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Bringing Children, Sons and Daughters to Live in the United States as Permanent Residents

The age and marital status of your children are important factors in the immigration process. For immigration purposes, a “child” is defined as being unmarried and under 21, whereas a “son” or “daughter” is defined as being married and/or 21 or over.

Eligibility Requirements

If you are a... You may petition for...
U.S. citizen
  • Children (unmarried and under 21)
  • Unmarried sons and daughters (21 or over) - Your son or daughter’s child(ren) may be included on this petition.
  • Married sons and daughters (any age) - Your son or daughter’s spouse and/or child(ren) may be included on this petition.
Permanent resident (green card holder)
  • Children (unmarried and under 21) - Your child’s child(ren) may be included on this petition.
  • Unmarried sons and daughters (21 or over) - Your son or daughter’s child(ren) may be included on this petition.

 

A more detailed description of who is considered a "child" in the immigration process is given below. If you or your child, son or daughter currently serves in the U.S. military, see the “Military” section of the website.

Required Documentation

  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative (signed with proper fee)
  • Evidence of you U.S. citizenship: 
    • A copy of your U.S. birth certificate OR
    • A copy of your valid U.S. passport OR
    • A copy of Consular Report of Birth Abroad OR
    • A copy of your naturalization certificate OR
    • A copy of your certificate of citizenship
  • If you are a permanent resident, you must demonstrate your status with:
    • A copy (front and back) of Form I-551 (green card) OR
    • A copy of your foreign passport bearing a stamp showing temporary evidence of permanent residence.
  • If your name or your child’s name has changed, proof of legal name change (may include marriage certificate, divorce decree, adoption decree, court judgment of name change, etc.)
  • Proof of relationship (see chart below for case-specific requirements) 
If you are the... You must also submit...
Biological mother
  • A copy of your child’s birth certificate issued by civil authorities
Biological father
  • A copy of your child’s birth certificate issued by civil authorities
  • A copy of your marriage certificate to the child’s biological mother  
  • If you and/or the biological mother are no longer married, you must also submit evidence of the legal termination of that marriage through death, divorce, or annulment.  
  • If you never married the child’s mother before the child turned 18:
    • If the law of your or your child’s residence considers the child legitimated, you do not need to provide additional information
    • If your child is not legitimated under the law, you must submit evidence that you established a bona fide father-child relationship prior to the child turning 21 or marrying. This should be evidence of emotional and/or financial involvement in the child’s life.
 Step-parent (step-mother or step-father)  
  • A copy of your step-child’s birth certificate issued by civil authorities
  • A copy of your civil marriage certificate to your step-child’s biological parent
  • Proof of the legal termination of all previous marriages for you and/or the biological parent (divorce decree, death certificate, annulment decree)
Adoptive parent (adoptive mother or adoptive father)
  • Copy of child’s original birth certificate
  • Copy of the final adoption decree
  • Evidence that you had 2 years of legal custody (this could have been awarded by a court prior to the final adoption decree)
  • Evidence that you had 2 years of physical custody (this means time during which the child was living with you and you were exercising primary parental control)

 

Filing for Your Relative Who Lives in the United States

If you are a... Then...
 U.S. citizen petitioning for your child (unmarried and under 21) Your child may file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, at the same time that you file Form I-130
U.S. citizen petitioning for your son or daughter (married and/or 21 or over) You file Form I-130. Your son or daughter files Form I-485 when a visa becomes available. See the “Visa Bulletin” and “Green Card” links to the right.
Permanent resident (green card holder) petitioning for your child, son, or daughter You file Form I-130. Your child, son, or daughter may file Form I-485 when a visa becomes available. See the “Visa Bulletin” and “Green Card” links to the right.

 

Filing for Your Relative Who Lives Outside the United States

If your child, son, or daughter is outside the United States, you file Form I-130. The petition will be sent for consular processing after it is approved and a visa is available. The U.S. Embassy or consulate will provide notification and processing information.

Conditional Residence and Removing Conditions

If you are petitioning for a step-child and have not been married to the child’s biological parent for 2 years at the time the child receives permanent residence, the child will be granted conditional permanent resident (CPR) status. Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence is used to remove the conditional basis of permanent residence. (Note that Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card is NOT used for this purpose.)

