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How To Sponsor Green Cards For Your Sons And Daughters: A Guide For Lawful Permanent Residents

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What are the rules regarding when a green card holder can sponsor their son or daughter for a green card themselves?

Hi. I'm Jim Hacking, Immigration Lawyer practicing law throughout the United States based out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. Green card holders often want to bring their immediate relatives or family members to the United States to be with them. The immigration service and the immigration laws are designed to try to enhance family reunification, and so the law does allow a green card holder to sponsor their son or daughter for their own lawful permanent resident status. It's a little bit different than the way it works when a petitioner is a US citizen, so we thought we'd shoot this video to explain to you some of the differences in how the immigration process works.

Key Takeaways:

  • The process starts by filing Form I-130 (an immigrant visa petition).
  • The processing time for petitioning an unmarried child over the age of 21 is longer than for those under 21. 
  • Remember always to keep your address updated and work with an immigration attorney.

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The Process of Sponsoring Your Child to Come to the U.S. - An Overview

Let's say you're a U.S. lawful permanent resident and you're living in St. Louis or anywhere in the country, and you want to sponsor your son or daughter to come to the United States from your home country, maybe it's the Philippines, Mexico, or wherever. The way that it works is you file an I-130, and the I-130 is the petition for an alien relative, and that's the form that's used to alert the USCIS of your intention to try to get a visa for your son or daughter. The process begins with USCIS, and you file the forms, and about 6 months later, you get an approval notice from USCIS. At that point, your son or daughter is placed into a wait.

How To Petition An Unmarried Child Under 21

Now, one of the big distinctions for these kinds of cases is whether or not the son or daughter is over 21 or under 21.

If they're under 21 and unmarried, they're going to be able to come in about a year and a half, maybe a little bit longer because there's a long line. Congress has placed a cap on these family-based green card cases, and so there's a line of about a year and a half for a visa to actually become available for your son or daughter. That's if you're from most countries.

Now, the wait is longer for people from the Philippines, China, and Mexico. You're going to need to check something called the Visa Bulletin, that'll let you know when the visa might become available, and it will tell you when cases are being handled. When you first file the case, you're assigned a priority date, and then after that, you wait in line based on that priority date.

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How Long Does It Take To Petition An Unmarried Child Over 21

Now, if the son or daughter is over 21 and unmarried, the wait is a little bit longer. Right now, it's about 6 years for the unmarried son or daughter of a green card holder to get a green card themselves. Again, the immigration law is trying to reunify people, but again there's a cap on the number of these visas available.

If you're a green card holder and if you have a son or daughter who's 25 or 30 and unmarried, you can sponsor them for a green card, but the wait is a lot longer if they're over 21. It's really important when you're looking at this that if the person is about to become 21, you really take action because you want to get in on the earlier, shorter line. You don't want them to have to wait in the 6-year line if you can avoid it.

Now, sometimes the green card holder can become a US citizen while the case is pending, and the law allows for that as well. You don't lose your spot by becoming a citizen, but you do need to be careful about this because right now and many times, the line for the children of green card holders is actually shorter than the line for children of citizens, and you need to make sure that ... and we're talking about the children over 21 now ... you need to make sure that you alert USCIS and/or the State Department of your intention to keep the priority date that you have in the green card line.

This is sort of complicated, so we'd be happy to walk you through it. But basically, if you have a lawful permanent residence status and become a citizen, if you just let things play out normally, your child would be placed into a line that's longer than it is for the children of green card holders, so you can elect to basically freeze your spot as a green card holder and get your adult son or daughter to the United States a little bit faster. These cases are pretty complicated. They are often detail-oriented, and you want to make sure that you are staying on top of things.

Because they take often a long amount of time, you want to make sure to keep your address updated, and you probably want to work with an immigration attorney who knows what they're doing with these cases.

How We Can Help

I would not recommend people filing most immigration cases, but especially these types of cases, without the help of a competent immigration attorney. I'm not saying that to toot our own horn. I'm just saying that in order to alert you to the fact that these cases are a little bit nuanced, they're a little bit more complicated than when the US petitioner is a citizen, so you want to make that you do everything you can to file correctly and to make sure that your son or daughter gets here as soon as they can.

If you have any questions about how the immigrant visa process works for the children of US citizens or anything related to citizenship and immigration services, give us a call at 314-325-7978, or you can email us at [email protected]. Thanks a lot.

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