As a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), or U.S. citizen, you can petition for your foreign-born child who is seeking U.S. resident status to immigrate to the United States and receive their own green card. The marital status and age of your children tend to be the largest factors for this application process.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Written May 25, 2022
Who is eligible for a Child Green Card?
Under U.S. immigration law, a Child Green Card is an immigrant visa that allows a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident (Green Card holder) to bring their sons and daughters seeking immigrant status to the United States. Your legal status, the marital status of your child, and your child's age are all important factors in the immigration process. Find out if your child is eligible below:
Married children or unmarried children, of any age, of U.S. citizens
If you are a U.S. Citizen, you may petition for any unmarried children (unmarried and under the age of 21), unmarried sons and daughters (Age 21 or older) as well as their children, and married sons and daughters (any age) as well as their spouse and children.
Married or unmarried children, under 21 years of age, of U.S. Permanent residents (Green Card holders)
If you are a Permanent Resident, also known as a Green Card holder, you may petition for your unmarried children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) as well as any of your child's children. You may also petition for any unmarried sons and daughters over the age of 21, sometimes referred to as an adult child, as well their children. As a permanent resident, you cannot petition for any of your married children.
Who does USCIS consider to be my "child?"
For immigration purposes, USCIS defines any of the following as your child: (1) A genetic child born in wedlock (the parents were married), (2) Genetic child born out of wedlock (the parents were not married), pending legitimization, (3) A child born through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), (4) A stepchild so long as the marriage that created the step-parent-relationship occurred before the child turned 18 years of age, (5) An adopted child.
How do you get a Green Card for your child?
If your child is already in the United States
If you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for an immigrant visa for your child who is unmarried and under the age of 21, then your child should file a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, at the same time that you file the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
If you are a U.S. Citizen petitioning for an immigrant visa for your son or daughter (married and over the age of 21), you should file the Form I-130 petition. Your son or daughter will file the Form I-845 when an immigrant visa number becomes available.
If you are a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder), petitioner for your child son or daughter, you should begin by filing a Form I-130. Your child, son, or daughter will file the Form I-485, Adjustment of Status, when an immigrant visa number becomes available.
Once your Priority Date has arrived, you will file your Green Card application, including Form I-485, I-864, and Form I-944, as well as any other optional forms that may apply to your situation. You can learn more about the Green Card application process in our detailed application guides. If your child is unmarried and under the age of 21, use this guide. If your child is married or over the age of 21, use this guide.
If your child is not already in the U.S.
If your child, son, or daughter is outside the United States, the first thing you will do is file Form I-130. Then the petition will be sent for consular processing after it is approved, and a visa is available. How long it takes depends on the "Priority Date" based on your preference category discussed in the next section. Once this date has arrived, you will file your Green Card application. If you are applying form within the U.S., you will file a Form I-845, and if you are applying from outside the U.S. you will file a DS-260.
More about the filing process and required documents
There is also some documentation that you should be prepared to provide. The first thing you will need is the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative (signed with proper filing fee). Luckily this is something we can help you fill out!
Some other documentation that you will need to compile includes the proof that you are either a U.S. Citizen or a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder). If you are a U.S. Citizen, you will need to prove your U.S. Citizenship using one of the following:
A copy of your U.S. birth certificate or
A copy of your unexpired U.S. passport or
A copy of Consular Report of Birth Abroad or
A copy of your naturalization certificate or
A copy of your certificate of citizenship. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must demonstrate your status with either a copy (front and back) of Form I-551 (Green Card) or a copy of your foreign passport bearing a stamp showing temporary evidence of permanent residence.
You will also need a Proof of Relationship to any of your married or unmarried sons and daughters who are seeking Green Card status.
If you are the genetic mother or a non-genetic legal gestational mother, you will need a copy of your child's birth certificate issued by civil authorities.
