How to apply for a Green Card for your parent - (a step-by-step guide)

August 27, 2020
How to apply for a Green Card for your parent - (a step-by-step guide)

Summary

If you are a U.S. citizen who is 21 years of age or older, you can apply for a Green Card for your parents. This Green Card is an immigrant visa that makes parents of U.S. citizens lawful permanent residents in the United States. There is no limit on the number of parent Green Cards issued each year. The application process generally takes about 12 months and requires $420 in filing fees. This article explains the process of applying for a parent Green Card in detail.

We can help you prepare your Parent Green Card application paperwork for free with our simple web app. Click any of the Green Buttons above or below to get started, or read on to learn more.

This article is not legal advice. We do not intend for it to replace the expertise of an immigration attorney. Its goal is to help you learn more about applying for a green Card for your parent(s).

Overview

How to get a parent Green Card

Step 1: Make sure that your parent is eligible and isn't inadmissible.

In order for your parent to get a U.S. Green Card, they must be eligible and admissible to the U.S.  

The eligibility requirements for parent Green Cards are generally pretty straightforward. For a U.S. citizen's parent to file for permanent residence in the U.S., they have to be a legal parent of that citizen. "Legal parents" include:


  1. Birth parents
  2. Adoptive parent, 
  3. Step-parent
  4. Father to a child born out of wedlock who was legitimated before their 18th birthday, or
  5. A father to a child born out of wedlock who was not legitimated before their 18th birthday. 

Even if a parent is eligible for a Green Card, they may not be admissible to the U.S. The recent enforcement of U.S. immigration laws like the Public Charge Rule may make it harder for certain parents of U.S. Citizens to get a Green Card, for example. The Public Charge rule assesses whether an immigrant is likely to become a burden on the U.S. government by asking:


  1. Have they received public benefits in the past? 
  2. Are they likely to receive them in the future? If your parent has received public benefits while in the U.S., their admissibility for the Green Card may be affected. 

If they are likely to become a Public Charge, your parent may be inadmissible to the U.S.

There are many other admissibility requirements for parents of U.S. Citizens in addition to the Public Charge rule. You can find a list of inadmissibility criteria here.

We can help you figure out if your parent is inadmissible for free with our simple web app. Click the button below to get started. You can also check out our article on the Public Charge Rule to learn more.

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Step 2: Complete an immigration petition for your parent (the "beneficiary")

Once you have confirmed that your parent is eligible and admissible, you are now ready to complete an immigration petition on their behalf. The Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is the form to fill to  petition for a Green Card for your parents. Once completed, you will submit the Form I-130 to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the petition filing fee of $420. You must submit a separate Form I-130 and filing fee of $420 for each parent you seek a Green Card. You can find Form I-130 on the USCIS website. USCIS generally approves Form I-130 within a minimum of 3 months. Filing Form I-130 does not give your parent(s) status - they still need to complete some additional steps.

We can help you prepare Form I-130 for free with our simple web app. Click the button below to get started.

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Step 3: Collect proof that you have an "eligible relationship" with your parent

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will generally approve your I-130 petition once you prove that your parent is actually your parent. As shown in the table below, the required evidence to submit differs slightly depending on the parent you request permanent residence.


I am petitioning for my I must Include
Mother - Form I-130
- Copy of my birth certificate with my name and my mother's name
- Copy of my Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport if I was not born in the U.S.
Father - Form I-130
- Copy of my birth certificate with my name and the names of both parents
- Copy of my Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport if I was not born in the U.S.
- Copy of my parents' civil marriage certificate
Father (and I was born out of wedlock and not legitimated by my father before my 18th birthday) - Form I-130
- Copy of my birth certificate with my name and my father's name
- Copy of my Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport if I was not born in the U.S.
- Evidence that an emotional or financial bond existed between my father and me before I was married or reached the age of 21, whichever came first
Father (and I was born out of wedlock and legitimated by my father before my 18th birthday) - Form I-130
- Copy of my birth certificate with my name and my father's name
- Copy of my Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport if I was not born in the U.S.
- Evidence that I was legitimated before my 18th birthday through the marriage of my natural parents, the laws of my state or country (of birth or residence), or the laws of my father's state or country (of birth or residence)
Step-parent - Form I-130
- Copy of my birth certificate with the names of my birth parents
- Copy of my Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport if I was not born in the U.S.
- Copy of the civil marriage certificate of my birth parent to my step-parent showing that the marriage occurred before my 18th birthday
- Copy of any divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment decrees to show that any previous marriage entered into by my natural or step-parent ended legally
Adoptive parent - Form I-130
- Copy of my birth certificate
- Copy of my Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport if I was not born in the U.S.
- Certified copy of the adoption certificate showing that the adoption took place before my 16th birthday
- Statement showing the dates and places I have lived with my parent


For more information about the required supporting documents, check out this guide from USCIS.



