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January 2, 2018

How to Get a Green Card for your Parents: The Definitive Guide [2018]

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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.

Chapter 1: How to Know for Certain your Parents are Eligible for a Green Card

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.

Immigration History

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.

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.

Chapter 2: How to Make the Right Choice for Processing Your Petition

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.

Chapter 3: How to Succeed with Adjustment of Status from Within the United States

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.

Overview of the Process

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.

How to Assemble your Petition

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.

24 Comments

  1. srin says:

    Hello, thanks for putting together such an informative guide! I have just one clarification question: Under the section on filing the I-130 (consular processing) it says:

    You should submit the following documents along with your completed form I-130:
    – Your birth certificate – Your parents birth certificates – Your parents marriage certificate – Your parents passports – Divorce decrees if your parents have ever been divorced – Your naturalization certificate – Your passport

    Here I assume you mean “copies of” and not the original documents, right?

    • admin says:

      Thank you for the great question! That is correct. You will only submit copies along with the I-130 petition, as well as when you submit supporting documents to the National Visa Center. The beneficiary – the parent in this case – will need to bring the original documents to the interview at a US embassy abroad.

      • hshah says:

        Thank you for putting together this detailed information. A follow-up question:
        When applying for consular processing and during the interview, the beneficiary – the parent in this case , will have originals of their birth certificate and marriage certificates, but they will not have my (sponsors) original birth certificate or passport or naturalization certificate. Is this needed? I am hesitant to send my original documents.

        • admin says:

          That is a good question. Most petitioners are reluctant to send vital documents such as birth certificates by mail. However, your parent will need your original birth certificate, as it establishes your parent child relationship. This does not apply to your passport or naturalization certificate, for those copies will be fine. However, the parent beneficiary should bring the original birth certificate proving your parent-child relationship to the interview.

      • srin says:

        Thank you for clarifying that. A related question: The I-130 instructions do not mention anything about needing the parents’ birth certificates or marriage certificates. Are you suggesting these because you have seen cases where an application was held up or denied because that information was missing? My mother (who is the beneficiary in this case) does not have either one of these. She could probably obtain sworn affadavits but it would be a bit difficult for her on account of her difficulty getting around so I would prefer to hear they’re likely to be pretty important before I ask her for them

        Thanks!

        • Henson Pachuta & Kammerman, PLLC says:

          You will not need the birth certificates at the I-130 stage of the process, but will need them when you are submitting supporting documents to the National Visa Center. It is a best practice in my opinion to submit them along with the I-130 petition as well to ensure it is approved without an erroneous RFE. However, if you want to start the process as quickly as possible, you could file the I-130 and then collect the secondary evidence of birth while you wait for the petition to be approved and the case forwarded to the NVC.

      • I D Ahuja says:

        In case of counsular processing from abroad parents can come to US while the petion is in process

        • Henson Pachuta & Kammerman, PLLC says:

          Unfortunately once you start the process and file an I-130 petition, I would not advise that your parents visit the United States, even on an existing visa. This decision is in the hands of the CBP officer who handles their admission at the port of entry, and it is always possible that they could slip through. That being said, immigration law does not allow dual intent for this type of petition – once a petition has been filed for permanent residency they should not be admitted on a non immigrant visa, such as a visitors visa.

  2. Rajesh says:

    When I complete 21 years old, Can I still apply green cards for my parents if I am still studying and not earning any money thereby showing the financial support from my parents?
    Are my parents in US/ abroad allowed to transfer their money to my savings account which can act as a source of financial support.

    • Henson Pachuta & Kammerman, PLLC says:

      Thank you for your question. Yes, you can absolutely apply for your parents regardless of whether you are in school or working. The only requirements are that you are a US citizen and 21 years or older. As the intending immigrants, your parents can actually include their assets toward the determination of financial support. However, they do need to be able to prove that they can take those assets out of the country where they are located, which can be difficult. There is no need for their assets to be transferred to you.

  3. Sushant Kapoor says:

    Thank you for the detailed information , i have a question, what if one of the Parent cannot find his birth certificate , all other Certificates like the Petitioners Birth Certificate proving the relation , mothers brith certificate, marriage Certificate is in place. how is that issue adressed ??

    • Henson Pachuta & Kammerman, PLLC says:

      Thank you, this is a very good question and a common issue. Immigration will need either a birth certificate or, if it is unavailable, secondary evidence proving your parent’s birth. This is the case regardless of whether birth certificates are available for the petitioner child or another beneficiary parent. You should first attempt to obtain the birth certificate from the appropriate authority in your home country or at an embassy of the issuing country. If you truly can not obtain a birth certificate, you will need to submit secondary evidence, such as affidavits, school records, religious birth records, and medical records.

