Asked Questions and Answers of Green Card
Q: As a U.S. citizen, what kind of family members can I sponsor for U.S. Green Card?
A: You may submit an application for a Green Card if you have a close family relation. You can sponsor the following family members:
Husband or wife;
Widow or widower of a U.S. citizen;
Brother or sister (including half-brothers and half-sisters);
Son or daughter (including illegitimate children);
Stepson or stepdaughter;
Stepparent of a U.S. citizen child;
Adopted son or daughter;
Father or mother;
Battered or abused spouse or child.
Q: Who can be a beneficiary for U.S. immigration? and what are the immigration "preferences"?
A. The "immediate relatives" of a U.S. citizen, including parents, spouses, widows, and children of a U.S. Citizen (children who are unmarried and under 21 years of age), can immigrate to the United States without being subject to any visa numerical restrictions.
They can apply for the permanent resident status without any waiting time. The rest of the beneficiaries are divided into several groups called "preferences." Each preference is given a numerical quota per year to limit the number of immigrants admitted into the United States. The four preferences are as follows:
1st Preference: applies to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;
2nd Preference: applies to spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents;
3rd Preference: applies to married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;
4th Preference: siblings of U.S. citizens.
Q. How do I know if I qualify as a beneficiary or not?
A. Beneficiaries are strictly defined, and one has to meet the definition of its category at the time that the application of adjustment of status is approved. Those who do not meet the definitions cannot immigrate to the United States through family based immigration.
An "immediate relative" of a U.S. citizen is the spouse, parent, widow, or child of the U.S. citizen. Specifically, a "child" is the son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, who is unmarried and under the age of 21. An adopted child qualifies as long as the adoption was finalized before the child's 16th birthday. A stepchild qualifies as long as the marriage had occurred before the stepchild's 18th birthday. A "parent" must meet the same test as for the "child". One thing to point out is that a father-in-law or mother-in-law of a U.S. citizen are not "parents" of the U.S. citizen for immigration purposes.
Q: What are the definitions of "child" in the immigration law?
A: Immigration law defines a “child” as an unmarried person under the age of 21 (a minor) who is:
A child born to parents who are married to each other (born in wedlock).
A stepchild if the marriage creating the step-relationship took place before the child reached the age of 18.
A child born out of wedlock (the parents were not married at the time the child was born). If the father is filing the petition, proof of a real and established relationship with the father must be supplied.
An adopted child if the child was adopted before the age of 16 and has lived with the adoptive parents in their legal custody for at least two years.
An orphan under the age of 16 when an adoptive or prospective adoptive parent files a visa petition on his or her behalf, who has been adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen or is coming to the U.S. for adoption by a U.S. citizen.
An adopted child who is under the age of 18 and the natural sibling of an orphan or adopted child under the age of 16, if adopted with or after the sibling. The child must also otherwise fit the definition of orphan or adopted child.
Q: What is the definition of "immediate relative" for U.S. Citizen's children?
A: U.S. citizens with unmarried children under the age of 21 may sponsor them as "Immediate Relatives." Immediate Relatives are eligible to apply for a Green Card immediately, without waiting for a "Priority Date" to become current.
U.S. citizens may also sponsor children who are married or over the age of 21, however these children will not qualify as "Immediate Relatives." Applicants in this category will need to wait for their "Priority Date" to be current before they are eligible to apply for a Green Card.
Q: What is the distinction in eligibility for "First Preference of unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens" and a child of an "immediate relative of a U.S. citizen"?
A: The only distinction in eligibility between a child in this category ("First Preference of unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens") and a child of an "immediate relative of a U.S. citizen" is that the child in this category is over 21 years old. That means to qualify as a "child" in this category, the person must be the son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, who is unmarried and over the age of 21.
An adopted child qualifies as long as the adoption was finalized before the child's 16th birthday, the adoptive parents have legal custody of the child for two years (before or after the adoption), and the child resides with the adoptive parents for two years (before or after the adoption). A stepchild qualifies as long as the marriage had occurred before the stepchild's 18th birthday.
