IR-5 Visa Guide: How to Bring Your Parents to the U.S. to Live as Green Card Holders

Do you long to have your parents closer? Perhaps you dream of sharing holidays, cultural experiences, or simply the everyday moments of American life. The IR5 visa for parents (mother and father), also known as the parent green card, can help U.S. citizens bring their foreign-born parents to live permanently in the United States.

The United States immigration system offers various pathways for foreign citizens to live permanently in America. One significant category is family-based immigration visas. This guide focuses on a specific visa within this category: the IR-5 visa, designed for U.S. citizens to sponsor their parents for lawful permanent residency.

What Are Family-Based Visas?

Family-based visas prioritize reuniting close family members with U.S. citizens or green card holders. There are two main categories within family-based visas:

Immediate Relative Visas

These are for spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens. There is no annual limit on the number of visas issued in this category, making the process potentially faster. Here’s a quick overview of immediate relative visas, which include the IR5 visa:

  • IR1/CR1 visa: It is designated for spouses of U.S. citizens (IR1) and spouses of lawful permanent residents (CR1).
  • IR2 visa applies to unmarried children under 21 years old and U.S. citizens.
  • IR5 Visa: This visa is dedicated to the foreign-born parents of U.S. citizens at least 21 years old.

Family Preference Visas

This category caters to more extended family relationships, such as adult children, siblings, and married children of U.S. citizens, as well as some relationships with green card holders. The number of visas issued in each preference category is limited each year, which can cause delays.

Our guide focuses on the IR-5 visa process, helping you understand eligibility requirements, financial obligations, and the application steps to bring your parents to live in the United States as green card holders and build a life together as a family.

What Is the IR5 Visa? The Fastest Way to Bringing Your Parents to the U.S.

As we said, the IR-5 U.S. visa for parents is a specific immigrant visa designated for U.S. citizens to sponsor their foreign-born parents for green cards in the United States. This visa offers a path to reunite families and allows parents to live, work (without a work permit/EAD), and reside permanently with their U.S. citizen children.

Here are the main points about the IR5 green card category:

  • U.S. citizens at least 21 can sponsor their biological or adoptive parents for the IR-5 visa.
  • Upon approval, the IR-5 visa grants your parents permanent residency, allowing them to live and work freely in the United States. 
  • If you and your parent meet the eligibility requirements and your application is approved, you won’t experience delays due to a visa limit.

Let’s move forward with our IR5 parent visa and learn all you need about the IR5 eligibility criteria, the application process, the IR5 processing time, forms to file, and more!

Who Is Eligible for an IR5 Visa? Requirements for Both U.S. Citizens and Their Parents

The IR-5 visa has specific requirements for the U.S. citizen sponsoring the visa (you) and the parent you wish to bring to the United States. Here’s a breakdown of the IR5 eligibility criteria:

  • Age requirement: You, the U.S. citizen sponsor, must be at least 21 years old.
  • Financial sponsorship: You must demonstrate sufficient financial resources to support your parent until they become financially independent. It usually involves submitting documents that prove your income or ability to provide for your parent’s basic needs.
  • U.S. residency: You must reside in the United States and have a valid U.S. address.
  • Proof of relationship: You must provide a copy of your birth certificate to establish the biological or adoptive parent-child relationship with the IR5 visa applicant.

IMPORTANT! The immediate relative 5 visa category requires your parent to be from a foreign country. Moreover, the IR-5 visa application process typically occurs abroad, at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your parent’s country of residence.

If you meet these qualifications, you may be eligible to sponsor your parent for the IR-5 visa.

How to Apply for Your IR-5 Visa Parent’s Green Card: Step-by-step Guide

The IR-5 visa application process, like many U.S. immigration procedures, can feel lengthy, but with careful planning and organization, you can make things happen quickly and smoothly. The IR5 application process has two main stages: the petition you file with USCIS to initiate the request for your parent’s IR-5 visa and the IR5 visa application, managed entirely by your parent.

Stage 1: You File the Petition with USCIS for Your Parent

As the U.S. citizen sponsor, you’ll take the lead by completing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relatives. This form gathers essential information about you and your parent, including your relationship and your parent’s background. Once completed, you’ll submit the form and supporting documents to USCIS.

The I-130 form is, basically, an official request to establish your relationship with your parent and their eligibility for the IR-5 visa. In addition to the form itself, USCIS requires specific documents as evidence to support your petition. Let’s see what you need to gather!

