Lawful U.S. citizens and permanent residents may obtain green cards for foreign-born children as long as the child(ren) is under 21 and unmarried. If your child was born outside the U.S. and you wish to bring them here, you may apply for a child green card through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) national visa center. One error could delay your application for months. The SimVisa team can guide you through the application process so it’s correct and no mistakes delay your child's visa.
Child Green Card Eligibility: Who Qualifies?
A Child Green Card is an immigrant visa for children of permanent residents or U.S. citizens seeking immigrant status. Eligibility for a child's green card depends on a few things:
- The legal status of the parent or parents seeking the green card;
- The marital status of the child(ren);
- The child(ren)’s age.
Children of U.S. citizens, both naturalized and naturally born, may bring their immigrant married children to the U.S. However, immigration law permits only unmarried children of permanent residents (green card holders) to apply for the child's green card.
Obtaining a Green Card for Children Under 21
Children of a U.S. citizen parent sponsoring their immigration to the U.S. are immediate relatives. This category holds the following benefits for green card seekers:
- The U.S. doesn’t limit the number of green cards for immediate relatives;
- No additional delays or backlogs for immediate relatives;
- If the child green card holder files for an Adjustment of Status (AOS), any overstaying of the visa will not prohibit the immediate relative from obtaining the AOS;
- Immediate relatives are exempt from other grounds of inadmissibility.
A green card for a child under 21 is the most advantageous green card, and a “child” in this instance may be a biological, adopted, or step-child.
Applying for a Green Card for Unmarried Children Over 21
U.S. citizen parents can sponsor a green card application for any unmarried child over 21. This kind of green card is in the category of F1 family-based preference. F1 green cards are available to any unmarried child over 21. However, these green cards are limited by USCIS national visa center. Only 23,400 are issued each year.
There is high demand for these cards, so the wait time is long. The average is about eight years from when the application is submitted to when the green card is in the child's hands.
If your green card-seeking child is a Mexican or Filipino citizen, though, the wait time is longer.
Getting a Green Card for Married Children Over 21
U.S. citizens can also sponsor a green card for married children over 21. These green cards are in the F3 category, or family-based third preference. The USCIS issues 23,400 green cards in the F3 category each year, and the wait time for these is even longer than the F1 green cards — about 13 years, on average.
Children who are Mexican or Filipino citizens can expect to wait more than 20 years for this type of green card.
Even though the wait time can be extensive, and F3 green card may be a viable option for people in the U.S. under a different immigration status or for those not in a hurry to move to the U.S.
Requirements for U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents
Requirements for child green card sponsorship are different for a U.S. citizen and a permanent resident.
If you are a U.S. citizen, you may sponsor:
- Children of any age, of any marital status;
- Unmarried sons and daughters age 21 and older and their children;
- Married sons and daughters of any age and their children and spouse.
If you are a U.S. permanent resident (green card holder), you may sponsor:
- Children under 21 years of age, married or unmarried;
- Unmarried children under 21 years old and your child’s children;
- Unmarried sons or daughters over age 21 (adult children) and their children.
A permanent resident can’t petition for a green card for any married children, regardless of the child’s age.
USCIS Definition of a Child for Green Card Purposes
When it comes to immigration purposes, the USCIS considers any of the following people your “child” when it comes to applying for a child green card:
- A genetic (biological) child born to parents who were married (child in wedlock);
- A biological child born out of wedlock, but the child’s legitimization must be pending or established;
- A child born via Assisted Reproductive Technology (fertility treatments);
- A stepchild, as long as the marriage between the parents established a step-parent relationship before the child turned 18 (marriage before the child’s 18th birthday);
- An adopted child.
Depending on the type of parent-child relationship, you and the child’s other parent may have to provide certain documents establishing the child’s parentage, like a birth certificate, certificate of adoption, or proof of Artificial Reproductive technology conception.
In addition, you and the child’s other parent, or you and your spouse, may need to provide proof of your marriage status, such as a marriage certificate proving that you became a child’s step-parent before the child turned 18.
Obtaining a Green Card for Your Child: Step-by-Step Guide
Applying for a child's green card can seem daunting. An expert from SimVisa makes the application process much smoother by helping fill out the application, collect documents, and submit it correctly. These are the steps for a child's green card application:
1. Applying for a Child Green Card When Your Child Is Already in the U.S.
For U.S. citizens petitioning for a child green card for an unmarried child under age 21, fill out Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You must also file Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative, at the same time you file Form I-485.