Immediate family members of the married alien child may also apply for a Green Card with the child. The annual visa allotment available for this preference is 23,400, plus any visas not used by the fourth preference. Please see "Visa Bulletin" for the latest information on usage of the visa quota.
Q: What are the two scenarios for First Preference - unmarried children of U.S. citizens to apply for immigration petition?
A: The first scenario is that the child is already in the United States in a nonimmigrant status. In this case, the U.S. citizen may only file an immigration petition (I-130) for the alien child. The child has to wait for the immigrant visa number to become current before he or she may apply to adjust to permanent resident (Form I-485). During this waiting period, the child needs to independently maintain a valid nonimmigrant status.
The second scenario is that the child is outside the United States. In this case, the U.S. citizen needs to file an immigration petition and request that the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services notify a U.S. Consulate in the country where the child lives. Once the immigration petition is approved and an immigrant visa is available, the National Visa Center of the U.S. State Department sends a forms and information package, "Packet 3", to the U.S. citizen. After the necessary forms are completed, the child goes to the U.S. Consulate overseas to apply for an immigrant visa. On the day that the child enters the United States on an immigrant visa, he or she becomes a U.S. permanent resident.
Q: I become U.S. citizen recently. What is the immigration process for my children who are over 21 years old to get their Green Cards?
A: An immigrant (also called a Green Card holder and "lawful permanent resident") is a foreign national who has gone through the U.S. immigration process and been granted the privilege of living and working permanently in the United States. Your child or children must go through a multi-step immigration process to become an immigrant and obtain a Green Card.
First, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must approve an immigrant petition that you file for your children. Second, the State Department must give your children an immigrant visa number, even if your children are already in the United States. Third, if your children are already in the United States, your children may apply to adjust to permanent resident status when a visa number becomes available. If your children are outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available, your children will be notified to go to the local U.S. Consulate to complete the immigration processing for an immigrant visa
Q: How to get an immigrant visa number for my child?
A: If you are a U.S. Citizen and the immigrant visa petition is approved for your unmarried child under the age of 21, an immigrant visa number will be immediately available to them, no waiting time needed.
If the immigrant visa petition is approved for your unmarried child 21 years of age or older, or for your married child, they must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the preference system.
If you are a legal permanent resident (Green Card holder) and the immigrant visa petition is approved for your unmarried child of any age, they must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the preference system.
Q: An immediate immigrant visa number is not available for my child. What should I do after I-130 form submitting?
A: You will be notified by the USCIS when your I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is approved or denied. If it is approved, your child will be notified when a visa number is available.
If your child is outside the country, your child must then go to the local U.S. Consulate for processing. If your child is legally inside the United States when a visa number becomes available, your child should apply to adjust to permanent resident status.
Q: I am a U.S. Citizen, and my son is unmarried child 24 years older. How long must he wait for an immigrant visa number?
A: Those that must wait according to the preference system may not get an immigrant visa number immediately after the immigrant visa petition is approved for them, because the number of immigrant visa numbers that are available each year is limited.
In some cases, several years could pass between the time USCIS approves the immigrant visa petition and the U.S. State Department provides an immigrant visa number. Because U.S. law also limits the number of immigrant visas available by country, they may have to wait longer if they come from a country with a high demand for U.S. immigrant visas.
Q: As a U.S. permanent resident, can I sponsor my married child for Green Card application?
A: A U.S. citizen may petition for a Green Card to bring a child to live and work in the United States permanently, regardless of the child's age or marital status. A lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) may only petition for an unmarried child of any age.
Children of lawful permanent residents may be sponsored only if they are unmarried, and should not marry prior to the Green Card approval. However, if they marry after the I-130 application has been filed, the petition will be deemed invalid, and neither the person nor the new spouse would be able to become a Green Card holder based on the Form I-130 filing.
