IR-2 Visa for U.S. Citizen Child: Your Full Guide to Kids' Green Cards

As a U.S. citizen parent, there’s nothing more important than being together with your child. The IR-2 visa offers a path to reunite with your unmarried child under age 21, allowing them to get green cards and live, study, and work in the future in the United States. 

Unlike other family visas, the IR-2 visa has no yearly limit. If your child meets the eligibility requirements, there’s no wait based on how many other applications are being processed. Your child can get their IR2 visa and join you in the U.S. if everything is in order.

This offers you all the information you need to navigate the IR-2 visa process. We’ll cover the benefits of the IR-2 visa, the IR2 visa processing times, the required forms, the application steps, and more. 

Let’s get started on bringing your child home!

What Is the IR2 Visa Category for a Kid's Green Card?

The IR2 is all about family reunification. It falls under the “Immediate Relative” (IR) visa category. These visas prioritize reuniting U.S. citizens with their closest family members. Just like the IR-1 visa for spouses and the IR-5 visa for parents, the IR-2 visa allows for your children’s permanent residency.

All “Immediate Relative” visas benefit from no annual visa caps, meaning faster processing times than other family visas.

The IR-2 visa allows your children to enroll in any educational institution they qualify for. Moreover, once your child has their green card (obtained through the IR-2 visa), they can get a job without needing a separate work permit. This opens doors to a fulfilling career path in the U.S.

Think of the IR-2 visa as a one-stop solution for reuniting with your child and offering them the opportunity to build a future in the U.S. In some cases, even if your child ages out of the age requirement while waiting for the visa process, the Child Status Protection Act might still allow them to qualify.

IMPORTANT! If your child enters the U.S. with an IR-2 visa while under 18 and resides with their U.S. citizen parent(s), they automatically acquire U.S. citizenship. If your child enters the U.S. with an IR-2 visa at 18 or older, they receive a Green Card. They can then apply for naturalization to become U.S. citizens when they meet the eligibility requirements.

IR2 Visa Eligibility Criteria and Requirements

Now that you understand what the IR2 visa is let’s see who can apply for this immediate relative visa category.

While the IR-2 visa allows U.S. citizen parents to reunite with their unmarried children under 21 living abroad, to qualify, the U.S. citizen parent (IR2 sponsor) and the child (IR2 beneficiary) must meet specific requirements. Let’s break them down:

U.S. Citizen Parent (IR2 Visa Sponsor) Requirements

  • You must be a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization.
  • In most cases, you must have legal custody of your child for at least two years while they live abroad.
  • You should also have lived with your child for two years before applying for the visa. 
  • If you adopted your child, the adoption must have been finalized before they turned 16 years old.

Child (IR2 Visa Beneficiary) Requirements

  • Your child lives outside the United States and is neither a green card holder nor a U.S. citizen.
  • When applying for the visa, your child must be unmarried and under 21 years old.
  • Your child must still be living in a foreign country at the time of your application.
  • If your child is your stepchild, their biological parent and you (the stepparent) must have been married before the child turned 18.

How to Apply for an IR2 Visa for Your Child: A Step-by-Step Guide

Let’s go through the IR-2 application process, breaking it into clear and manageable steps.

Step 1: You Petition for Your Child (USCIS Filing)

This initial step involves establishing the legal parent-child relationship between you and your child with USCIS. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Submit Form I-130 with USCIS

The I-130 Alien Relative petition is the official form that initiates the petition process. You must fill out all sections accurately, provide details about yourself and your child, and attach the required evidence and paperwork. Here is what you need to consider:

  • You must provide documentation proving your U.S. citizenship status. Gather a certified copy of your birth certificate, a naturalization certificate, or a valid U.S. passport. 
  • The cornerstone of your petition is establishing the legal connection between you and your child. Provide a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate listing you as a parent. If your child is adopted, submit adoption papers that a court has finalized.  
  • There’s a government filing fee associated with Form I-130. You can pay by check or money order made payable to Homeland Security. The paper filing for I-130 is $675, and the online filing fee is $625

We have a full service dedicated to petitioning for alien relatives, so click the button below to check your eligibility criteria and get all the information you need to initiate the IR2 process!

