in” on the date that their priority date becomes current, subtracting the number of days that they had to wait while their visa petition was pending. This almost always keeps the child’s age set under 21. Make sure that they file for their green card within one year of becoming current!
It is important to understand the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services definition of “child.” Legally, a child is “legitimate” if he or she is born to a man and woman who are married to each other. In this case, if the mother is filing the visa petition, she only needs to provide the child’s birth certificate to establish their relationship. If the father is filing the petition, he will need to provide both the birth certificate, which includes his name, and the marriage certificate, which should prove that the marriage took place before the child’s birth.
If a child is born to unmarried parents, they will need to complete some extra steps to prove their relationship. If the mother is filing the petition, she will need to provide the birth certificate showing her name and the child’s name. If she has married since the child’s birth and her name has changed, she will need to provide a marriage certificate that verifies that she is the same woman named on the birth certificate. If the father is filing the petition, and he and the mother were not married at the time of the child’s birth, he will have to prove that a father/child relationship exists. The best proof is a birth certificate that lists his name as the biological father of the child. If he is the biological father but his name is not listed on the child’s birth certificate, he should follow the necessary steps to have his name added to the birth certificate before the child turns 18. If none of this is possible, a blood test may suffice. Not only should he include these documents, but the father will also need to provide evidence that a true father/child relationship existed. Such evidence includes proof that the child lived with him before age 18, letters written to one another, school records that list the father’s name, photos of the two of them together, income tax returns showing the child listed as a dependent, etc. Basically, there should be evidence that the father had a parental relationship with the child. If the parents of an illegitimate natural-born child married each other before the child turned 18, the child becomes “legitimate” for legal purposes and none of the aforementioned evidence is necessary.
To begin the process, the lawful permanent resident parent mails form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) to USCIS. Along with this form you should include form G-325A, which is the child’s biographical information. The child will need to sign this form. As is the case with any document that requires the child’s signature, if they are too young, you can sign the forms for them (write “by [your name], the child’s [mother/father]”). Also include the child’s birth certificate, parents’ marriage certificate, proof of the petitioner’s permanent residence, and the filing fee, which is currently $420. If your child is illegitimate, you will need to prove that the parent/child relationship exists as mentioned earlier. Don’t forget to send photocopies of these documents and not the originals—you could lose them forever!
You will then need to wait for the petition to be approved and for the child’s priority date to become current. Again, this may take several years. You can always check the USCIS website for current estimated waiting times. The length of your waiting time is a variable dependent on when you filed your petition and your country of citizenship—certain regions have longer waiting times due to a large influx of immigrants. If your child is waiting overseas, they will need to apply for their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate in your home country through “consular processing.” If your child is living in the U.S. legally, they will file for adjustment of status. This is an unlikely situation, and it’s important to remember that filing for the visa petition does not grant your child the right to remain in the U.S. If your child has been living in the U.S. illegally, you will need to seek the help of an immigration attorney.
Once your visa petition is approved, the priority date becomes current, and your child applies for their immigrant visa and green card, you will be ready to reunite as a family. As long as you are able to prove the relationship between you and your child, the USCIS will not reject your application, so begin your I-130 as soon as possible. Be sure to explore our website to discover the benefits of our services to help you complete form I-130.
Eugene Jones is a principal in www.ImmiGreatNow.com.com which provides web solutions for family Immigration. Eugene is also a principal in www.connect4business.com a lotus domino manufacturing solution and www.nauvou.com.com web based solutions for customer support.