Green Card for an Immediate Relative of a U.S. Citizen
A Green Card (Lawful Permanent Residence) may be available for eligible immediate family members of U.S. citizens. To promote family unity, immigration law allows U.S. citizens to petition for certain qualified relatives to come and live permanently in the United States. Eligible immediate relatives include the U.S. citizen’s:
- Unmarried child under the age of 21
- Parent (if the U.S. citizen is over the age of 21)
Immediate relatives have special immigration priority and do not have to wait in line for a visa number to become available for them to immigrate because there are an unlimited number of visas for their particular categories. A Green Card may be issued immediately to the qualified family member.
Green Card Process
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) offers an individual two primary paths to becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident and receiving a Green Card.
An individual who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and has an immigrant visa number immediately available may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. This pathway is referred to as “consular processing.”
If you are currently outside the United States and are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, you can become a permanent resident through consular processing. An I-130 Petition must be filed with USCIS by your immediate relative and approved. Once approved the U.S. Department of State will notify you when you are eligible to submit an immigrant visa application. If the immigrant visa application is approved, the Consulate will place an immigrant visa in your passport. You may then travel to the U.S. and will officially become a Lawful Permanent Resident when admitted at a U.S. port of entry. If you do not apply for an immigrant visa within one year following notification from the Department of State, your petition may be terminated.
Adjustment of Status is an alternate process by which an eligible person, who is already in the United States, can apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status (Green Card) without having to return to his/her home country to complete processing.
In order to apply for adjustment of status, the US Citizen relative must file Form I-130 Petition for Immediate Relative for the eligible relative with USCIS. Usually, the relative will file concurrently Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Once approved, the immediate relative will be issued a Green Card.
Things to Keep in Mind
Turning 21 years of age. When an immediate relative child of a U.S. citizen reaches 21 years of age, he or she generally will become a “first preference” (F1) category son or daughter (over 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen, and will no longer have a visa immediately available. This change may result in a significant delay in adjustment of status or visa processing because he or she will now need to wait for an immigrant visa to become available.
Child Status Protection Act. In certain cases, the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) may allow you to retain the classification of “child” even if you have reached age 21. Generally, your age is “frozen” as of the date your U.S. citizen parent files Form I-130 for you.
Getting Married. If an immediate relative child under age 21 gets married, he or she can no longer be classified as an “immediate relative” and will become a “third preference” (F3) category married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and a visa would no longer be immediately available. USCIS must be notified of any change in your marital status after Form I-130 has been filed for you and prior to becoming a permanent resident or obtaining an immigrant visa.
The experienced immigration attorneys at Allen & Pinnix, P.A.. can assist you and your U.S. citizen relative through the entire Green Card application process. They can also determine if the Child Status Protection Act applies to you. Schedule a consultation now or by calling our office at 919.755.0505.