Required Documents For I-130 Parent Visa I.R. 5 Application Depending on Your Family Situation

Petitioning for your biological mother living outside the U.S.
  • Form I-130 
  • Birth certificate copy (showing your name and your mother's name) 
  • Certificate of Naturalization copy or U.S. passport (if you were not born in the U.S.)
Petitioning for your biological father living outside the U.S. (parents married)
  • Form I-130 
  • Birth certificate copy (your name and both parents' names)
  • Certificate of Naturalization copy or U.S. passport (if you were not born in the U.S.) 
  • Copy of your parents' civil marriage certificate
Petitioning for your biological father living outside the U.S. (you were born out of wedlock, not legitimated before 18)
  • Form I-130 
  • Birth certificate copy (your name and your father's name) 
  • Naturalization Certificate copy or U.S. passport (if you were not born in the U.S.) 
  • Evidence of an emotional or financial bond between you and your father before age 21 or marriage (whichever came first)
Petitioning for your biological father living outside the U.S. (you were born out of wedlock, legitimated before 18)
  • Form I-130 
  • Birth certificate copy (your name and your father's name) 
  • Naturalization Certificate or U.S. passport (if you were not born in the U.S.) 
  • Evidence that you were legitimated before your 18th birthday (marriage of parents, relevant state/country laws)
Petitioning for your step-parent to live in the U.S.
  • Form I-130 
  • Copy of your birth certificate (showing your birth parents' names) 
  • Copy of the civil marriage certificate showing your birth parent's marriage to your step-parent before your 18th birthday 
  • Proof of legal termination (divorce decree, death certificate) of any prior marriages of your natural or step-parent
Petitioning for your adoptive parent to live in the U.S.
  • Form I-130 
  • Copy of your birth certificate 
  • Naturalization Certificate copy or U.S. passport (if you were not born in the U.S.) 
  • Certified copy of the adoption certificate (showing adoption before your 16th birthday)
  • Statement outlining the dates and places you lived together with your adoptive parent

IMPORTANT! If your name or your parent’s name has legally changed, you must also include documented proof of the name change (such as a marriage certificate, court order, etc.).

IMPORTANT! Remember to pay the I-130 petition fee. As a U.S. citizen sponsoring a parent for an IR5 visa, you have to pay $675 for the paper filing or $625 for the online filing!

IMPORTANT! To sponsor both of your parents for the IR-5 visa, you must submit a separate Form I-130 petition for each one!

Stage 2: Your Parent Files Their IR5 Visa Application

The IR-5 visa application process can unfold differently depending on your parent’s location. Here’s a breakdown of the two main scenarios:

Scenario 1: Your Parent Resides Outside the United States (IR5 Visa Consular Processing)

As you have seen above, as the U.S. citizen sponsor, you’ll initiate the process by filing Form I-130 with USCIS. Once approved, this petition establishes your relationship with your parent and their eligibility for the IR-5 visa. Here is what comes next!

Step 1: Your Parent Files Form DS-260 Application and Required Evidence to Get the IR5 Visa

Following USCIS approval, your parent takes center stage. They must complete Form DS-260, the “Immigrant Visa Electronic Application.” This form basically checks your parent’s background, including details about their work history, education, and travel. Additionally, they’ll need to submit documents proving their legal relationship with you (typically a copy of your birth certificate). However, their IR5 visa file should also contain the following:

Document Description Purpose
Valid passport
Must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your parent's planned entry date into the United States.
Establishes their identity and travel authorization.
This form, completed and signed by the U.S. citizen child (sponsor), demonstrates your financial ability to support your parent financially upon their arrival in the U.S.
Provides evidence of financial support and reduces the burden on public resources.
Form DS-260 confirmation page
Printed confirmation page after electronically completing Form DS-260.
Confirms your parent's online application submission and serves as a reference document.
Medical examination and vaccination documents
Documentation from a USCIS-approved doctor verifying your parent has undergone the required medical examinations and vaccinations.
Ensures your parent meets public health requirements to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.
Valid birth certificate
Original/certified birth certificate proving your parent's relationship with you (the U.S. citizen child sponsoring the I.R. 5 green card).
Establishes the parent-child relationship.
Two passport-sized photographs
Two recent photographs meeting specific U.S. visa photo requirements (size, background, etc.).
Needed for identification purposes on your parent's visa and other immigration documents.
Court/criminal records and police certificate (if applicable)
Documentation from your parents' local authorities regarding any criminal records or court appearances they may have.
Verifies their background and suitability for immigration.
Military records (if applicable)
If your parent served in the military, they must submit their official military service records.
It may be required depending on the country your parents reside in and the duration of their service.
Step 2: Your Parent's IR-5 Visa Application Goes to the National Visa Center for Review

After submitting the DS-260 and supporting evidence, the application is routed to the NVC. They review the application and may request additional documentation from your parent to ensure everything is in order.

Step 3: Medical Examination of the Parent Requesting the IR-5 Visa

As part of the IR-5 visa application process, the NVC will provide your parent with detailed information on the required medical examinations and vaccinations.

Here’s what they can expect:

Your parent must schedule an appointment with a specific doctor authorized by the embassy, a Panel Physician. This doctor will conduct a medical examination to ensure your parent meets public health requirements and is free from contagious diseases.

