Green Card Sponsorship for Parents by U.S. Citizen Children: What You Need to Know

We often receive questions regarding green card sponsorship of parents by their U.S. citizen children. One such question is whether a U.S. citizen child who is under 21 years of age can sponsor their parent for a green card. The answer to this question is no.

Under current law, only U.S. citizens who are 21 years of age or older are eligible to sponsor their parents for immigration to the United States.

It’s important to note that having a U.S. citizen d child does not automatically give the foreign national parent a path to a green card. It’s not until the child turns 21 that they can sponsor their parent for a green card. The way to do that is to file what is known as the 1-130 Petition for Alien Relative.

Sometimes, individuals come to the United States on a student visa or work visa and end up having a U.S. citizen child. Unfortunately, the fact that a child is born in the United States does not give the parents any status in the United States until the child turns 21. It does of course provide the child with U.S. citizenship by virtue of being born in the U.S.

This can be a difficult situation for families whose visas are expiring or have expired and who are forced to leave the United States unless they find other options to legally stay in the U.S. for the time being. If you want to consider other options, contact our office and request a consultation with an attorney.

But let us know consider a more complicated question:

Can a parent being sponsored for a green card by their U.S. citizen child who is 21 years of age or older include a minor child in the same petition?

No, the dependent child will require their own I-130 filing by the U.S. citizen child.

In fact, no petition for an immediate relative is able to add derivative beneficiaries on the same petition. “Immediate relatives” include a U.S. citizen’s parents, spouse, and unmarried children under 21 years of age.

Let’s take a look at the US DOS Foreign Affairs Manual for a more technical answer:

Derivative Immediate Relative Status for Spouses or Children:

(1)  The INA does not generally accord derivative status for family members of immediate relatives as it does for preference applicants.  (INA 203(d) does not apply to the classes described in INA 201(b)).  A U.S. citizen must file separate IR petitions for the spouse, each child, and each parent.

(2)  “Parents” of U.S. citizens are accorded IR5 status only upon U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or consular officer approval of a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, establishing that the appropriate child-parent relationship exists.  In certain circumstances, a U.S. citizen may be entitled to petition for only one parent, such as when the beneficiary’s spouse does not meet the definition of “parent” as set forth at INA 101(b)(2). For example, an individual who becomes a stepparent of an 18-year-old is not the “parent” of that child for immigration purposes (see INA 101(b)(1)(B)).  Consequently, should that stepchild become a U.S. citizen, USCIS and post would be unable to approve a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative (for IR5 status) for that stepparent.  Further, spouses and children of IR5s cannot benefit from derivative status through the principal applicant. Spouses who cannot qualify in their own right for IR5 status, and any children of an IR5, would require the filing of a separate Form I-130 petition (family-based second preference classification) upon the principal’s admission to the United States as an LPR.

9 FAM 502.2


There may be other ways for family members to immigrate.

Have detailed questions about your specific family petition? Our office routinely files family green card petitions of all levels of complexity. Schedule your consultation here.

Remember that each case is different. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Read the full disclaimer here.


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