Family-based Green Card Processing Times for Children

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The desire to bring children to live in the United States is common among immigrants. While the process to achieve this can vary, depending on the particular circumstances in each case, understanding the immigration rules is a good place to start in establishing a realistic timeline. Each scenario that describes the child and their relationship with the family member who’s offering green card sponsorship carries its implications in terms of requirements, quotas, and wait times.

The immigration process for children is easiest in the case of minors—children who are under the age of 21 and who aren’t married. Immediate relatives who sponsor these children are required to live in the United States, or they must have the intention to reside in the United States. In these cases, immigration requests always carry a current priority date as the category isn’t capped with a numerical limitation.

While relatives can still sponsor adult children—those over aged 21 or older—USCIS is limited to the number of visas it can allocate during the year. In published reports regarding green cards for this category, a “significant backlog” in these high-demand requests means a waiting period of several years. In the case of siblings who sponsor a brother or sister who is a foreign national, for example, the current wait time for green card approval is 12 years.

Family members can request sponsorship of a child by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative when they are either U.S. citizens or green card holders. The petitions are normally filed at a USCIS Regional Service Center. In some cases, however, the petitions can be filed directly at a U.S. consulate office. Filing directly with the consulate gives faster processing times than filing with the USCIS Regional Service Center.

Besides completing the Alien Relative petition, family members who are U.S. citizens must provide evidence of citizenship with a copy of one of these:

  • U.S. birth certificate
  • Valid U.S. passport
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  • Naturalization certificate
  • Certificate of citizenship

For family members who are permanent residents, the Alien Relative petition must be accompanied by immigration status evidence with a copy of one of these:

  • Front and back of Form I-551 (green card)
  • Foreign passport bearing a stamp showing temporary evidence of permanent residence

Be sure to include proof of any legal name change with a marriage certificate, divorce decree, adoption decree, or other court document. Properly assembling all necessary documents is crucial in avoiding unnecessary delays.

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