Following the medical exam, the doctor will also administer any necessary vaccinations to keep your parent’s immunization records current. The requested vaccinations usually depend on your parent’s age and medical history.

Once the medical examination and vaccinations are complete, the doctor will provide your parent with signed documentation confirming the details of the exam and the vaccinations received.

Step 4: Embassy or Consulate Interview for Your Parent's IR5 Visa

Upon NVC approval, the application is forwarded to the U.S. consulate/embassy in your parent’s home country. This typically involves an in-person interview with a consular officer to verify the information provided and assess your parent’s eligibility for the IR-5 visa.

Most likely, your parent will have to bring other documents to their visa interview:

  • The USCIS appointment letter that confirms the interview date, time, and location. 
  • Valid passport (for at least six months beyond their intended arrival date in the U.S.)
  • Two recent identical color photographs that meet U.S. visa photo specifications. 
  • Certified English translations are required if any documents submitted are in a language other than English. 
  • Supporting documents or certified copies of all civil documents your parent uploaded electronically during the application process.

The IR-5 visa interview will primarily focus on your parent’s relationship with you, the U.S. citizen sponsor. The consular officer will ask your parents questions to verify the authenticity of their relationship with you and ensure the application accurately reflects your situation.

The visa will be granted if the interview goes well and all eligibility requirements are met! Your parent will then be able to prepare for immigrating to the United States. The U.S. embassy or consulate will provide instructions on how your parent can collect their green card, typically mailed to their U.S. address once they enter the country.

IMPORTANT! The U.S. embassy or consulate will likely issue a sealed packet along with the visa. This packet is crucial; your parent must resist the urge to open it! It contains important immigration documents that will be reviewed by customs officers when your parent arrives at a port of entry in the United States. CBP officers use these documents to verify your parents’ eligibility to enter the country and finalize their IR5 green card status.

Scenario 2: Your Parent is Already in the United States (Adjustment of Status for IR5 Green Cards)

This option is only available if your parent legally entered the United States through a valid visa or the Visa Waiver Program. If they entered unlawfully, they would not be eligible for adjustment of status within the U.S.

Step 1: Complete Form I-130 Petition and Form I-485 Application Simultaneously

Like the consular processing scenario, you, the U.S. citizen sponsor, will file Form I-130 to establish the parent-child relationship.

Once USCIS approves this petition, your parent can then submit Form I-485, Register Permanent Residence, or Adjust Status. This application officially expresses their intent to adjust their immigration status to green card holders.

Step 2: Your Parent Attends the Biometrics Appointment

After submitting Form I-485, expect a USCIS notice (Notice of Action I-797) in your mailbox within a few weeks. It will confirm they’ve received your application.

Next, USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment for your parent. This appointment involves taking fingerprints and a digital photograph for security purposes.

The biometrics appointment serves a three-fold purpose: it verifies your IR5 parent’s identity through fingerprints and photographs, confirms your eligibility for immigration benefits through an FBI background check, and helps prevent fraud by ensuring benefits are granted to the rightful individuals.

Here’s a checklist of essential documents your parent should bring to the biometrics appointment:

  • The USCIS Notice of Action which confirms the appointment details.
  • A valid driver’s license, passport, or other government-issued photo identification.
  • Any additional receipt notices you or your parent may have received from USCIS related to the application.
  • Additional documents (if applicable): Review your appointment letter carefully. If USCIS requests any specific documents to be brought to the appointment, ensure you have them readily available.

In some instances, if there’s a need for further clarification, a USCIS officer might even schedule an interview to discuss your parent’s application in more detail.

Step 3: Your Parent Receives Their Green Card

We understand the excitement (and maybe a touch of impatience!) after your Form I-485 application gets approved. A common question is: “When will my parent receive their green card?”

Here is the answer in short:

Within 30 days of approval, USCIS will typically mail a physical “approval notice” or “welcome notice.” This confirms your parent’s green card application has been successful. After receiving the welcome notice, the green card arrives in the mail in the next 30 days.

What Can You Do If the IR5 Visa Petition Is Denied?

While rare, there’s a chance your petition for your parent could be denied. If this happens, the denial letter you receive from USCIS will be your first point of reference.

This letter won’t just inform you of the unfavorable decision; it will also be vital for your next steps. The denial letter will include important details such as:

  • Appeal procedures: It will outline the steps to appeal the decision, typically involving filing a formal appeal form with USCIS.
  • Deadline to appeal: It will clearly state the deadline for submitting your appeal. Missing this deadline could significantly impact your ability to challenge the decision.

Once you submit the appeal form and the required filing fee, USCIS will process them. Following this initial processing, your appeal will be forwarded to the Board of Immigration Appeals for review. The BIA will then make a final decision regarding your appeal.