Therefore, unmarried children of lawful permanent residents, who are the beneficiaries of I-130 petitions based on this relationship, should not marry if sponsorship by a lawful permanent resident parent is the only avenue available to them for obtaining permanent residence.
Q: As a new U.S. permanent resident, can I apply for Green Card for my son together with my wife? My son was born abroad prior to the grant of my permanent residence.
A: Unmarried children who were born abroad prior to the grant of your U.S. permanent residence can apply for U.S. immigration, same as spouses who married before the Green Card approval. They may adjust status to permanent residence by undergoing the consular processing.
Children of the new permanent resident who are born in the United States are U.S. citizens. They may be entitled to dual citizenship of the U.S. and the parent's home country, depending upon that country's laws.
Q: My daughter was born abroad after my I-485 status adjustment application approval. Can we use my priority date to apply for her Green Card?
A: The permanent resident's children born abroad after the principal's adjustment date are also entitled to the same priority date and procedure to obtain permanent resident status, if born in a marriage that occurred prior to the adjustment of status. This can be important when the derivative spouse is expecting a baby, but the baby is born after the Green Card case is approved.
Q: Both my wife and I are Green Card holders. If my baby is born in our home country, is the baby born abroad still the U.S. permanent resident?
A: Once both husband and wife are permanent residents, they may face the decision whether to have their children born in the U.S. or in the home country. Some people chose to have their children in the home country to be close to their families. Children born abroad to permanent resident mothers are U.S. permanent residents, if certain conditions are met.
The requirements are that such a child must be brought to the U.S. on the mother's first return trip, which must occur before the child is two years of age. The child in this situation does not need a visa. The necessary paperwork is processed at the port of entry, based on the mother's permanent resident status and the child's birth certificate.
Q: After my son gets into U.S. with an immigrant visa, does he needs to apply for Work Permit to work in U.S.?
A: Your son does not need to apply for a work permit once he is admitted as an immigrant with Green Card (immigrant visa), or has already been approved for adjustment to permanent resident status. As a legal permanent resident, your child should receive Green Car that will prove that he has gone through the U.S. immigration process, and has a right to live and work in the United States permanently.
If your child is now outside the United States, he will receive a passport stamp upon arrival in the United States. This stamp will prove that he is allowed to work until a Green Card is created.
If your child is in the U.S. and has applied to adjust to permanent resident status (by filing USCIS Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), he is eligible to apply for a work permit while his case is pending if he is over the age of 14. Your child should use USCIS Form I-765 to apply for a work permit.
Q: What is the following-to-join benefit for permanent resident's children to obtain a Green Card?
A: If you had children who did not obtain permanent residence at the same time as you did, they may be eligible for follow-to-join benefits. This means that you do not have to submit a separate Form I-130 for your children. In addition, your children will not have to wait any extra time for a visa number to become available. In this case, you may simply notify a U.S. consulate that you are a permanent resident so that your children can apply for an immigrant visa.
You should also be prepared to prove that you meet the income requirement of a sponsor. Your household income should be sufficient to support your family at 125% or more above the U.S. poverty level for your household size.
Q: As a U.S. permanent resident, how could I know if my children are eligible for following-to-join benefits?
A: If you had children before you obtained a Green Card (became a permanent resident), your children may be eligible to receive following-to-join benefits. This means that you would not have to submit a separate USCIS Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) for your children, and your children will not have to wait any extra time for a visa number to become available. The relationship should exist at the time you became a permanent resident and still exists.
Q: As a U.S. permanent resident, my daughter was born before I obtained a Green Card, do I need to file Form I-130 for her to get Green Card?
A: The permanent residents are not required to file an immigrant petition (Form I-130) on behalf of qualifying children born before the sponsoring parent obtained a Green Card. A child of a permanent resident in this category may apply for a Green Card without having an approved Immigrant Petition.
