Green Card Application Process for Parents

With an aim to promote family unity, U.S. immigration law allows citizens of the country to petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for certain qualified relatives to gain permanent residency in the United States. Besides citizenship, immigrants who want to apply green card for parents must also be at least 21 years of age.

It’s important to note that immigrants who are green card holders– permanent residents– aren’t eligible to sponsor their parents for permanent residency.

For those citizens who apply for green card for a parent— birth mother or father, step-mother or father or an adoptive mother or father– USCIS expedites the process by offering special immigration priority. This means a parent’s visa can be made immediately available as immigration law allows for an unlimited number of visas in particular categories. In other words, parents don’t have to wait in line for a visa to become available.

The process for petitioning for a parent’s green card varies based on individual situations and are outlined in USCS guidance pages. However, common requirements for all scenarios include filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative as well as a copy of the petitioner’s birth certificate as well as a copy of Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship or a copy of the petitioner’s U.S. passport.

The process for petitioning for a parent’s green card also depends on whether the parent is inside or outside the United States. USCIS guidance on petitioning for a parent in this situation includes both a “one step process” as well as a “two-step process.”

One Step Process is the concurrent filing of Form I-130 by the citizen petitioner and the simultaneous filing by the parent of Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. USCIS offers more information on this so-called one-step process on its Concurrent Filing page.

Two Step Process is the separate filing of a parent’s Form I-85 application and the petitioner’s Form I-130. A parent can file Form I-485 at any time after the petitioner files Form I-130 so long as USCIS hasn’t denied the Form I-130 petition. When USCIS receives these forms separately, a parent must also submit Form I-797, Notice of Action along with Form I-485 that shows the Form I-130 petition is either pending or approved.

Parents who live outside the United States can become permanent residents through consular processing– a process in which USCIS works with the Department of State (DoS) to issue a visa on an approved Form I-130 petition when a visa becomes available. Those who take the consular processing approach can travel on the visa issued by DoS to the United States. On arrival inside the country’s borders, officially becoming a permanent resident on admittance at a U.S. port of entry.

In cases where USCIS denies a petitioner’s Form I-130, the denial letter will offer appeal information, including the process of appealing and the amount of time available for the appeal.