How to Bring Parents to Live in the United States as Permanent Residents

Updated on January 7, 2024

At a Glance

  • It is possible for U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old to petition for their parents to become U.S. citizens.
  • Parents are considered “immediate relatives,” and there is no waiting list for their Green Card approval.
  • However, there may be difficulties due to immigration regulations and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Sponsoring parents requires meeting financial requirements and addressing other eligibility factors.

If you’re a U.S. citizen and have ever considered bringing your parents to live with you in the United States as permanent residents, there are specific steps and eligibility criteria to be aware of. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process.

Who is Eligible?

Firstly, to petition for your parents to live in the U.S. as Green Card holders, you must meet two main criteria:

  1. You must be a U.S. citizen.
  2. You must be at least 21 years old.

It’s important to note that Green Card holders (permanent residents) cannot petition to bring parents to live permanently in the United States.

Green Card Sponsorship Requirements for Parents

To sponsor a green card for your parents, specific eligibility criteria must be met:

  1. Proof of U.S. Citizenship: You need to provide evidence of your U.S. citizenship.
  2. Qualifying Relationship Verification: It’s essential to demonstrate a qualifying relationship, confirming that you are indeed the child of your parents.
  3. Filing the I-130 Petition: You must file the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.
  4. Financial Support Commitment: Prove your ability to support your parents financially at 125% above the poverty line, as outlined in the 2023 Poverty Guidelines.

It’s important to understand that sponsoring your parents’ green card implies taking on the financial responsibility for their support.

Steps to Sponsor a Parent for Permanent Residence

To sponsor a parent (or other family member) for U.S. permanent residency:

  1. File the Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative, via the USCIS.
  2. Upon USCIS approval, the petition is sent to a U.S. consulate in your parents’ home country.
  3. Your parents will receive instructions on their application process.
  4. You must submit an Affidavit of Support using Form I-864.
  5. After an interview at the consulate, if approved, they can enter the U.S. with their immigrant visa.

If the visa petition is denied, the denial letter provides appeal instructions. Appeals are handled by the Board of Immigration Appeals. For a more thorough explanation of the process, check out our guide to Form I-130.

Required Documentation

Depending on your circumstances, you will need to submit different sets of documents. The table below outlines the necessary steps and documents.

Mother or Father lives outside the U.S.

  • Form I-130
  • Birth certificate showing your name, your mother’s name, and/or father’s name
  • Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport (if not born in the U.S.)

Both Parents live outside the U.S.

  • Form I-130
  • Birth certificate showing your name and both parents’ names
  • Certificate of Naturalization, Citizenship, or U.S. passport (if not born in the U.S.)
  • Parents’ civil marriage certificate

Father lives outside the U.S. (born out of wedlock, not legitimated by father before age 18)

  • Form I-130
  • Birth certificate showing your name and father’s name
  • Certificate of Naturalization, Citizenship, or U.S. passport (if not born in the U.S.)
  • Evidence of emotional or financial bond with father before marriage or age 21

Father lives outside the U.S. (born out of wedlock, legitimated by father before age 18)

  • Form I-130
  • Birth certificate showing your name and father’s name
  • Certificate of Naturalization, Citizenship, or U.S. passport (if not born in the U.S.)
  • Evidence of legitimation before age 18

Step-parent

  • Form I-130
  • Birth certificate showing birth parents’ names
  • Civil marriage certificate of birth parent to step-parent (before age 18)
  • Any relevant divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment decrees

Adoptive parent

  • Form I-130
  • Birth certificate
  • Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship (if not born in the U.S.)
  • Certified copy of adoption certificate (adoption before age 16)
  • Statement of dates and places lived together with parent

Note: If there have been any legal name changes for you or your parent, ensure you provide proof, such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, adoption decree, or court judgment.

After Filing Your Petition

Once you’ve filed your petition, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will notify you about the status of your Form I-130. If approved and your parent is outside the U.S., they will be directed to the local U.S. consulate to finalize visa processing.