This process is known as "accompanying" or "follow-to-join." Permanent residents who have "adjusted" to Lawful Permanent Resident status in the U.S. must file Form I-824, Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition in order to notify the appropriate consulate that their child will "accompany" or "follow-to-join."
Children born outside the United States after the sponsoring parent obtained a Green Card must have an approved Form I-130 Immigrant Petition in order to be eligible to apply for a Green Card. In addition to an approved Immigrant Petition, a foreign child in this category must have a current "Priority Date."
Q: What is the “aging out” for permanent resident's child immigrant application?
A: If a person filing for Green Card application is 21 or less and unmarried, he or she will be able to file as a child. However, if the child’s parents are legal permanent residents, not U.S. citizens, there is the danger of “aging out.”
Even after the papers are filed for permanent residency, it can take many months or even years to officially register the adjustment of status. In the meantime, the person could turn 21, and no longer qualify as a child, thus “aging out.” Now, he or she must start all over again to file as an adult.
“Aging out” only applies to children of legal permanent residents, or Green Card holders, not children of U.S. citizens. The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) mandates that a U.S. citizen can avoid aging out by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. By using this form, you can “lock in” a certain time, with the person’s age at the time being the operative age.
Q: What is the relief in the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) to children who “age-out”?
A: The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) was enacted to provide relief to children who “age-out” as a result of delays by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in processing immigrant visa applications. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) defines a “child” as an unmarried individual under 21 years of age. The CSPA does not change this definition, but instead changes the point at which the child’s age is calculated.
Prior to the CSPA, an application for permanent residency as a direct or derivative beneficiary child would be approved only if adjudicated prior to the child turning 21. Upon turning 21, a child would “age out” and lose the preferential status of a child. As the result of agency backlogs and delays, many children aged out before their cases were complete. For cases to which it pertains, the CSPA now locks in the age of the child at an earlier date in the process, and in this way will preserve the status of “child” for many individuals who otherwise would age out.
Q: What are the new methods of calculating a child’s age in an immigration application?
A: The new method of calculating a person’s age varies depending on the type of immigration benefit that is sought. The CSPA applies to:
Children of U.S. citizens;
Children of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR); and
Derivative beneficiaries of family-based, employment-based, and diversity visas.
Q: What is the CSPA method of age calculation for a child of U.S. citizen?
A: Under the CSPA, when a U.S. citizen parent petitions for the immigration of a child, the age of the child will be locked in as of the date that the parent files the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. Thus, if a U.S. citizen father files an I-130 for his unmarried daughter when the daughter is 20, the daughter will retain the status of a “child” even if the visa petition or adjustment of status application is not adjudicated until the daughter is 22 years old.
Q: How to calculate a child's age after a permanent resident patent naturalizing to U.S. citizen?
A: In this case, it will involve conversion of a petition from a preference category to the Immediate Relative category. When an permanent resident petitions for a child under the F2A preference category, and the permanent resident naturalizes as U.S. citizen while the petition is pending, the age of the child will be locked in on the date of the parent’s naturalization. If the child is under 21 on that date, the petition will be converted to an Immediate Relative petition.
Q: Will the CSPA affect a U.S. citizen's married child?
A: When a U.S. citizen parent files a petition for a married son or daughter, and the son or daughter legally terminates the marriage while the petition is pending, the son or daughter’s age will be locked in on the date that the marriage is legally terminated. If under 21, the petition will be converted to an Immediate Relative petition.
Q: How to determine the age of the child of a Permanent Resident in CSPA?
A: The process for determining the age of the child of an Legal Permanent Resident, or the derivative of a family-based, employment-based or diversity visa is more complicated. In these cases, the beneficiary’s age will be locked in on the date that the priority date of the visa petition becomes current, subtract the number of days that the petition is pending, but only if the beneficiary seeks to acquire the status of an Legal Permanent Resident within one year of the date the visa became available. This formula can be broken down into three steps:
First, determine the child’s age at the time a visa number becomes available;
Second, subtract from this age the number of days that the visa petition was pending; and
Third, determine whether the beneficiary sought Legal Permanent Resident status within one year of the visa availability date.