A U.S. citizen petitioning for a child green card for a son or daughter who is married and over age 21 must file Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative. Then, you wait for an immigrant visa number to become available (this can take a long time). Once it’s available, then the son or daughter files Form I-845.
Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) may petition for their son or daughter’s child's green card by submitting Form I-130. The child seeking the green card submits Form I-485, the AOS application, but only once an immigrant visa number becomes available.
When your Priority Date arrives, file the child's green card application. Include:
- Form I-485
- Form I-864
- Form I-944
Depending on your situation, you may also have to submit other forms required by the three forms above. Make sure to read each form carefully, as each one will require copies of certain documents along with the form itself.
2. Applying for a Child Green Card When Your Child Is Outside the U.S.
If you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for a child green card for an unmarried child under 21, you or the child must file Form I-485, which is the AOS or Permanent Residence Application. You also need to submit Form I-130, the Alien Relative Petition.
U.S. citizens petitioning for a married child over age 21 will file Form I-130, and once an immigrant visa number becomes available, the child(ren) will file Form I-845.
A green card holder seeking a child's green card for a child files Form I-130. Then, once an immigrant visa number becomes available, the child files an AOS or Form I-485 when an immigrant number is available.
When your Priority Date arrives, file the child's green card application and include the following:
- Form I-485
- Form I-864
- Form I-994
You may also need to file additional forms depending on your situation.
Filing Process and Required Documents for Child Green Card Application
Parents seeking a permanent residence status for a son or daughter should be prepared to provide supporting documentation establishing the parent-child relationship and whether the parents were married (or, in the case of a step-parent relationship, were remarried after the child was born).
First, you must file and sign Form I-130, the Petition for an Alien Relative, and pay the filing fees.
Other documentation includes proof that you are either a U.S. citizen or hold a valid green card (you are a lawful permanent resident).
U.S. citizens must prove that they hold citizenship with one of the following documents:
- A copy of your birth certificate;
- A copy of an unexpired U.S. passport;
- A copy of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (if you were born overseas);
- A copy of your naturalization citizenship certificate.
Lawful permanent residents must provide a front-and-back copy of their valid Green Card (Form I-551) or a copy of their foreign passport with a stamp that shows temporary evidence of their permanent residence in the U.S.
Whether you’re a U.S. citizen or green card holder, you also must provide proof of your relationship with the child seeking a green card by submitting the Proof of Relationship form.
If you are the mother of the child for whom you’re sponsoring a green card, you must provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate. If you are the non-biological legal mother, you need a copy of the child’s birth certificate naming you the legal mother.
A biological father must also provide a copy of the green card seeking the child’s birth certificate. If you’re married to the child’s mother, you must also provide a copy of the marriage certificate to the child’s mother.
If you divorced the child’s mother, you must provide a copy of the divorce decree or legal dissolution of the marriage.
If you were never married to the child’s mother, but your parentage was legitimized by law, then you may be required to prove this.
However, suppose that you never married the child’s mother and have not legitimized your relationship with the child. In that case, you must submit evidence of a bona fide father-child relationship before the child turns 21 or gets married.
Child Green Card Processing Time: From Application to Approval
Once the USCIS approves your petition for a child green card, it will issue you a letter in the mail. On this notice, you’ll find your Priority Date, when you can submit your green card application for the child. Remember that you cannot submit Form I-485 before you get a notice with a priority date and only on or after that date.
The length of time it takes for the green card application to be processed depends on the preferred category your family member falls in. It can take years from the time that the USCIS approves your immigrant visa application to the time that the U.S. State Department issues an immigrant visa number (which you need before filing Form I-485).
A U.S. citizen petitioning for a green card for an unmarried son or daughter under 21 will receive an approved Form I-130 as the child’s immediate relatives, the category with an unlimited number of green cards to issue.
A U.S. citizen petitioning for an unmarried child age 21 or older will be considered in the Family Preference Category 1 (F1), which has a limit of 23,400 green cards annually. The average wait time is more than six years.
