Whether your parents are living in the United States or abroad, there are ways to sponsor your mother and father for a Green Card (also known as legal permanent residency). Parents are considered "Immediate Relatives," which is a preferred category according to United States immigration agencies. In other words, the processing times for a parent's Green Card application is significantly faster than other preference categories such as a sibling's application.
That being said, only United States Citizens, who are 21 years old or older, can sponsor their parents for a Green Card. Green Card holders can NOT apply for their parents. If you have a Green Card, you have to wait until you become a U.S. Citizen to petition for your parents.
It is also important to note that there is a specific definition of "parent" for the purpose of sponsoring a Green Card. A parent can be your natural parents, stepparent, or adoptive parent; however, it does NOT include your in-laws. Therefore, even if you are a U.S. Citizen, you cannot sponsor your mother-in-law or father-in-law for a Green Card. Your wife or your husband would have to apply for your mother-in-law or father-in-law (i.e., his or her natural parents). If your spouse is not a U.S. Citizen yet, then as mentioned above, your spouse will have to naturalize first, then he or she can sponsor your in-laws.
For stepparents and adoptive parents, there are certain criteria as well. To sponsor a stepparent, your birth mother or father and your stepparent should have been married before your 18th birthday. Similarly, to sponsor an adoptive parent, the adoption must have been finalized before your 16th birthday.
The process of sponsoring a Green Card for a parent is slightly different depending on whether your parent is in the United States or is currently living abroad:
If Your Parent is in the United States: You should file forms I-130 and I-485 together, with the supporting documents, to adjust your parent's immigration status. Before applying, you want to ensure that your parent is eligible to adjust status (e.g., not subject to any inadmissibility grounds, paroled entry, etc.). If your parent has past immigration history to the United States, it is highly advised to work with an attorney to file the paperwork to verify your parent's eligibility to apply and to prepare properly for the application and the interview. The application is typically processed within 6 months, depending on the service center's workload.
If Your Parent Lives Abroad: First, you need to file form I-130. If the petition is approved, the application is forwarded to the closest U.S. Consulate Office abroad. Then, your parent will be notified by the Consulate regarding completing a visa application and attending a visa interview at the Consulate. This is called "consular processing," and it takes about a year to receive a decision.
For more information, please visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)'s page on bringing parents to the United States.
If you have any questions, ImmigraTrust Law is here to help with sponsoring your parents for a Green Card. Contact us today to learn more on how to apply for your parent's permanent residency!
--Najmeh Mahmoudjafari, J.D.
Najmeh is the Founder and Lead Immigration Attorney at ImmigraTrust Law, an immigration law practice in Orange County, California, representing individual and corporate clients in all 50 U.S. States and internationally. Najmeh can be reached at Najmeh@ImmigraTrust.com.
Latest posts and news from our top immigration lawyers