If your spouse and child became CPRs at the same time or within 6 months, the child can be included in your spouse’s petition. If the child became a permanent resident more than 6 months after your spouse, or the child was granted CPR status independently of your spouse, the child will need to file a separate Form I-751.

Form I-751 must be filed within the 90-day period prior to the expiration date on the conditional resident card. If you fail to file during this time, your spouse and/or your child’s status will be terminated and they may be subject to removal from the United States. For more information, see the “How Do I Customer Guides”.

Who is Considered to be a "Child" in the Immigration Process?

For immigration purposes, a child can be any of the following:

  • A biological child born in wedlock
  • A biological child born out of wedlock:
    • If the mother is petitioning, no legitimation is required.
    • If the father is petitioning, legitimation is required in accordance with the laws of the father or child’s place of residence.
    • If the father is petitioning and the relationship is not legitimated under applicable laws, a bona fide parent-child relationship must be shown to have existed prior to the child’s 21st birthday and while the child was unmarried.
  • A step-child, as long as the marriage creating the step-relationship occurred before the child turned 18
  • An adopted child if the child was adopted prior to age 16 (one exception is if siblings are adopted, as long as one was under 16, the other could be older than 16 but younger than 18), AND the adopted child has resided in the legal and physical custody of the adoptive parent for 2 years prior to filing (the legal and physical custody do not have to be the same time period, but each must be met for 2 years) NOTE: Most adoption-based immigration occurs through the orphan intercountry or Hague processes. Normally, you would only use the Form I-130 process if your child did not meet the definition of orphan. See the “Adoption” link to the right for more information. 

Check the Status of Your Visa Petition

To check the status of your visa petition, see the “My Case Status” page. 

Can my child come to the United States to live while the visa petition Is pending?

If you are a U.S. citizen, once you file Form I-130, your child is eligible to apply for a nonimmigrant K-4 visa. This will entitle him or her to come to the United States to live and work or go to school while the visa petition is pending. To petition for this benefit, you may file Form I-129F. However, you are not required to file Form I-129F and your child does not require a K-4 visa. Your child may wait abroad for immigrant visa processing. Seeking a K-4 visa can be a method for him or her to come to the United States more quickly. For more information, see the “K3-K4 Visa” page.

If you are a permanent resident (green card holder) and you have filed Form I-130 for your child on or before December 21, 2000, your child may be eligible for the V visa classification if more than three years have passed since the I-130 was filed. For more information on V visas, see the “V Nonimmigrant Visas” page.

For more information on “Adjustment of Status” within the United States and “Consular Processing” overseas, see the corresponding link to the right.

My Petition was Denied: Can I Appeal?

If the visa petition you filed is denied, the denial letter will tell you how to appeal and when you must file the appeal. After your appeal form and the required fee are processed, the appeal will be referred to the Board of Immigration Appeals.  For more information, see the “How Do I Customer Guides".

Following-to-Join Benefits

This section is for beneficiaries who became permanent residents through a preference classification.

If you were married and/or had children who did not obtain permanent residence at the same time you did, they may be eligible for follow-to-join benefits. This means that you do not have to submit a separate Form I-130 for your spouse and/or children. In addition, your spouse and/or children will not have to wait any extra time for a visa number to become available. In this case, you may simply notify a U.S. consulate that you are a permanent resident so that your spouse and/or children can apply for an immigrant visa.

Your spouse and/or children may be eligible for following-to-join benefits if: 

  • The relationship existed at the time you became a permanent resident and still exists, AND 
  • You received an immigrant visa or adjusted status in a preference category. 

If your family member falls into this category and you adjusted to permanent residency in the United States, you may submit the following:

If you are in the United States and have not yet filed to adjust your status to permanent resident, you can file Form I-824 with your Form I-485, in which case no supporting documents are needed other than those submitted with Form I-485.

If you received the immigrant visa overseas, you may contact the National Visa Center (NVC) for follow-to-join information. Send your inquiry by e-mail to NVCInquiry@state.gov or by writing to the National Visa Center, ATTN:  WC, 32 Rochester Ave., Portsmouth, NH 03801-2909. 

To download the forms and instructions mentioned above, see the corresponding link in the “Forms” section to the right.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 04/01/2011