A legal permanent resident seeking a green card for an unmarried child under 21 is considered in the Second Preference Category (2A). A green card may be available in as little as two months after filing the application.
A legal permanent resident seeking a green card for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 will be in the Second Preference Category (2B) relationship. A green card may be available in as little as five years after filing the application, but children in Mexico or the Philippines may wait much longer than others.
U.S. citizens seeking a green card for a married child of any age are in the Third Preference Category, with an average wait time of at least 12 years for the green card.
Understanding the Timeline for Obtaining a Child Green Card
Once your priority date arrives, you can file your green card application using Form I-485 (or Form DS-260 if you are applying outside the U.S.). Include Form I-864 and Form I-944, along with all the required supporting documents and secondary forms.
Mail everything (don’t forget to make copies for yourself) to the USCIS — the address is provided on your Priority Date notice. You’ll get a notice from the USCIS that they received your application within two to three weeks. Look for the Biometrics Appointment Notice and the Receipt Notice. It takes about 7 to 15 months to process applications.
Checking Your Child Green Card Application Status: What You Need to Know
You can check the status of your child's green card application online, in person, over the phone, or by mail. Look on the My Case Status page of the USCIS website if you’re applying in the U.S. If you’re applying for a child green card from outside the U.S., check the status on the National Visa Center's (NVC) "Consular Electronic Application Center" (CEAC).
The U.S. State Department sends all official notices pertaining to the green card application to the mailing address you listed on the application. So if you move, make sure to update USCIS.
You can also check the status of the application via email if you’re applying outside the U.S. through the NVC email server. Persons applying in the U.S. can also schedule an in-person “InfoPass” appointment to check on their application.
Can Your Child Stay in the U.S. While Their Green Card Application Is Pending?
For U.S. citizens, once they have filed Form I-130 for the child's green card, then the child is eligible to apply for the K-4 nonimmigrant visa. A K-4 visa allows the child to come to the U.S. to live, work, and go to school while their permanent residence card application is being processed. However, filing a nonimmigrant visa request for the child isn’t mandatory.
Lawful Permanent Residents who have submitted Form I-130 for their child (on or prior to December 21, 2000) may be able to apply for a V visa on behalf of their child if it’s been longer than three years since they filed Form I-130.
Green Card Interview Questions for Child
It’s normal to feel nervous about the green card interview. Many people wonder what the USCIS officer will ask and what to do if they forget an answer.
Don’t worry. As part of SimVisa’s Child Green Card Application service, we help families prepare for the interview, including walking them through sample questions like those listed below:
- What is your mother’s full name? Your father’s?
- What date were you born, and in what city and country?
- Where do you currently live, and what is your address?
- What kind of family relationship do you have with your sponsor?
- Why do you wish to live in the United States?
These are just examples of the interview questions. There are many more, and we’ll help you prepare.
Is it possible to obtain a Green Card for my child born in the USA?
If your child is born in the U.S., you don’t need a green card for them. Children born in the United States are considered natural-born U.S. citizens. They receive their citizenship by right of having been born on U.S. soil.
Can I obtain a Green Card for my child born outside of the US?
Yes, you can apply for a green card for children born outside the U.S. However, in some cases, the child’s age, marital status, or your own citizenship status may determine whether you file for a child green card in the immediate relative category or in the family-based preference category.
Is it possible to obtain a Green Card for my child over 21 years old?
If you are a U.S. citizen, you may apply for a green card for your child over 21 years old, whether the child is married or not.
If you are a permanent resident, you can only get a child green card for children over 21 if they are unmarried.
Can I obtain a Green Card for my child under 21 years old?
Yes, U.S. citizens can apply for a child green card for a child under age 21 using the immediate relative category for application if the child is unmarried. If the child is married, however, you may sponsor their green card application through the family-based category F3.
Expert Help for Your Child's Green Card Application: Trust SimVisa's Legal Assistance
Are you a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who wishes to have a green card for your children living outside the U.S.? Considering how important this process is for your entire family, it’s important to have professional guidance through the process.
There are many hurdles in the process for immigrants to become lawful residents, and just one mistake or omission may mean starting the process all over again.
The immigration lawyers at SimVisa work with families of every nationality who want to have children become residents in the U.S. Contact us today to learn about our comprehensive immigration services.