U.S. citizens and permanent residents may petition for their children to become permanent residents, with limited exceptions. But the rules are strict. The age and marital status of your child are important factors in the immigration process. A “child” is defined as being unmarried and under 21 years of age under the Immigration and Nationality Act, whereas if a person is married and/or over 21 years of age, that person is defined as a “son” or a “daughter.”  Whether a person is defined as a child or son or daughter makes a big difference; a child cuts off eligibility for certain benefits after the child turns 21 in almost all circumstances.

Children of U.S. citizens

If you are a U.S. citizen, you may petition your children (unmarried and under 21), your unmarried sons and daughters (21 or over) and married sons and daughters (of any age). This means that a U.S. citizen may petition to bring a child to live and work in the U.S. permanently, regardless of the child’s age or marital status; the only difference between these categories is how long this will take.

Children of Permanent Residents (green card holders)

If you are a U.S. permanent resident, you may petition for your children (unmarried and under 21) and your unmarried sons and daughters (21 or over). One of the harshest aspects of U.S. immigration law for children of permanent residents is what happens when a child marries, even if the child is still under 21. Once a child of a permanent resident marries, the child is no longer eligible for a pending immigrant visa based on their parent’s sponsorship and the child cannot recapture that priority date if the child then gets divorced. The child would have to start all over again in the process.

Why Sponsoring a Child is Not So Straight-Forward. Work with SGG immigration attorneys on your green card case for your child.

There are different rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to different scenarios involving sponsoring a child. The rules vary if you want to bring your child over 21 or over 21, whether you want to adopt a child and sponsor the child for a green card, and whether you are sponsoring a step-child or a biological child. Case law is evolving on who can benefit from special provisions under the Child Status Protection Act, a law that was created to help stop – in some circumstances – the unnecessary separation of family when the child “ages out” at the age of 21 and is no longer included on their family’s immigrant visa petition.

Then there are rules and potential benefits for children who are in the U.S. on their own without their parents who have fled to the U.S. due to fear of violence, abandonment by one of their parents, or other reasons.  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and special asylum procedures for unaccompanied underage children are just some of the alternative potential relief for children.

A child may have competing options and choosing between them or deciding whether to apply for multiple options at once can be difficult, especially when facing a ticking clock as the child gets closer to the age of even 18 for some forms of eligibility. Contact us as soon as possible to discuss the details of your situation with a qualified immigration attorney.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the family immigration system is the processing times for certain categories of individuals sponsored by a loved one. The way Congress has set up the system, only certain limited numbers of visas are available in certain “preference” categories. The only immigrants who avoid being part of this preference system are spouses, parents and children under the age of 21. Everyone else is subject to the preference system.  In this preference system, the number of loved ones seeking green cards for their loved ones has been always historically higher than the number of green cards and visas available. This has created a backlog for some countries that have so many applicants for visas that can result in family members waiting for years, sometimes decades, to be eligible to bring a family member to the U.S.   These immigrants are subject to the preference system, which means they usually have to wait for a visa to become available to be able to be sponsored for a green card:

  • 1st preference – unmarried adult child (over the age of 21) of a U.S. citizen
  • 2nd preference – spouses and children under the age of 21 of green card holders
  • 3rd preference – children of green card holders who are over the age of 21
  • 4th preference – married children of U.S. citizens

It is vital to talk to an experienced family and removal immigration attorney about your options, expected timeline in processing your case with the agencies involved, any trend of backlog in visa numbers, and any alternatives or additional ways to immigrate the U.S. Our firm does it all – sometimes family immigration is the quickest route, sometimes a work visa is faster. Every circumstance, every immigrant’s background and eligibility is different and processing times change unpredictably. It’s tempting to listen to other people who have gone through the system and compare your case to their case and expect the same timeline and outcome. This is a mistake.

Always consult a competent family immigration attorney about your particular situation before choosing a path that may waste many years and money. Do not make the mistake of listening to information you have heard through a friend, the internet, or even unlicensed notaries or paralegals, or non-immigration attorneys.  Your future and your family’s lives are too important.


To book an appointment to speak with an SGG family immigration attorney about your child’s green card options, click here or call us at 213.627.8997 today.
It’s time to get started. Call us: (213) 627-8997