We can help you prepare and file all of the paperwork you will need to help your parent get a green Card. Click the green button below to get started.

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Step 4: Complete a Form I-864 Affidavit of Support for your parent

Once you have collected all the required documents to prove that you have an eligible relationship with your parent, you (the Sponsor) will need to file Form 1-864, Affidavit of Support on behalf of your parent. Form I-864 is used to show that you are prepared to support the Green Card petitioner (your parent) financially so that they will not have to rely on the U.S. government for financial support once they become a Green Card holder. You can file Form I-864 either from within the U.S. by submitting to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or from outside of the U.S. by submitting to the Department of State (DOS). In both instances, there is no filing fee required to file Form I-864. For more information about preparing form I-864, check out this guide from USCIS.

We can help you prepare and file your Form I-864 for free using our web app. Click the button below to get started.

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Step 5: Help your parent prepare their Green Card application paperwork

Now that you have prepared the Form I-864 on behalf of your parent, it is time to help them prepare their Green Card application paperwork. There are two different paths to apply for permanent residence for your parent. The path to take, and the supporting documents required, will depend on whether or not your parent is currently in the U.S.

Either way, we can help you prepare your Parent Green Card application for free with our simple web app. Click the button below to get started, or read on to learn more.

Adjustment of Status – Your parent is currently in the U.S.

If your parent is physically present in the U.S., they can apply for an Adjustment of Status. To apply for an Adjustment of Status, your parent would have to file Form I-485, Adjustment of Status either at the same time (concurrently) or after (non-concurrently) they file Form I-130. 

When the Form I-485 and Form I-130 are filed concurrently, the processing time for the parent Green Card is much shorter than other filing methods, as long as the accompanying Form I-130 is ultimately approved. There is an initial filing fee of $1140 and an additional biometrics fee of $85 for filing Form I-485 whether you file them concurrently or not. Your parent will also need to provide two passport photos, their government-issued identification, and their birth certificate.

You learn more about the Green Card application process in our detailed Family Green Card application guide. We can also help you prepare and file your Form I-485 for free using our web app. Click the button below to get started.

Consular Processing – Your parent is living outside of the U.S.

If your parent is living outside of the U.S. when they apply  for a Green Card, they would submit their permanent residence application using the consular processing pathway - through a U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate. Under consular processing, your parent would have to wait until USCIS approved their Form I-130. Once approved, their immigrant petition will be forwarded to the National Visa Center(NVC). The NVC will send your parent confirmation when they receive the approved petition from USCIS. The NVC will then contact your parent once a visa number becomes available. Then, your parent will need to follow these steps to complete their Green Card application:

File Form DS-261

Once they have a visa number, your parent will need to file Form DS-261 on the U.S. State Department’s website. It takes 2-3 weeks for the State Department to process DS-261. 

Pay the Application Processing and Financial Support Form fees

As soon as your parent’s DS-261 has been processed, they will need to pay $445 in fees online: the State Department’s application processing fee ($325) and the financial support form fee ($120). 

File Form DS-260

After your parent has filed Form DS-261 and paid their fees, they will need to file Form DS-260. DS-260 is the actual Green Card application for the consular filing process. Like the DS-261, it is an online application on the State Department’s website

You can learn more about the consular application process for Parent Green Cards in our detailed application guide. We can also help you apply for free using our simple web app. Click the button below to get started.

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Step 6: Complete optional paperwork for your parent's Green Card Application

If your parent is applying for a Green Card from inside of the U.S.,there are additional benefits that they can apply for to help them while they wait for USCIS to approve their Green Card.. Your parent can apply for authorization to work legally in the United States. They can also apply for authorization to re-enter the U.S. without a visa while they wait for their Green Card. As with the previous steps, there are forms and required documentation to submit for these options as well. 

Form I-765, Work Authorization Application for Employment Authorization (EAD)

If your parent wants to work in the U.S. legally, they must first seek permission from USCIS by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization while they wait for their Green Card to be approved. There is a filing fee of $410 for this work permit application. An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be issued to them once USCIS approves their work permit request. The EAD is what they will submit to employers as proof that they are permitted to work. To learn more about the process of getting a Work Permit for your parent, check out our article on applying for a work permit.  

Form I-131, Application for Travel Document

If your parent submitted an Adjustment of Status Green Card application and will spend some time outside of the U.S. while they wait for it to be approved, they should consider filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Form I-131 is an application for “Advance Parole.” Advance parole is permission from the U.S. government  for your parent to leave and re-enter the United States without applying for a visa. At the airport or border, Customs and Border Protection(CBP) will decide whether or not to allow them into the U.S. Having Advance Parole will make it much more likely that your parent will be able to re-enter the U.S. without any problems.