If your parent is already in the U.S., they might be eligible to file Form I-485 simultaneously with your Form I-130.

Employment Authorization

Upon their arrival in the U.S., your parents do not need a separate work permit. An immigrant visa stamp on their passport suffices as proof of their right to work until they receive their Permanent Resident Card. If they are in the U.S. and are adjusting their status using Form I-485, they can apply for employment and travel authorization while their case is pending. This involves using Form I-765 (for employment) and Form I-131 (for travel). The fee for Form I-485 also covers both forms.

Note: If your parents have minor children abroad, you can’t sponsor them using the same petition. After your parent becomes a permanent resident, they can file a new petition for any qualifying relative.

My Petition was Denied: Can I Appeal?

If your visa petition is denied, don’t panic. The denial letter will guide you on the appeal process and the timeframe. After submitting the appeal form and the necessary fee, your case will be referred to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Can Parents Apply for a Status Change While in the U.S.?

If your parents legally entered the U.S., they might apply for a Green Card without leaving, through “adjustment of status.” You can file Form I-130 and Form I-485 simultaneously. If they entered illegally, consulting an immigration lawyer is essential. Misusing a tourist visa for this purpose can lead to their applications being denied.

What if Your Parents Won’t Live in the U.S. All Year?

Getting Green Cards for parents may seem like a way to ease travel, but U.S. rules require them to maintain permanent residence. There’s no set time away that triggers “abandonment of residence,” but leaving the U.S. for extended periods can risk entry denial and Green Card revocation, especially after six months or more.

Read More

Final Thoughts

Although the notion of family sponsorship appears simple, there are several restrictions and specifics to be aware of. We advise talking with a legal expert who understands how to correctly file successful family sponsorship applications rather than risking having your attempts rejected due to a missing detail on your documentation or an inadmissible circumstance.

FAQ: Sponsoring a Parent for U.S. Permanent Residency

Below, you find some common questions regarding sponsoring a parent to become a permanent resident.

Who can sponsor a parent for a U.S. Green Card?

U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old can sponsor their parents for a Green Card.

Can Green Card holders (permanent residents) sponsor their parents?

No, only U.S. citizens can sponsor their parents. Green Card holders cannot petition for their parents to live permanently in the U.S.

What documents are required to sponsor a parent?

Key documents include:

  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)
  • A copy of your birth certificate showing your name and your parents’ names
  • Evidence of your U.S. citizenship (like a U.S. passport or naturalization certificate)
  • Any additional documents that prove your relationship (e.g., marriage certificates, adoption decrees)

How long does the process usually take?

The processing time can vary, but once the USCIS approves the I-130 petition, the application is forwarded to the National Visa Center, and your parent may wait for a visa number to become available, which can take several months to years, depending on specific circumstances.

Can my parents work in the U.S. while waiting for their Green Card approval?

Once admitted as immigrants, your parents don’t need a separate work permit. If they’re adjusting their status while in the U.S., they can apply for employment authorization using Form I-765.

What happens if the visa petition is denied?

If denied, the denial letter will provide reasons and instructions on how to appeal. Appeals are typically directed to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Can my parents travel outside the U.S. while their Green Card application is pending?

It’s risky for them to travel outside the U.S. while the application is pending unless they’ve been granted Advanced Parole. Leaving without it can result in the application being deemed abandoned.

Do my parents need to live permanently in the U.S. once they get their Green Card?

Yes, Green Card holders are expected to establish permanent residency in the U.S. Extended absences can be seen as “abandonment of residency” and risk the Green Card’s revocation.

Can I sponsor both of my parents at the same time?

Yes, but you’ll need to file separate I-130 petitions for each parent.

If my parents become Green Card holders, can they then sponsor other family members?

Once your parents become permanent residents, they can file petitions for certain qualifying relatives, such as spouses or unmarried children.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.