Who can sponsor parents for a green card?

One of the great benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen is the opportunity to sponsor your parents to live permanently in the United States. Unfortunately, legal permanent residents (green card holders) are not eligible to sponsor parents at this time. You must also be at least 21 years old to file a sponsorship petition and be able to prove financial means to support your relative. You can sponsor your mother, father, an adoptive parent or a stepparent. As parents are considered “immediate relatives”, an unlimited number of immigrant visas (green cards) are available for this category. This means parents don’t face a lengthy wait like other family categories (e.g. siblings).

Your parent must also be eligible to adjust status once your petition is approved. Additionally, your parent must prove the financial means to support himself or herself. A criminal record, a past deportation or an unlawful presence in the United States may render your parent ineligible. However, inadmissibility may be waived in certain situations, so you should seek the advice of a qualified immigration lawyer if you have questions.

Filing Form I-130 with the USCIS for your parents

You must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative and submit all supporting documents to sponsor your father or mother. If sponsoring both, you must file one for each parent. The purpose of this form is to determine your sponsorship eligibility and to establish your relationship.

Therefore, you must submit the following as proof of a valid relationship:

If you are sponsoring your mother:

  • A copy of your birth certificate that shows your name and your mother’s name
  • If you were not born in the U.S., a copy of your Naturalization Certificate or U.S. passport

If you are sponsoring your father:

  • A copy of your birth certificate that shows your name and the names of both parents
  • If you were not born in the U.S., a copy of your Naturalization Certificate or U.S. passport

If you were born out of wedlock and are sponsoring your father, you must provide additional evidence in addition to the above.

If you are petitioning an adoptive parent, you must include a certified copy of your adoption certificate showing that you were adopted before your 16th birthday.

You may only sponsor a stepparent if your birth parent married your stepparent before your 18th birthday. You must include a copy of the marriage certificate to prove this, as well as copies of divorce decrees, death certificates or annulment decrees (as applicable).

You can find the full list of required documentation here (expand the eligibility section to see the list).

If your parent is outside the United States, you only file form I-130 and supporting documentation (outlined above) at this stage. Mail the completed application package to the USCIS address that is applicable to you. Within a couple of weeks, you should receive a notice in the mail from the USCIS, acknowledging receipt of your petition. It generally takes the USCIS 7-11 months to make a decision.

Once your I-130 is approved, the USCIS will send you an approval notice (also known as the I-797, Notice of Action). An approved I-130 by itself does not grant your parent any immigration benefits – it is simply the first step in the process. The USCIS will now forward your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC), where it is processed and then referred to the U.S. Consulate in your parent’s home country for further processing. This is known as “consular processing.”

Another set of forms and documents have to be submitted to the Consulate at this stage. The Consulate will get in touch with your parent(s) and let them know how/when/where to submit these. During this stage of the process, you also submit Form I-864 to prove that you (the Sponsor) are able to financially support your parent.

Soon after, the Consulate will schedule your parent(s) for an interview where their immigrant visa will be approved. With that, they can enter the United States and they must do so within 6 months. Their permanent resident card (commonly known as the green card) will be mailed to them shortly after arrival.

If your parent is legally in the United States, you may file Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status at the same time as you submit the form I-130. Submitting these forms together usually allows the sponsored person to remain in the country during pendency of the application. Additionally, by submitting a form I-765 at that time, your parent can receive authorization to work. If you are filing concurrently (I-130 + 485 together), you must include Form I-864 to prove that you are able to financially support your parent. Form I-864 asks for information about your income, assets and other means of support, and requires you to agree to taking financial responsibility should the relative become a public charge.

Please note: if a foreign national enters the U.S. on a tourist visa or other temporary visa with the intent of staying permanently and adjusting status, that is considered fraud. It is important to consult an immigration attorney if you are considering adjusting your parent’s status while they are in the U.S.

Medical Examination & Form I-693

The medical examination is generally required of all green card applicants. Whether your parent is in the U.S. or outside, they are required to visit a USCIS approved doctor. In the U.S., you can enter your zip code and find an approved doctor here. If your parent is outside of the U.S., they will be provided with direction on how to locate an approved doctor in your home country.

This visit typically costs $200, but can be slightly more or less. At the end of the examination, the doctor will give your parent a sealed envelope with his/her results (on form I-693). Do not open this envelope! Ask for a copy of the results so you can be sure the doctor did not make any mistakes on the form.

When do you get this examination? If outside the U.S., your parent must complete the medical exam before his/her interview at the Consulate and take the sealed envelope to the interview. If you are filing form I-485 (for parents legally in the U.S.), you should mail the sealed envelope (which contains a completed form I-693) along with your adjustment of status form.

How much does it cost to get a green card for parents?

You must file the appropriate fee along with each application. Currently, the filing fee for the I-130 sponsor petition is $535. Your parent’s application to adjust status (Form I-485) is $1,140, in addition to an $85 biometric fee to pay for your parent’s fingerprinting and background check. Your parent may also pay $410 to apply for work authorization under form I-765. If the employment authorization request is filed at the same time as the adjustment of status application, your parent need only pay one biometric fee. This package generally equals $2,170 in total fees.

How long does it take to sponsor parents for a green card?

Unfortunately, processing delays have also affected family-based immigrant visas. U.S. citizens sponsoring parents, children and spouses should expect the entire process to take 11-19 months. If your parent is already in the U.S. and you file Form I-130 and I-485 concurrently, you should fall on the lower end of this range. In the meantime, your parent can expect work authorization within 132 days (if you file form I-765). These processing times and costs may change from year to year, so check the USCIS website for updates before filing.

Should I work with an immigration attorney?

If your parents entered the U.S. unlawfully or have any other complexities in their background, it is very important to consult an immigration attorney. For straight-forward cases, it is possible to file this paperwork without an attorney, but please make sure to double and triple check your forms for accuracy. Errors can result in delays or denials of the green card application altogether.

If you find the process overwhelming or are simply short on time, connect with one of Ask Ellis’ trusted immigration attorneys. Questions? Simply email us at [email protected] and we will help you figure out next steps!

*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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