We can help you prepare Form I-765 and I-131 with your Parent Green Card application for free with our simple web app. Click the button below to get started.

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Step 7: Your parent completes a medical exam and gets Form I-693.

USCIS requires your parent to get a medical examination, including any needed vaccinations, from a US-based medical doctor. Your parent must schedule an appointment with one of USCIS's designated doctors. For parents outside of the U.S. applying for their Green Card through consular processing, they must visit a Department of State panel physician of their choice. They can find a list of designated doctors by contacting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they are applying from. The designated doctors set the fees for the medical examination. When seeing a designated doctor, your parent must print and bring a copy of Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccine Record. The most recent version of the form is on the USCIS website. This form is used to document the results of their medical examination. They must fill Part 1 of the form but not sign until the doctor asks them to.

After the medical examination, the doctor will give your parent  a sealed envelope containing their medical records to submit to USCIS. Do not open or tamper with this envelope! USCIS and the Department of State will not accept any tampered or unsealed envelope. Your parent needs to bring this envelope with them, unopened, to their Green Card or Visa interview. 

If your parent is applying from inside the U.S, they should send a copy of their Form I-693 to USCIS at the same time as the rest of the required forms. They can also bring Form I-693 and the exam packet with them to their Green Card interview if necessary, but it's better to send everything in to USCIS before the interview and then bring the original to the interview.

If your parent is applying from outside of the U.S., they should follow the instructions that they receive from the NVC and the consulate processing their application to know what to do with their Form I-693.

We can help you prepare all of the required paperwork for your Parent's Green Card application for free with our simple web app. Click the button below to get started.

Prepare your Parent Green Card Forms

Step 8: Submit the paperwork for your parent's Green Card application

It is now time to assemble the forms, supporting documents, and filing fees and mail your parent's paperwork to the U.S. government! We recommend including a cover letter at the front of the petition packet, which details the forms, fees, and supporting documents you are submitting to USCIS or the NVC..

Adjustment of Status: submit supporting documents to USCIS
Parents who are filing for permanent residence using Adjustment of Status should mail their immigration packet to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It should include Forms I-130, I-485, and the following supporting documents:

Supporting Documents Required
You - Proof of relationship with your parent (copy of birth certificate, marriage certificate or adoption decree)
- Proof that you have maintained lawful status while in the U.S.
Your parent - Two (2) passport-size photos
- Copy of government-issued ID that has photograph
- Copy of birth certificate
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support

The mailing address to use for USCIS differs slightly depending on which postal or courier service is being used. You can find the correct mailing address for the postal service used in our online filing instructions on our website.

There may also be additional case-specific documents required for your parent’s Green Card application. You can review the full list of required supporting documents for Form I-485 on the USCIS website.

Consular Processing: submit supporting documents to the NVC

After your parent files their DS-260 online, the NVC will send them a notice via mail or email confirming that they have received the DS-260, usually on the same day. The next step will be to submit the required supporting documents to the NVC. the required documents vary from consulate to consulate, but the list below shows the most commonly needed items::

Supporting Documents Required
You - Copy of birth certificate
- Copy of valid passport photo page
- Proof of domicile (proof of address, U.S. state-issued I.D, U.S. bank account or investment record, proof of voting in a local, State or Federal election)
Your parent - Proof of nationality (copy of valid passport photo page and copy of birth certificate)
- Adoption documents, if adoptive parent
- Certified copy of marriage certificate and copy of marriage termination documents (divorce or death) if any former marriages
- Copy of military record, if applicable
- Copy of police clearance letters from:
      - The city and/or country where they were arrested, if they have ever been arrested
      - Home country if they lived there for more than 6 months at anytime in their life
      - Current country of residence (if different from country of nationality) if they have lived there for more than 6 months
      - Any place outside of their home country that they lived in for 12 months or more since they were 16
      - Court and prison records if ever convicted of crime

Different consulates have different requirements for providing these documents. You will either upload, email, or mail the supporting documents to the NVC. The NVC will then combine all of your parent’s forms and supporting documents and send them to the consulate processing your parent’s case. 

It’s critical to submit all documents in the way the NVC asks. Some U.S. consulates require physical copies of everything, while others allow you to email or upload digital copies. Failing to provide these documents in the way that the NVC requests them tells you may cause the consulate to reject your parent’s Green Card application. We recommend including a cover letter at the front of the petition packet, which details the forms, fees, and supporting documents you are submitting to the NVC.

You can review the full list of required supporting documents for DS-260 on travel.state.gov and learn more about the Green Card application process in our detailed Family Green Card application guide.

To learn more, check out our guides to filing Family Green Card Applications.

What happens after you submit your parent's Green Card application?