After submitting your petition, USCIS will acknowledge receipt with a notification letter. The processing timeline typically takes a few months. During this time, USCIS may request additional information or documents from you. If so, they will send a “Request for Evidence” (RFE) outlining what’s needed. Respond promptly to any RFEs to avoid delays in processing your petition. 

Step 2: Green Card Application at the National Visa Center

If USCIS approves your Form I-130 petition, congratulations! This is a significant step forward in reuniting with your child. Next, you’ll receive instructions from the NVC, the intermediary facilitating communication and document transfer between USCIS and U.S. embassies or consulates overseas. Here’s what happens at this stage:

Your Child Submits Form DS-260, the Immigrant Visa Application

The NVC will provide the IR-2 visa applicant (or someone assisting them) with a case number that links their application to your approved I-130 petition. Using this case number, the applicant can access the online Form DS-260. 

This form requires the applicant to fill out all the necessary sections. These sections will ask for detailed information about the applicant, including their background and their reasons for wanting to immigrate to the United States. Once the applicant submits the completed DS-260 form, they get a confirmation page. They should print this page with the allocated number to their supporting documents when they submit their entire application package. 

In addition to the completed Form DS-260, the NVC requires a comprehensive filing package, including:

  • The separate government filing fee is associated with the NVC for processing your child’s green card application. 
  • Proof of the child’s nationality (certified copy of your birth certificate and the passport photo page). 
  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864): This document demonstrates your financial ability to support your child once they immigrate to the U.S. You’ll need to provide tax returns, pay stubs, and other financial documents as evidence of your income. The NVC will use this information to assess your ability to meet your child’s basic needs.

Once they receive the application package, the NVC will review it. They may aks you later for extra information or clarifications. Once everything is in order, the NVC will forward your child’s application to the U.S. embassy/consulate in the country where your child lives.

Step 3: IR2 Visa Medical Examination and Visa Interview

The U.S. embassy is crucial in the final stages of the IR-2 visa application process. Here’s what to expect:

IR2 Medical Examination

Before the interview, your child must undertake a medical examination by an USCIS-approved doctor. The medical and vaccination checkup ensures your child meets specific health standards set by the U.S. You’ll receive instructions from the embassy or consulate regarding the designated doctor and the required medical tests. It’s important to schedule and complete the medical examination well before the interview to avoid any last-minute delays.

IR-2 Visa Interview

The IR-2 visa applicant (your child) will attend an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where they currently live. The purpose of the interview is for a consular officer to verify the legitimacy of the visa application by asking questions about your child’s relationship with you (the sponsor). 

Given that the IR-2 visa applicant is a minor under 21 years old, they may not attend the interview independently. A caretaker can accompany them during the interview. The caretaker could be a parent, legal guardian, or another trusted adult who can help the child answer questions or answer on their behalf and ensure they understand the interview process.

Here’s what your child (and caretaker) must bring to the interview:

  • The USCIS appointment letter is the official document notifying you and your child of the interview date and location.
  • Valid passport: Your child’s passport must be unexpired and valid for at least six months beyond their intended entry date into the United States.
  • Passport photos: Two recent, identical color photographs meeting U.S. visa photo specifications.
  • English translations: If any documents submitted by you (the sponsor) through the Consular Electronic Application Center were not originally in English, certified English translations are required at this point.
  • Other supporting documents: Original or certified copies of all civil documents (birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.) that you (the sponsor) uploaded to the CEAC.

IMPORTANT! If the NVC has already collected all the visa application fees, your child won’t need to pay again at the interview; however, if there were any unpaid visa application fees, either by you (the sponsor) or another family member, you must pay those outstanding fees.