IR5 Visa Processing Time

While there’s no set waiting period for IR-5 visas (unlike some other visa categories), the overall processing time can vary. It can take years for the applicant (your parent) to receive their IR-5 visa. This timeframe depends on how long it takes USCIS to process Form I-130 (the petition establishing your relationship) and review all the required documents.

The issue is, generally, with form I-130. The wait times for this petition’s processing can vary depending on your parents’ residency status. 

Expect a processing timeframe of 13.5 to 15 months for your parents residing outside the U.S. While this is faster than other visa categories, consider factors that can influence processing times, such as current USCIS workloads and the specific service center handling your case.

If your parents are already in the U.S., the I-130 processing timeline falls within 13.5 to 20.5 months. Remember that this timeframe only covers the initial petition and doesn’t include the additional processing required to adjust their immigration status within the United States.

If they apply for status adjustment via the I-485 form, expect USCIS to process it between 13.5 and 20.5 months.

How Much Does the IR5 Visa Cost?

The total cost of the IR-5 visa for your parent’s green card is a compound sum containing multiple fees:

  • Form I-130 filing fee: $675
  • Form DS-260 form fee: Your parent must pay the $325 immigrant visa application fee.
  • Medical examination and vaccination fees.
  • Biometrics fee (when applicable): $85
  • Translation fees (vary)
  • Medical examination for your parent (varies)
  • Form I-485 (if your parent is already in the U.S. and wants to adjust their status): $1,440

As you can see, you must put aside a couple of thousand dollars, if not more, to help your parent get the IR5 visa and come to the United States and get their green card.

How Long Does the U.S. Visa for Parents Last?

The validity of the IR-5 visa for the parent of a U.S. citizen is not really an issue. The question is, how long does your parent’s green card last? 

In most cases, green cards issued to IR-5 visa recipients are valid for ten years. This grants your parent lawful permanent resident status for a decade.

What Can and Cannot Do IR-5 Visa Parents in America?

Successfully securing an IR-5 visa opens the door for your parents to join you and build a life in the United States. As lawful permanent residents, they’ll enjoy many benefits, but there might also be some limitations compared to U.S. citizens. Let’s see what your parents can and cannot do with their IR-5 visa and green card so you can help them feel empowered in their new American chapter.

Can IR5 Parents Work in the United States?

Yes. Suppose your parents resided outside the U.S. when the visa was approved (consular processing). In that case, they’ll receive a unique stamp in their passport upon arrival in the U.S. This stamp serves as temporary work authorization until they receive their green card. The best news is that your parents won’t need to apply for a separate work permit once they enter the U.S. with their IR-5 visa. Their visa itself authorizes them to work legally in the United States.

On the other hand, the wait for a green card doesn’t have to mean your parents can’t work. Suppose they are already in the U.S. and have filed Form I-485 to adjust their status to permanent resident. In that case, they can apply for employment authorization to secure jobs while their green card application progresses legally.

Can IR5 Parents Travel Abroad with an IR-5 Visa?

Suppose your parents were already in the U.S. when they applied for the IR-5 visa (via adjustment of status). In that case, they can apply for work authorization and permission to travel internationally while their green card application is being processed.

While not essential, your parents may also want to apply for travel authorization during the green card waiting period by submitting Form I-131. It allows them to temporarily leave the U.S. and return without jeopardizing their green card application.

Can IR5 Parents Can Renew Their Green Cards?

Yes. Ideally, you’ll want to initiate the green card renewal process at least six months before your parent’s current green card expires to avoid any permanent resident status lapses.

As a reminder, if your parent’s green card is lost or stolen, don’t panic. They can replace it by filing a renewal application with USCIS.

Can I.R. Parents Become U.S. Citizens?

Yes. Your parent may choose to pursue naturalization and U.S. citizenship. After they held a green card for five years, they will become eligible to apply. This path grants them all the rights and privileges associated with being a U.S. citizen, including the ability to vote and hold certain government jobs.

Do You Need IR5 Visa Legal Assistance to Bring Your Parent to the U.S.? We Are Here to Help!

The IR-5 visa process is filled with intricate forms and unfamiliar procedures. At ImmigrationDirect, we understand the complexities of immigration law and the specific requirements for sponsoring your parents through the IR-5 visa program. Our team of experienced attorneys and immigration consultants stays current on the latest regulations, ensuring your and your parent’s IR5 application is compliant.

We’ll guide you through every step of the process, from understanding IR5 eligibility requirements to gathering the necessary documents. Our expertise extends to addressing any challenges that may arise, such as a parent’s past criminal record or previous IR5 / 1-130 form application issues.

Additionally, we can help you fight for your parent’s case and guide you through the IR5 processing times and the following procedures so they can get their green cards successfully. Let our experience work for you! Contact us today for peace of mind throughout your IR-5 visa application process!

Scroll to Top
immigration direct logo