parent green card guide

The U.S. may be where you live, but often your home will always be wherever your parents live. If you want to make the U.S. feel more like home, this parent green card guide will get you closer to nostalgic meals, loving embraces, unsolicited life advice, comments about your friends, and all the other things that come with parents.

Parent Green Card Eligibility

Only U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old are allowed to petition for a parent green card.

Families look different across the globe, and fortunately, USCIS allows for different kinds of families to reunite. Adopted parents and step-parents can get a parent green card.

When the Supreme Court decided the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, USCIS was ordered to treat same-sex marriages the same as heterosexual marriages for the purposes of immigration. This allows same-sex parents also to acquire a parent green card.

Required Forms for Parent Green Card

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

Form I-130 is the foundation for any family-based green card petition. Only you can fill and submit the form. The purpose is to demonstrate the legitimacy of your relationship between yourself and your parents, along with providing background information about yourself and your parents.

If you’re sponsoring more than one parent, then you must fill out an I-130 for each parent.

The I-130 covers information about yourself, including address history, employment history, marital history, immigration status, demographic data, and physical details. The other part of the I-130 covers information about your parents, including name and history of name changes, address, immigration information, marital history, history of entry into the U.S., and employment history.

If an interpreter helped you fill out the form, they must provide their information and sign the I-130. If someone else helped you prepare the form they must also provide their information and sign the form.

Forms DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application, and DS-261, Online Choice of Address and agent

If your parents are abroad, they need to wait for your I-130 to be approved and then fill and submit DS-260 and DS-261. DS-261 is filed with the National Visa Center, and it gives them your parents’ necessary information and how to contact them. DS-260 is the online visa application.

Form I-864 Affidavit of Support

They supported you most of your life, and now it’s time to prove to USCIS that you can support your parents. Form I-864 lets the government know that you have the means to help your parents financially.

You need to have enough income to reach at least 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline to prove to the government that you can support your parents. The exact number changes yearly as the guideline changes and also changes depending on the size of your household. You must include each parent and past immigrant that you’ve sponsored into your household size along with the family that is already living with you.

When filling out the form, be prepared to provide basic name and address information about yourself and your parents, your household size, your employment and income information, the employment and income information, and asset information.

Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

If your parents are in the country with a nonimmigrant visa such as a B-1, B-2, or H-1B, they should fill out and submit form I-485 to adjust their status as long as they entered the United States legally. If for some reason they are in the country but came without being inspected at a port of entry, then they will need to seek applicable waivers. If the waiver is approved, they will go through the green card process as if they are applying from abroad, including doing the green card interview at their respective embassy or consulate in their home country.

Each parent must fill out I-485 if they each have a nonimmigrant visa while in the country. When filling out the form, they will answer questions regarding address and employment history, marital history, family information, criminal history, details about any security and espionage activity, information about any U.S.-based affiliations and memberships, immigration violations details, public charge details, and necessary contact and biographical information.

Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record

After years of telling you to eat your vegetables, it’s time to see how your parents are doing health-wise with the required physical and mental evaluation for form I-693. The exam must be done by an approved physician, and the results come sealed with a letter stapled on it. It is essential not to open the sealed packet.

USCIS’ Find a Doctor tool is a great resource to find an approved doctor within the U.S. For parents applying from abroad, they should visit the State Department’s website to select their nearest embassy or consulate and see the list of the approved physicians in their respective countries.

Along with the mental and physical evaluation, there is a drug and alcohol screening, medical history review, and tests for different diseases. The physician will also go over your parents’ immunization records, past chest x-rays, and any treatment plans they may have with their doctor.

Before going through the entire green card process, it is essential to know that some health issues will most likely make your parents inadmissible at the outset, including:

  • Communicable diseases
  • Physical or mental disorders that result in harmful behavior
  • Substance abuse and substance-abuse related disorders that can result in harmful behavior
  • Failure to present immunization records

If you’re aware of either of your parents having any of the conditions, it is essential to consult with an immigration attorney about your options. Also, other diseases or disorders not mentioned might not be grounds for inadmissibility alone but can be used in conjunction with other grounds for inadmissibility.

Parent Green Card Document Checklist

All the forms mentioned above need supporting documentation. We’ve noted the generally required ones below to help you organize them easily.