Q: How to understand the formula for locked child's age of a Permanent Resident in CSPA?
A: The first two steps will determine the child’s age. This age will only lock in, however, if the third step is met. The first step is to determine the child’s age at the time that a visa number became available for the child, or in the case of derivatives, when a visa number became available for the child’s parent. Both the USCIS and the DOS state that a visa number becomes available on the first day of the month that the DOS Visa Bulletin says that the priority date has been reached.
If the visa number is already available when the I-130 is approved, however, the agencies interpret the “visa availability” date for the CSPA as the date that the I-130 is approved. DOS rejected an alternate interpretation that a visa number is distinguishable from a visa, and that a visa number becomes available when the priority date becomes current, even if the visa itself is not available yet.
Q: What are the relationship requirements to file an immigration petition for adopted child?
A: In the immigration regulation, a stepmother is actually considered a closer relationship than an adoptive mother. An adoptive relationship must meet more requirements:
the child must be adopted before his or her 16th birthday;
the adoptive parent or parents must have had legal custody of the adopted child for two years upon filing the immigration petition; and
the adopted child must have resided with the petitioner for at least two years before filing the immigration petition.
Q: Why these are strict regulations on immigration petitions based on adoptive relationships?
A: There is a rationale for treat stepchildren on a more favorable standard than adopted children on immigration petitions. It is primarily fraud prevention. Many U.S. citizens, especially naturalized citizens, have relatives with children in foreign countries. They may intend to bring these children to the US.
If there are no strict regulations on immigration petitions based on adoptive relationships, many people may take advantage of the system. Although fraudulent activities also happen in marriage-based immigration, it is harder to cheat the USCIS in a marriage relationship than in an adoptive relationship.
Q: How to appeal if a Green Card application is denied for my child?
A: If the visa petition you filed for your child is denied, the denial letter will tell you how to appeal. Generally, you may appeal within 33 days of receiving the denial. After your appeal form and a required fee are processed, the appeal will be referred to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington, D.C.
Q: How to check the status of a Green Card application for my child?
A: You may check the status of your application or case online, by phone, or by contacting an appropriate USCIS office. You may also want to review U.S. Visa Wait Times and USCIS Immigration Processing Times. For assistance outside of the U.S., contact the nearest U.S. Consulate. For assistance within the U.S., contact your nearest USCIS District Office or Sub Office, or call the national USCIS toll-free information service at 1-800-375-5283
If the visa petition you filed for a Green Card for your child is denied, the denial letter will tell you how to appeal. Generally, you may appeal within 33 days of receiving the denial by mail. After your appeal form and a required fee are processed, the appeal will be referred to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington, D.C.
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Q: My son and I have U.S. Green Card based on my marriage to U.S. citizen husband. We are now conditional permanent residents. It is true that the conditional Green Card will expires after two years for my son also, unless necessary steps are taken?
A: Aliens who obtain permanent residence (Green Card) based upon a petition filed by a U.S. citizen spouse may be subject to conditional residence status for two years. Permanent residence will be conditional, if the duration of the marriage has been less than two years at the time permanent residence is granted. This means that it will expire after two years, unless the Form I-751 is filed and approved. This allows the USCIS to double check and reassess whether the marriage was real at the time of its inception.
This same conditional grant of permanent residence is extended to children who obtain permanent residence based upon the marriage of that parent to a U.S. citizen, when the marriage is less than two years in duration. If the parent's marriage is not real, then the children of the alien can not obtain any immigration benefits as the result of the marriage.
Q: I am U.S. citizen. My son with H-1B visa is in U.S. and he has married. How could he adjusts his status in U.S. if the Form I-130 is approved for him? In another words, what is the availability of a visa number for him? and what is the process for adjusting status for him?