      • Suraj Belani says:

        Thank you for such a great article. My parents don’t have a birth certificate but based on their passport, the home country consulate in the foreign country (they work in another country than their home country) has issued them a legal document confirming the birth details. Would this document be accepted by USICS or they need an original birth certificate. Also, when you say religious birth records, can that be the principal document instead of the birth certificate? As for the affidavit, this could be family members who vouch on a legal sworn document about the birth, could these claims be from siblings?

        • Henson Pachuta & Kammerman, PLLC says:

          You can find more detailed information about why types of civil documents will be accepted for each country by reviewing the guidelines set forth in Department of State Reciprocity Schedule. Religious birth records will typically be issued by a private religious organization, such as a church, temple, or mosque. As for affidavits, it could be anyone with personal knowledge of the birth – so an older sibling would appropriate for an affidavit if they have a memory of the birth.

  4. Dee Cee says:

    Hello , Thanks so much for such detailed information… Indeed very helpful. I am a US Citizen and my mother has 10-year multiple entry visitor visa. Due to my divorce proceedings, she had to extend her stay for more than three months of her authorized stay in US…I filed for her i-539 (extension of stay) pending response from USCIS.

    My question:
    1. Can i apply for her green card while she is still in US and overstayed for more than 3 months ? Will it cause any issues with the approvals ?
    2. Do i need to withdraw her i-539 application for extension of stay prior to filing for her green card?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Henson Pachuta & Kammerman, PLLC says:

      You can file a concurrent I-130/I-485 adjustment of status application regardless of whether your mother has overstayed a visitor visa, and do not need to withdraw her I-539 application. That being said, you should at the very least consult with an immigration attorney after providing all the details of your situation and get more personalized advice. Any time an immigrant overstays a visa it could cause problems down the road, and you should make certain you are not opening a door you can not close.

  5. Maya Kumar says:

    If the parents left US while I-131 was being processed due to an emergency , what’s the best way to continue their green card processing ? What’s the success rate of transferring their application for consular processing ?

    • Henson Pachuta & Kammerman, PLLC says:

      In order to transfer a case from adjustment of status to consular processing, you must complete and file form I-824 with USCIS. In your situation, it would be worth have a consultation with an attorney as how you should proceed would depend on the details of your case.

  6. Neha Crosby says:

    This is great information, thank you! Is it recommended to wait for 90 days after the parents arrive to the US before applying? I am wondering if we applied before 90 days, it could be interpreted as they traveled to apply? Altho they both have 10 yr tourist visas.

    • Henson Pachuta & Kammerman, PLLC says:

      Pursuant to the new ’90 day rule’ established by the Trump Administration, an immigration officer will have guidance that if an immigrant engages in activity that is inconsistent with the non immigrant visa, misrepresentation may be presumed. You can find a more detailed analysis of this issue in our blog post about the ’90 day rule.’

  7. Lina says:

    Thank you for the wonderful guide but one thing isn’t clear. I am a US citizen and would like to sponsor my parents and my under 21 unmarried siblings so am I able to bring my siblings with my parents as dependent derivatives on my parents’ I-130 case or do I have to sponsor my siblings as their own I-130 case as siblings? I’ve been told different answers. Thank you in advance!

    • Henson Pachuta & Kammerman, PLLC says:

      Unfortunately, derivative benefits do not apply to an immediately relative petition, including parents of a US citizen. In other words, for this type of petition, your siblings can not derive immediate relative status and immigrate along with your parents. They would need to qualify for residence separately and have a separate I-130 petition filed for them.

      This can be confusing, because a non immediate relative petition will grant derivative benefits to certain family members. For instance, if you petition for a sibling, when the visa becomes available that sibling’s spouse and unmarried children are derivative beneficiaries and can immigrant with the primary beneficiary sibling. This is not the case for an immediate relative petition, such as for a parent or spouse of a US citizen.

  8. Lan Tran says:

    I am a US citizen and I filed each of my parent an I-130 and included all of my siblings where it asked for family information. Are my under 21 siblings able to immigrate with my parents on their I-130 or do I need to file an I-130 for my underaged siblings to be attached to my parents’ case? I know married siblings would need their own I-130 case. Thank you in advance!

    • Henson Pachuta & Kammerman, PLLC says:

      Unfortunately, derivative benefits do not apply to an immediately relative petition, including parents of a US citizen. In other words, for this type of petition, your siblings can not derive immediate relative status and immigrate along with your parents. They would need to qualify for residence separately and have a separate I-130 petition filed for them.

      There is a very narrow exception to this rule for a self petitioning widower, but that would not be the case in this type of child-parent petition.