  • Form I-130 Supporting Documents
    • Evidence of U.S. citizenship with a birth certificate, naturalization or citizenship certificate, or copy of your passport
    • A copy of your birth certificate that proves the relationship between you and your parents
    • If there was a legal name change, you need to provide proof of that
    • Two passport photographs
  • Form I-864 Supporting Documents
    • A copy of your most recent federal income tax returns along with W-2s
    • If you have any 1099s, Schedule, or other reported income, include copies of those.
    • Your most recent six months of pay stubs can help qualify.
    • A signed letter from an employer can help qualify.
    • If you’re self-employed, include copies of your most recent Schedule C, D, E, or F.
    • If you’re using assets to meet the income requirement, you need to provide documentation about your assets.
    • Evidence of U.S. citizenship with a birth certificate, naturalization or citizenship certificate, or copy of your passport
  • Form I-485 Supporting Documents
    • Two passport-style photographs for each parent
    • A copy of your parents’ birth certificate
    • A copy of your parents’ inspection and admission documents
    • A copy of your parents’ form I-797 or approval or receipt notice
    • A copy of Form I-864
    • Any documents relating to any criminal charges, arrests, or convictions for your parents
  • Form I-693 Supporting Documents that Need to be Submitted to Approved Physician at the Time of the Medical Exam
    • A full copy of your parents’ medical history
    • A copy of their vaccination and immunization records
    • Any copies of a previous chest x-rays
    • A doctor’s letter outlining treatment plans for any medical conditions your parents may have
    • Health insurance card if the exam is covered by their insurance
    • Government-issued photo identification

Special Instructions for Adopted Parents, Step-Parents, and Other Situations

For all parent green card situations, an I-130 is required. However, depending on which parent is the beneficiary, there are additional documents required.

  • Petitioning for a mother who lives abroad
    • A copy of your birth certificate with your name and mother’s name
  • Petitioning for a father who lives abroad
    • A copy of your birth certificate with your name and both parents’ name
    • A copy of your parents’ civil marriage certificate
  • Petitioning for a father who lives abroad, you were born out of wedlock, and your father did not legitimate you before your 18th birthday
    • A copy of your birth certificate with your father’s name and your name on it
    • Evidence of a financial and emotional bond that started with your father before your 21st birthday or before you were married, whichever came first
      • Examples of evidence
        • If you lived with your father at some point, any evidence of that would help.
        • Financial evidence can include insurance records where you are a beneficiary on your father’s plan or receipts of any money your father sent to you among other pieces of evidence.
        • Emotional bond evidence can include letters exchanged between you and your father or affidavits written by those who are knowledgeable about your relationship.
  • Petitioning for a father who lives abroad, you were born out of wedlock, and your father legitimated you before your 18th birthday.
    • A copy of your birth certificate with your father’s name and your name on it
    • Evidence you were legitimated before your 18th birthday
      • Examples of evidence
        • A copy of your natural parent’s marriage certificate
  • Petitioning for a step-parent
    • A copy of your birth certificate with your parents’ name on it
    • A copy of the marriage certificate between your natural parent and your step-parent
    • A copy of evidence such as a divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment decree that the previous marriages of your natural and step-parent ended
  • Petitioning for an adoptive parent
    • A copy of your birth certificate
    • If you were born outside the U.S., submit a copy of your citizenship or naturalization certificate.
    • A certified copy of your adoption certificate that your adoption took place before you turned 16 years old
    • A written history of the dates and places you lived with your adopted parents
    • Important note: Adopted children can’t petition for a green card for their biological parents. The only possibility is to establish a “petitionable relationship,” which would require you not receiving any immigration benefit due to adoption, a termination of your adoption, and re-establishing a relationship with your biological parents.

Also, if you or your parents had any name changes, you must submit proof of the legal name change.

Parent Green Card Fees

Fees to bring your parents to the U.S. vary depending on the situation but starts at $1,285. Below is a breakdown of the basic fees.

  • I-130: $535
  • I-864: $120
  • Biometrics: $85
  • DS-260: $325
  • U.S. Immigrant Fee: $220
  • Medical Examination (Varies)
  • I-485: $1,140 (only needed if in the country under a nonimmigrant visa)

Parent Green Card Interview

After the National Visa Center has the required documents, they will set up an interview with your parents. If your parents live abroad, then the interview is held at the nearest embassy or consulate. For any parents already in the country on a nonimmigrant visa, their interview will take place at the closest USCIS field office.

The purpose of the interview is to confirm the relationship you have with your parents, go over your parents’ necessary information, and ensure the accuracy and validity of the documents submitted in the green card application process.

Parent Green Card Processing Time

Compared to other green cards and visas, the parent green card has a fast processing time due to it being considered an immediate-relative green card. This is partly due to there being no annual limit on the amount of immediate-relative green cards the U.S. will accept. If your parents are present in the United States and entered after being inspected at a port of entry, they may be able to submit the I-485 application along with the I-130.

The I-130 is one of the forms that take the longest to process. It can be as low as 4.5 months to as high as 14 months. You can check the latest processing times for your I-130 by service center here.

After getting approved for the green card, your parents have six months to enter the U.S.

How VisaNation Law Group Can Help 

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While this guide will help you prepare for the long and strenuous process of getting a green card for your parents, a mistake in your petition can be costly and lead to delay or denial. An experienced family-based green card attorney is the best guide for the process. VisaNation Law Group's highly experienced green card immigration attorneys will help you file your petition. With their expertise in the field, they will help you avoid the common immigration pitfalls.