You worked hard, came to the United States, and made a life for yourself and your family. Your parents were reluctant to leave their home… but they are getting older, and there is no longer a choice.
They need to come here to live with you.
Now that you have made the decision, you face the hurdle of navigating a complex immigration system.
Immigrating to the United States has always been complicated. Especially with the current political climate, you want to be sure that this process gets done right. No rejections, no delays, no problems.
In this guide, I am going to teach you how to get your parents green cards and take care of them with the same care they gave you.
You have made the first big step - deciding that you want to petition for your parents to come to the United States. Now, you need to make certain that they are eligible to obtain green cards.
In this first chapter, I will run you through a very straightforward process after which you will know for certain whether or not your parents are eligible to come to the United States as permanent residents.
There are two basic factors that will determining their eligibility.
First, you must be a United States citizen in order to petition for them. You can not just have a green card, you must be a full fledged citizen.
Second, you parents must be admissible to the United States. This is actually a fairly complex concept in US immigration law, but you can answer it with some basic information about their backgrounds.
You will need to know (1) your parents US immigration history, and (2) their criminal history. You will be looking for anything that would be a red flag for immigration and that would disqualify them from obtaining permanent resident status.
For US immigration history, you should gather any documentation you have related to their prior visa applications and travel to the US. Travel to other countries is not important here, we are focusing on their US visa applications and visits.
If your parents have never applied for a visa or traveled to the US, then you do not need to look into this step any further. They have passed!
If your parents have come to the US or applied for a visa, you need to review their immigration history to make sure they do not fit into one of these categories:
(1) If they have ever overstayed a visa, this could cause a problem for their eligibility. Specifically, if your parents have overstayed a visa by more than 3 months, it will create a bar to their ability to get a green card.
(2) If they have been denied a visa because of fraud or misrepresentation, this will also create a bar. Being denied a visa is not necessarily a problem, so you need to look into the reason for the denial.
If they have not overstayed or been denied a prior visa for fraud or misrepresentation, then you can continue on to criminal history.
You might assume that your parents have a squeaky clean criminal history. Do not make this assumption! As awkward as this might be, you should ask them directly if they have any prior criminal charges, convictions, or arrests.
Most small criminal convictions will not actually cause them to be eligible for permanent resident status, but they must disclose those convictions in the application process, so you need to know before you start.
It does not matter where a criminal charge of conviction took place. They all apply regardless of the country.
If your parents have no criminal charges, convictions, or arrests, you can move on. If they do, you will need to get certified dispositions for each criminal charge. These will typically show the charge and sentence, and will be signed by a judge.
Immigration law lists the types of criminal convictions that will make someone ineligible to get permanent residence status in INA 212(h). Because criminal law varies between states and countries, you will need to look at the certified dispositions for criminal convictions they have to see if that crime matches up with something on this list.
Now that you have gone through this chapter it should be fairly clear whether your parents are eligible for permanent resident status. If you are a citizen and they have a clean immigration and criminal history, you are free to go ahead and start the process.
If you have realized that they have a spotted immigration or criminal history, they might still be eligible. This is the point where you really do need to bring the documents you gathered about their immigration and criminal history to an immigration lawyer for a consultation to see if there still might be a way that they can get green cards.
Congratulations! If you have made it to Chapter 2, then you know your parents are eligible and with the some work and perseverance, they will soon be living with you in the United States as permanent residents.
Now you need to decide which of two processes you will go through to get them green cards. This is an incredibly important step and you should make this decision carefully as it will greatly affect the rest of the process.
There are two ways they can obtain permanent resident status: (1) adjustment of status, and (2) consular processing.
Adjustment of status means that they will be changing their immigration status entirely from within the United States to become permanent residents.
Consular processing means that they will process their case through a consular post abroad and obtain their green cards after traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa.
Adjustment of status is the preferred method for most immigrants. It is less complicated. You will submit all of the forms and documents to immigration once at the start of the process, making it easier to organize your filing. It also allows your parents to stay in the United States while their petition is processing.
Consular processing is actually a three step process. It starts with USCIS, goes to the National Visa Center which acts a sort of ‘middle-man,’ and then is finished at a US embassy abroad.
It is typically more time consuming than adjustment of status and there are more potential pitfalls along the way.