If you are the genetic father, you will need a copy of your child's birth certificate issued by civil authorities. If you are married, then you must submit a copy of your marriage certificate to the child's mother. If you are no longer married, then you must provide evidence of the legal termination of the marriage. If you were never married to the child's mother before the child turned 18 and your child is legitimated under the law, you do not need to take any further action. If you have never been married to the mother and your child is not legitimated under the law, then you must submit evidence of a bona-fide father-child relationship prior to your child turning 21 or getting married.
If you are a step-parent, you will need
a copy of your child's birth certificate issued by civil authorities,
a copy of your marriage certificate to the child's genetic parent, and
proof of the legal termination of all of your and your spouses previous marriages.
If you are an adoptive parent, you will need
a copy of your child's birth certificate,
a copy of the final adoption decree,
evidence you have had two years of legal custody, and
evidence that you had two years of physical custody.
How long does it take to get a Child Green Card?
When U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your petition, they will send you a notice stating this. After you receive this notice you will want to find your "Priority Date" - which is when you will be able to submit your Green Card Application. You can find the current "Priority Date" information for each of these preference categories on the Visa Bulletin posted by USCIS. How long the processing time takes for you to receive your Green Card can depend on what preference category your relationship to your family member falls under. It can be years between USCIS approving the immigrant visa petition, and the State Department providing an immigrant visa number.
If you are a U.S. Citizen, unmarried children under 21 years of age receive approved I-130 petition's as immediate relatives (a visa category in which unlimited numbers of Green Cards are available).
If you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for your unmarried son or daughter (age 21 or over), this relationship falls under Family Preference Category 1. Their Green Card would likely be available six years after filing.
If you are a lawful permanent resident petitioning for an unmarried child under the age of 21, then this relationship falls under Second Preference (2A). Their Green Card will likely be available two months after filing.
If you are petitioning for your unmarried adult son or daughter then you are under Family Second Preference 2B (2B), and their Green Card will typically be available five years after filing. However, you should know that wait-time for people from Mexico and the Philippines tend to be longer than for other people.
If you are a U.S. Citizen petitioning for your married son or daughter (any age), you fall under Third Preference, and their Green Card will likely be available twelve years after filing.
What is the timeline for getting a Child Green Card?
Once your "Priority Date" has arrived, you will file your Green Card application, including Form I-485 (or DS-260 if applying from outside the United States), I-864, and Form I-944 as well as any other optional forms that may apply to your situation. You would then mail this paperwork along with any supporting documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Two to three weeks after filing, you should receive both a Receipt Notice and a Biometrics Appointment Notice. Most applications will take 7-15 months from the time they are filed.
How can you check your Child Green Card application status?
You can check the status of your Green Card application online, by mail, by email, in person, or over the phone. If you are applying from within the United States, you can check the status of your visa petition online via the My Case Status page on the USCIS website. If you are applying from outside the United States, you can check your status through the National Visa Center's (NVC) "Consular Electronic Application Center" (CEAC). The U.S. Department of State will also send all official notifications to the mailing address that you provided, so make sure to check regularly. Although checking by email is not available for those applying from within the United States, if you are applying from outside the United States, you can submit questions to the NVC via email using this form. If you are applying from within the United States, you can schedule an in-person "InfoPass" appointment at a USCIS office to check your status in person. Finally, by phone, you can contact the USCIS if you are applying from the United States, or NVC if you are applying outside the United States.
Can your child live in the United States while their Green Card application is pending?
If you are a U.S. Citizen, once you file Form I-130, your child is eligible to apply for a nonimmigrant K-4 visa. This will entitle them to come to the United States to live and work or go to school while the visa petition is pending. This is not mandatory, your child may wait abroad in their home country during immigrant visa processing.
If you are a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) and you have filed Form I-130 for your child on or before December 21, 2000, your child may be eligible for the V visa classification if more than three years have passed since the I-130 was filed.
What should you do if your Child Green Card application is denied?
If the visa petition you filed is denied, the denial letter will tell you how to appeal and when you must file the appeal motion. If your application is denied, you should speak with an immigration attorney. You can find free or low-priced legal help at USA.gov.