Sponsoring a step-child for U.S. permanent residency is not as easy as just adding the child’s name to your spouse’s immigrant visa petition. These are completely separate cases if you are a U.S. citizen; an immigrant via petition must be filed for both your spouse and your step-child if you want to bring both of them to the U.S. But not all step-children can qualify for a green card through the marriage and timing can be crucial in these cases. A U.S. citizen may sponsor a step-child as long as the legal marriage creating the step-relationship occurred before the child turned 18. If the child is over 18 when you marry their mom or dad, the child is no longer a step-child and cannot be sponsored by you. This can put many families in a lurch and could affect your spouse’s plans to immigrate to the U.S., not wanting to do so without their son or daughter. It’s best to consult with a competent immigration attorney as soon as you realize you want to marry and bring your spouse to the U.S. A step-child must be single (not married) to be considered a step-child for purposes of green card sponsorship.
There is an additional hurdle even if you successfully petition for a step-child if the marriage that created the step-child eligibility and relationship is less than 2 years at the time the step-child receives permanent residence. The step-child will be granted conditional permanent resident (CPR) status, a two year green card, not a permanent green card. To convert this 2 year to a 10 year permanent residency status, you will have to prove that you remained in a bona fide relationship with your immigrant spouse for at least the two years following the grant of your step-child’s green card, with limited exceptions.
Adjusting to new life together after you bring your spouse and step-child to the U.S. has its adventures and often the excitement of impending marriage or a life together means that immigration issues are put on the back burner. But filing for your step-child has important eligibility cut-offs that are affected by how well you document the case, your marital history, immigration history, criminal history, and the age of the child among other factors. Don’t wait until it’s too close to the wire to get started. Speak with one of SGG’s Family & Removal group attorneys today about obtaining our help. A strong immigration lawyer who knows what they are doing can help your case goes through the system as quickly as possible, which can be crucial in these types of cases.