Stepparents can be petitioned for a green card by their stepchildren under certain conditions.
The short answer is:
Yes, a U.S. citizen stepchild can file for a green card for their stepparent as long as the parents were married before the stepchild’s 18th birthday.
While the process of petitioning for a stepparent generally is the same as with filing for a biological parent standard, there is a specific distinction when it comes to petitions for stepparents. The U.S. citizen stepchildren must demonstrate that the marriage establishing their stepchild relationship occurred before they turned 18.
This specific requirement must be thoroughly documented. Generally, if USCIS has doubts about the validity of marriage prior to the stepchild’s 18th birthday, the petition is denied.
Navigating the Stepchild’s Age Requirement
For a stepparent’s green card petition to be considered by USCIS, they must have married the child’s biological parent before the child reached the age of 18. This prerequisite poses challenges in cases where a stepparent has been living with and raising the stepchild for an extended period without marrying their partner until after the child turns 18. In such situations, the requirement may not be met but for considerations of marriages in common law.
Considerations for Common Law Marriage States
In states that recognize common law marriages, there is an opportunity for the couple (or their attorneys) to argue that they were married at an earlier date in common law, satisfying the age requirement even if the formal marriage occurred after the child turned 18. The recognition of common law marriage allows the couple to establish their marriage as having existed before the stepchild reached the age of 18.
The analysis, therefore, follows the following steps:
- was the couple married prior to the child’s 18th birthday?
- If the answer is no, is the family living or has been living in a common-law marriage state?
It helps to know what these states are. As of the date of writing, the following states permit some form of common-law marriage:
- The District of Columbia
- Oklahoma, status may be unclear.
- Rhode Island
A big disclaimer here: note here that the status of these states can change at any time, and the general trend is towards states terminating common law marriage acceptance. Common law marriage stepparent petitions can become very complex, and the best advice is to go through the analysis with an experienced immigration lawyer.
The Validity of Civil Marriage Certificates
In states where common law marriage is not recognized, a civil marriage certificate will be necessary to meet the age requirement for a stepparent’s green card application. Proof of a legally recognized marriage before the child’s 18th birthday is essential in these jurisdictions to proceed with the petition process successfully.
Maintaining a Continuous Relationship
Of course, just showing a valid marriage prior to the U.S. citizen child’s 18th birthday is not enough to demonstrate ties strong enough such that an I-130 petition becomes approvable. USCIS will look for evidence of an ongoing relationship between the stepparent and the child.
To meet this requirement, it is imperative to demonstrate that the relationship between the stepparent and stepchild has been continuous over time. If the stepparent and the biological parent were divorced, and the stepparent subsequently cut communication or severed ties with the child, immigration authorities may view this as non-compliance with the requirement. A continuous and active relationship is essential in proving the legitimacy of the familial bond.
No Adoption Necessary for Immigration Benefits
For immigration purposes, stepparents do not need to have legally adopted their stepchild to obtain a green card. The establishment of a genuine and ongoing relationship is sufficient to be considered in the green card petition process.
Required Documentation for Petition Filing in Stepparent Immigration Cases
When submitting the green card petition, the child must include a valid marriage certificate between the stepparent and their biological parent. Additionally, proof of termination of any previous marriages for both parties is essential. This can be demonstrated through divorce certificates or death certificates of former spouses. This is by no means a full list of the required evidence to win a stepparent green card petition. Gathering the appropriate documentation is crucial to ensuring a successful petition submission, and in certain cases, additional documentation can be required.
Seeking Assistance from an Immigration Lawyer
Providing compelling evidence petitioners will support the legitimacy of their application. By collaborating with an experienced immigration lawyer and gathering the necessary documents, applicants can enhance their chances of a successful green card petition and work towards securing permanent residency for their stepparent.
In this type of immigration filing critical errors can cause case denial by USCIS or creation of unnecessary delays. Contact us today to see if we can work together by scheduling a consultation. During the consultation, we will guide you through the process, address your questions and concerns, and provide personalized solutions tailored to your specific case.