The visa interview is there to assess the genuine desire for family reunification. Here are some tips to prepare for the IR2 visa interview questions:

  • Have all the documents requested by the embassy or consulate in advance.  
  • Practice interview questions with the child: While the specific questions may vary, anticipate inquiries about the family’s relationships, the parent’s living situation in the U.S., and the plans for the child’s future. 

Step 4: IR2 Visa Decision and the Child's Entry to the U.S.

After the visa interview, you’ll receive a notification regarding the decision on your kid’s IR2 visa. Here’s what to expect in the final stages:

  • If the interview is successful and your application is approved, your child will be granted the IR-2 visa to travel to America legally.
  • You might have to pay an immigration fee before the child receives their IR-2 visa to travel to America. 
  • Once your child has the visa, they can book travel to the U.S. on a valid passport.
  • Upon arrival in the U.S., your child will go through immigration checks. Immigration officials will review their documents and determine their entry status.

IMPORTANT! Upon entry to the U.S., the child might receive a sealed packet from U.S. officials. Ensure they do not open this packet under any circumstances! Only U.S. immigration officials have the authority to open it.

The IR-2 visa process seems straightforward, but it is not. USCIS or the NVC might request additional information or documents during the process, and you must respond promptly to avoid delays or denials. For this reason, hiring an immigration consulting service or a specialized law firm ensures you gather a complete visa application package or address the subsequent issues correctly and on time.

The IR-2 Visa Processing Time

While the IR-2 visa application process can take anywhere from 15 to 24 months, you boost your approval chances by ensuring all your paperwork is filled out correctly and submitted in full right from the beginning. This avoids delays caused by requests for additional documentation or missing information from USCIS or the National Visa Center.

One important issue to consider here is the I-130 form processing time. If you are a permanent resident filing I-130 for a child under 21, the average processing time of all USCIS field offices is about 79 months. If you are a U.S. citizen submitting the I-130 petition for a child under 21, the average time for all USCIS field offices to complete your case is up to 59 months.

However, these processing times and timelines constantly change, so don’t despair! Check the official USCIS processing times tool to understand how long it takes them to process your specific petition, depending on your situation and chosen field office.

How Much Does the IR2 Visa Cost?

As the parent petitioning to reunite with their child, you should be prepared to set aside around $1500 – $2000.

Considering the maximum costs, you must pay the I-130 form fee of $675, the DS-260 associated fees ($325 immigrant visa application fee and $120 Affidavit of Support fee), the USCIS immigrant fee of $235, and the medical examination fee (let’s say $500)

Don’t forget to budget translations and attorney fees to get a ballpark number.

What Happens After the IR2 Child Arrives in America?

Congratulations on reuniting with your child in the U.S.! Now that they’re here, a few things must be done to ensure their well-being.  

  • Enroll them in school and provide the support they need to succeed in their academic journey, as education is a big part of helping your child adjust to life in the U.S.  
  • Since having access to healthcare is essential for everyone, get health insurance for your child and schedule regular check-ups to keep them healthy. 
  • If you move or your contact information changes, promptly notify USCIS to maintain accurate records.
  • It’s your responsibility to ensure your child complies with visa regulations. If their visa is nearing expiration, explore options for extension or renewal to maintain their legal status in the U.S.
  • Once your child is settled, you can initiate the process for them to obtain permanent residency and, eventually, U.S. citizenship.

Are You Ready to Bring Your Child to America on an IR-2 Visa?

Reuniting with your child is a momentous occasion, and our experienced immigration experts at ImmigrationDirect can help you go through the IR-2 visa process with clarity and efficiency. We’ll guide you through every step, from gathering documents to ensuring a successful interview, so you can focus on welcoming your child home. Once your child is settled, we can advise you on the path to permanent residency and U.S. citizenship, if applicable. Let our expertise help turn this dream into reality. Get in touch with us today for a consultation!

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