When you submit your parent's Green Card application, they will receive update notices about their application at the mailing address they provided to USCIS. For both permanent resident applications filed as an adjustment of status or under consular processing, your parent will receive a Form I-797C confirming USCIS has received their application. Sometimes USCIS will ask for additional information to process the application. If they do this, they will send a Request for Evidence notice to the mailing address on your parents' application.

2-3 weeks after filing, your parent can expect to receive a Biometrics Appointment notice with a date, time, and location to report to. At this appointment, they will have their photo and fingerprints taken. When USCIS has finished processing your parent's application, they will send notice of a date, place, and time for the Green Card interview. The interview notice includes a list of required documents to bring along. 

If the interview is in the U.S., you must accompany your parent to this interview and make sure to have all the required documents with you. The interview is the last step of the Green Card process. The examiner may approve your parent's Green Card application at the interview, or let you know that they need more time to make their decision. They will contact your parent at the mailing address provided once they have made their decision

To learn more, about the Green Card Interview, check out our guides to filing Family Green Card Applications.

We can help you prepare and file all of the required paperwork for your Parent's Green Card application for free with our simple web app. Click the button below to get started.

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Parent Green Card FAQs

Can a Green Card holder apply for a Green Card for their parents?

No, a Green Card holder cannot apply for a Green Card for their parents. Only U.S. citizens who are 21 years and older can apply for permanent residence for their parents. The only time when a Green Card holder can apply for a Green Card for an immediate relative or family member is in the case that they are applying for a Green Card for their spouse or for their unmarried children who are minors(under the age of 21).

To learn more about who can sponsor their parents, check out USCIS's article about applying for Parent Green Cards.

How long does it take to get a Green Card for my parents?

Family-based Green Card applications like the Parent Green Card application generally have a much shorter processing time than other Green Card applications. Typically, the entire process of applying for a Green Card for your parents can take anywhere from 7 to 15 months. The USCIS service center that the petition is filed with can impact the length of the processing time, depending on the amount of backlog the service center has to work through. You can check the processing times of each USCIS service center here.

You can learn more about the Green Card application timelines in our detailed filing guides.

Can my parent live in the United States while their Green Card application is pending?

If your parent applied for their Green Card through Adjustment of Status, they can live in the U.S. while their Green Card application is pending. If your parent needs to leave the U.S. temporarily while their Green Card application is pending, it is a good idea to get Advance Parole before leaving the U.S., so that it is as easy as possible for them to return. You can find instructions on how to apply for Advance Parole in Step #6 above. However, if they forget or are unable to apply for Advance Parole, they may still be able to return under a V Non-Immigrant Visa from a consular office abroad. 

Can my parent work while their Green Card application is pending?

Your parent can work in the U.S. while their Green Card application is pending if they filed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with their Green Card application and have received their work permit. You can learn all about Work Permits here.

If your parent did not File Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and does not have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or work permit, theywork in the U.S. while their Green Card application is pending. You can learn more about the guidance USCIS provides about work authorization on their website.

Does my parent need to stay in the U.S. after they get their Green Card?

Yes. Once your parent has received their Green Card, they would need to stay in the U.S. to maintain permanent residence. Spending 6 months or more outside of the U.S. risks giving the U.S. government reason to believe that your parent's country of permanent residence is not the U.S. If this happens, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can revoke your parent’s Green Card when they try to re-enter the United States. If your parent spends a year or more outside of the U.S., the government automatically assumes that they have abandoned  their permanent resident status. This is called an Abandonment of Residence

How can I check the status of my parent's Green Card application?

There are multiple ways to check the status of your parent's Green Card application. The easiest way to check the status is online, using the USCIS case status tracker or the State Department's case status tracker, depending on how the Green Card application was filed. If your parent filed for the Green Card from within the U.S., you can check their case status by entering the receipt number from their Form I-797C receipt notice on the USCIS case status tracker. Your parent should have received this notice a few weeks after they (or you) filed Form I-130. If your parent filed for the Green Card from outside the U.S., you can check their case status from the State Department's case status tracker using their NVC case number.

What should I do if USCIS denies my parent's Green Card application?

If USCIS denies your parent's Green Card application, they will usually explain why in the denial notice they send to your parent. The reasons for denial vary. For example, USCIS may be unable to establish that you are legally related to your parent. There may also be mistakes on the Green Card application. Or, USCIS may not believe that you can financially support your parent.

If USCIS denies your application, you should speak with an immigration attorney. You can find free or low-priced legal help at USA.gov.

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Conclusion

We hope that you found our guide to applying for a Parent Green Card helpful. If you have any questions about the Parent Green Card application process, or if you want to share your experience, we'd love to hear from you. Drop a comment below, and we will reply ASAP!


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