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How Having a US Citizen Child Over Age 21 Can Help Immigrant Parents

There are many pathways to immigrate to the United States—some paths are temporary, and others are more permanent. Some are legal, and others are not. And, to make it even more complicated, circumstances change.


No one can predict their future. Many immigrants come to the United States legally, with a purpose, and then the twists and turns of life change their course. In one not too uncommon situation, the immigrant may wind up birthing a child in the United States.



 Adult son with happy elderly mother in an embrace.


While the child is born a US Citizen, the birth of the child does not provide legal status for the immigrant parents. Minor US citizen children under the age of 21 cannot sponsor an immigrant parent for a green card. So, how does having a US citizen child over 21 affect your immigration process?


Undocumented Parents of US Citizen Children Over Age 21


How the parents of US citizens over 21 entered the US, along with how many times they attempted to enter and how long they were in the country, affects their ability to change their immigration status. When their US citizen child petitions for them, the USCIS will look at these factors to determine how to proceed with the parents’ immigration process.


Related Link: Top Reasons a US Immigrant May Be Deported


Inadmissible and What it Means


In the world of US Immigration Law, inadmissible simply means to be barred from entry into the United States. Proving that an immigrant is not inadmissible is a very important analysis that is always required for purposes of determining if a person can obtain a green card.


US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have outlined criteria to determine what types of individuals may be allowed to enter the United States and who may not. While it may sound strict, certain types of people pose a risk to public safety, so these decisions are made to protect a nation’s citizens.


For example, some things that result in an inadmissible status include criminal convictions like drug trafficking, abuse, prostitution, or terrorism. When it comes to a US citizen’s non-citizen parents, remaining in the country illegally is the biggest hurdle.


  • Immigrants who have remained in the US illegally for more than 180 days but not more than one year are inadmissible for a period of three years.


  • Immigrants who have remained in the US illegally for more than one year are inadmissible for a period of ten years.


There are no waivers available to immigrant parents of citizen children to circumvent these waiting periods. Of course, there are occasionally exceptions based on the status of your spouse, parents, and so forth - always ask an immigration lawyer to be sure! Parents who are already in the United States and who entered lawfully will likely be able to file for Adjustment of Status without leaving the country. A qualified immigration attorney can help you navigate this tricky situation.


JLB Law Group provides services in immigration and family law. Contact JLB Law Group for a consultation for help with your immigration case today.


Adjustment of Status for Immigrant Parents of US Citizens’ Children Over 21


The process is much easier if the parents are currently in the United States legally. In some situations, like a work visa tied to employment that has ended, a parent can use their family relationship with their US Citizen child to obtain their green card.



Immigrant grandfather holding little grandchild in backyard.



Adjustment of Status is a process for obtaining a green card without leaving the United States. For the parents of a US Citizen who is at least 21 years of age or older, the immediate family relationship qualifies for Adjustment of Status for those parents who otherwise qualify.


Related Link: How Can I Get a VAWA Green Card?


Obtaining a Green Card


If you are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa using an adult child’s immediate family relationship who is also a US citizen, obtaining a green card still requires some paperwork. Keep in mind that you must be present in the United States when you file your forms.


The two most important applications you will have to file are as follows—however, there are other necessary forms as well, so be sure you are prepared to file all that are required at once:


  • Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status

  • Form I-130, Petition for an Alien Relative


To get approval and obtain your green card, you must also not be inadmissible for any reason.


Naturalization is the process of obtaining citizenship in the United States after the parent has received their green card and has been a lawful permanent resident for 5 years or more. All pathways to citizenship for immigrants occur by either naturalization or acquisition. While many immigrants remain in the country legally without obtaining citizenship, the finality can ensure that you will be allowed to stay in the country permanently.



An open US passport showing stamps from travel.


Application Process for Lawful Residents with US Citizen Children Over 21


The application process looks a little different if the parents applying for a green card are in the United States at the time of their application or in their home country. Applying from within the United States is called Adjustment of Status. Applying from outside of the United States is called Consular Processing.


US Citizen Child Over 21 Sponsoring Parent Who Is in the US and Eligible to Adjust Status


For Adjustment of Status, the immigrant and the child sponsor often both submit the necessary forms all at once to USCIS for processing and approval.


The US citizen child (sponsor) will complete Form I-130 (Petition for an Alien Relative) to document the eligible familial relationship to a United States citizen. This Form is often concurrently filed with Form I-485 in the case of parents being sponsored by US citizen children over age 21.


The immigrant will complete Form I-485 (Application to Register or Adjust Status) to apply for a green card. Again, as stated above, this Form often may be concurrently filed alongside the I-130 at the same time.


Related Link: US Citizen vs. Lawful Permanent Resident: What Is the Difference?

US Citizen Child over Age 21 Sponsoring Parents for Residency when Parent is Outside the USA


The process will still begin with the US citizen child completing Form I-130, coupled with all other required forms and supporting documents, to establish an eligible familial relationship. The adult child sponsor will also need to submit Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support), which is essentially an agreement documenting that the child sponsor is financially able to support the immigrant. This financial sponsorship application, however, is completed after the I-130 is approved, and the case is at the Consular Processing stage next.


For Consular Processing, the parents will submit their Immigrant Visa Application to the National Visa Center online. Once the application is submitted with all supporting documents, an interview will take place at the US Consulate in the parent’s home country. While there are a few more forms to fill out if the immigrant parents are not already in the country versus if they are in the US, the end result is the same - the parent obtains permanent residency.


Requirements may vary depending on the parent’s home country, so it’s always best to ensure you obtain trusted and reliable information about current requirements for the country in advance of submitting your application.


Immigration for Parents With US Citizen Children Over 21


Immigrants who have US citizen children over the age of 21 may be eligible for a green card based on their child’s status. If you’re a parent of a US citizen who is over 21, you might be able to apply for Adjustment of Status without leaving the country to become a permanent resident, and then later even be able to go on and also obtain your citizenship eventually. A qualified immigration attorney will help strengthen your chances of securing a green card.


By finding the right immigration attorney, you can strengthen your chances of obtaining a green card. JLB Law Group specializes in US Immigration Law—Contact us today for help navigating your immigration.



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