So, you are probably wondering, why would anyone choose consular processing?
Sometimes, you will not have a choice. You see, your parents must already be in the United States when you decide to petition for their green cards in order to do an adjustment of status.
For example, if they were in the US on a tourist visa, and while they were here you decided to petition for them, you could go forward with adjustment of status. This would be perfectly appropriate.
However, you are not allowed to apply for a temporary visa or travel to the US on a temporary visa for the purpose of coming into the country and applying for a green card.
Doing so can create some very serious problems down the road. Immigration could decide that your parents committed immigration fraud when they applied for their temporary visa or when they came through US customs on an existing visa, making them unable to get permanent resident status, ever.
It is important to note that the Trump Administration has made some changes to the foreign affairs manual indicating that immigration authorities will take a closer look at applications with a discerning eye for any misrepresentation.
This makes it even more important to think through how an immigration officer will perceive your parents intent when they applied for a visa or came through customs if you go forward with adjustment of status.
In many instances, therefore, consular processing is the safer route. If your parents are living in your home country and have never traveled or applied for a visa to come to the United States, it may look suspicious to immigration if they apply for tourist visas, come to the United States, and immediately apply for adjustment of status.
Additionally, one major advantage of consular processing is that it will allow your parents to immigrate to the United States on their own terms. Once you go through the process, they will get immigrant visas that are typically valid for six months.
They will then be able to travel to the United States at any time within that six month timeframe, after which they will immediately have permanent resident status and be able to live here normally.
On the other hand, If they apply for adjustment of status, there will be a period during which they are living in the United States in ‘limbo’ while the case is processing.
The bottom line here is that you should only apply for adjustment of status if your parents are in the United States on a temporary visa when you decide to file their petition. If they are abroad and you have already decided to go forward with this process, you should choose consular processing.
If you have decided to get a green card for your parents through adjustment of status, you can pat yourself on the back for using the less complicated and cumbersome of the two options you have available.
That being said, you still need to a take a detail oriented and methodical approach if you want to make the adjustment of status go smoothly.
This chapter will guide you through the process of adjustment, giving you the resources you need to make your petition a success.
At the outset, it is helpful to understand the procedural framework and timeline for adjustment of status. There are five stages, or ‘events’, that you can expect throughout the process.First, you will submit all of your forms, supporting documents, and filing fees to immigration at the very outset of your petition. This is technically called ‘concurrent filing.’ Second, within two to four weeks after sending off your adjustment petition, you will receive an ‘I-797C Notice of Receipt’ acknowledging acceptance of your filing and telling you that it is in process.
Third, within two to six weeks of filing, your parents will receive a biometrics appointment notice for collection of their fingerprints and bio data at an immigration service center.
Fourth, within three to four months of mailing your petition, your parents will receive an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) that will allow them to work in the United States and travel internationally.
Finally, within six months to a year your parents case will be reviewed by an immigration officer and you will be notified of an approval of your petition or the scheduling of an interview.
As you can see, the most important factor for achieving success with adjustment of status is your initial filing. That is where you should focus your time and attention.
There are three components to knocking your initial filing out of the park.
First, submitting all of the necessary forms filled out correctly and completely.
Second, supplementing those forms with the right supporting documents.
Third, submitting the forms and documents with a detailed cover letter and tabbing your submission so that it is easy for an immigration officer to read.
So let’s get down to business and go through the forms. You are submitting a ‘concurrent filing,’ meaning that you will mail all of the necessary forms for your case along with the filing fee in one package.
I will explain the purpose of each form, give a you link where you can download the most current version, and provide explanations for some common questions that arise with each.
This form notifies immigration that you are filing for a green card for your parents. It is completed and signed by you, the petitioner. You can find the most current version of the form here.
The I-130 is a fairly dense form. You will provide an extensive amount of biographical information about both yourself and your parents such as birth dates, passport information, and naturalization certificate numbers. The most difficult information to gather for this form is residence, education, and employment history.
One common issue that arises while completing the I-130 is how to find information about your parents most recent arrival in the United States. This information is available in their most recent I-94. If they came more recently, you can look up their most recent I-94 online at the Customs and Border Protection website.
If their most recent arrival in the United States was more than five years ago, you will need to find the physical I-94 card that was stapled into their passports when they came through customs at the United States port of entry.