A: To adjust status in the United States or to get U.S. Green Card, an immigrant visa number must be readily available to the alien immigrant. Each year, a certain number of immigrant visas are available for alien immigrants. The available immigrant visa numbers and their current "priority dates" can be checked at the monthly Visa Bulletin issued by the U.S. Department of State.
The Priority Date is the date on which an immigrant visa petition is filed with the USCIS. Therefore, an alien immigrant can apply to adjust status only when his or her priority date is "current". The immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens are exempted from this requirement as they are not subject to the immigrant visa quota system. But other relatives of U.S. Citizens, such as U.S. citizen's married child or U.S. citizen's brother or sister, are subject to the immigrant visa quota system.
By filing USCIS form I-485 - Application to Register Permanent Residence of Adjust Status, an alien immigrant can adjust his or her status to a lawful permanent resident within the United States, if the alien immigrant can meets the requirements and is not subject to any ground of inadmissibility. Also, the alien immigrant needs to submit other mandatory governmental forms, relevant documents, and application fees to USCIS.
Q: When I filed Form I-130 for my spouses and minor children several years ago, I was U.S. permanent residents. About 6 months ago, I naturalized to U.S. citizenship and relocated to another state. But for near one year, I never got any message from USCIS, for my pending I-130 case. Do you know what is wrong? and what should I do?
A: For family-based immigration, the Family 2A category is for spouses and minor children of U.S. permanent residents. The immigration visa number's waiting time could be long for this category - sometimes waiting for several years. Thus it is difficult for USCIS or DOS to communicate with petitioning relatives who have since relocated. Also, for some cases, USCIS may issue Request For Evidence (RFE) notice for cases that have not been approved.
When so much time has elapsed since the Form I-130 petition was initially filed, USCIS' mails may go to addresses that are long-since out of date. Many Form I-130 petitioners frequently are unaware of the need to update USCIS records when they change addresses. This is often the case for some petitioner who have forgot to file Form AR-11 to notify the USCIS for address change.
This is particularly so for U.S. citizens who are no longer subject to Form AR-11change-of-address requirements, since many I-130 petitioners filed as permanent residents, but naturalized to U.S. citizenship after filing. Therefore, USCIS always wishes to remind petitioners of the need to update the USCIS records regarding address changes.
Q: I am a U.S. citizen. Recently, I married my alien husband who has a daughter in his home country. How could I bring the step-daughter into the United States to live with us? As a stepmother now, do I need to adopt her first before file the immigration petition for her?
A: In the immigration regulation, a stepmother is actually considered a closer relationship than an adoptive mother, and there are less restrictions. However, an adoptive relationship must meet more requirements:
1) the child must be adopted before his or her 16th birthday;
2) the adoptive parent must have had legal custody of the adopted child for two years upon filing the immigration petition; and 3) the adopted child must have resided with the petitioner for at least two years before filing the immigration petition.
There is a rationale for treat stepchildren on a more favorable standard than adopted children on immigration petitions, and it is primarily fraud prevention. Many US citizens, especially naturalized citizens, have relatives with children in foreign countries. They may intend to bring these children to the US.
If there are no strict regulations on immigration petitions based on adoptive relationships, many people may take advantage of the system. Although fraudulent activities also happen in marriage-based immigration, it is harder to cheat the USCIS in a marriage relationship than in an adoptive relationship.
More Articles about Immigration and Green Card Application for Child • Green Card Application for a Child of U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident • Child Immigration, Visa Number, and Required Documents for Relationship • Child Immigration Petition Process and Immigrant Visa Application • The "Age Out" for a Child at Age of 21, and the Child Status Protection Act • The "Following-To-Join" Benefit for Permanent Resident's Child to Get Green Card • Our Help Desk's Answers for Questions of Green Card Application for Children • Complete Do-It-Yourself Package for U.S. Citizen's or Permanent Resident's Child • The Green Card and Immigration Application for Children • Home Page
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