There are different definitions of who may qualify as a “child” under U.S. immigration law. Generally, a “child” means an unmarried person under 21 years old who is:

  • a child born to a married couple;
  • a child born to a mother who used an egg donor to get pregnant but was recognized as the child’s legal mother by the relevant state or jurisdiction at the time she gave birth (see the Vol. 12, Part H, Chapter 2 of the USCIS Policy Manual for more details);
  • a stepchild, provided that the child was under 18 years old when their parent married their step-parent;
  • a child born to unmarried parents, and:
    • If the mother is filing a petition for the child, no legitimation is required;
    • If the father is filing a petition for the child, the child must have been legitimated while in the father’s legal custody or the father must show that a bona fide parent-child relationship existed before the child turned 21; or
  • an adopted child. Generally, the child must be adopted before age 16, have lived with the adoptive parent for 2 years, and have been in the legal custody of the adopting parent for 2 years. However, some variations may apply.  Please see the How do I help my adopted child immigrate to the United States or become a U.S. citizen? (PDF, 230 KB) guide for complete information.
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