Can an American citizen apply for parents born outside the US? Image is for illustration purposes only.
Shelle Ann-Simon

Shelle Ann-Simon

Can an American citizen apply for parents born outside the US?

Parents of an American citizen child can apply for permanent residency. In this article, we explain how can an American citizen apply for parents born in a different country.

If you are an American citizen, but your parents were born elsewhere and don’t have a permanent US residency, you can still petition for them to become legal residents in the country.
But, although parents of an American citizen child normally can easily obtain a Green Card, it is still a complex immigration process that requires the help of an experienced immigration lawyer to avoid mistakes.

In any case, for an American citizen to apply for his or her parents, the requirements are very simple: he or she must have American citizenship and be at least 21 years old. Additionally, immigration law defines parents of an American citizen child as immediate relatives.

Therefore, parents take priority compared to other family relationships. In other words, there is no long wait associated with other categories when helping your mother or father obtain permanent residence in the United States.

Can a permanent resident petition for parents born outside the country?

Unfortunately, permanent residents cannot apply for parents to obtain a Green card. In these cases, the best solution for a permanent resident is to obtain American citizenship and then file a petition for her parents.

Important: Do not misuse visas or Green Cards when applying for your parents

Your parent should not travel to the United States on a temporary tourist visa with the intention of applying for adjustment of status to stay permanently. This is considered a misuse of the tourist visa. If the government suspects this is the case, the application for a Green card can be denied and it could bring complications for you in the future.

The opposite is not possible either. Obtaining a green card for your parents so they can make longer visits to the country without immigration hassle is not a good strategy. A green card is intended for immigrants who intend to live in the United States permanently. If at any time the government believes that your parent does not intend to make the United States a permanent home, his or her green card may be revoked.

Can an American citizen apply for parents born outside the US? Image is for illustration purposes only.

How can an American citizen apply for parents?

The first step is to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. By doing this, you are requesting that the government recognize your relationship with your parent and assess whether the conditions are met to grant them a green card.

Depending on the specific type of relationship, the documentation requirements that you have to attach with the form vary:

If you are applying for a mother, you will need to send:

  • A copy of your birth certificate showing your name and your mother’s name.
  • A copy of your US citizenship certificate or US passport if you were not born in the United States.

If you are applying for a father, you will need to submit:

  • A copy of your birth certificate showing your name and the names of both parents
  • A copy of your U.S. citizenship certificate or U.S. passport if you were not born in the United States
  • A copy of your parents’ civil marriage certificate.

If you are applying for a father but you were born out of wedlock and were not legitimized by your father before your 18th birthday, you will need to submit:

In addition to the birth certificate and the American citizenship certificate, you will need to send evidence that an emotional or financial bond existed between you and your father before you were married or turned 21, whichever comes first.

If you are applying for a father, and you were born out of wedlock and were legitimized by your father before your 18th birthday, you will need to submit:

In addition to the birth certificate and the American citizenship certificate, you must send evidence that you were legitimized before your 18th birthday through the marriage of your biological parents, the laws of your state or country (of birth or residence), or the laws of the state or country of your father (of birth or residence).

If you are requesting a stepmother or stepfather, you will need to submit:

In addition to the certificate of American citizenship, you must send:

  • A copy of your birth certificate showing the names of your biological parents.
  • A copy of your biological parent’s civil marriage certificate to your stepmother / stepfather showing that the marriage occurred before your 18th birthday.
  • A copy of any divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment decree to show that any previous marriage entered into by the parties was legally terminated.

An American citizen child can also petition his adoptive parents. But in these cases, we recommend consulting with an experienced immigration attorney. The laws surrounding adoptive relationships are complex and can best be addressed by an attorney.

Can an American citizen apply for parents born outside the US? Image is for illustration purposes only.

Can an American citizen apply for parents with a criminal or immigration violation record?

Parents of an American citizen child must be considered admissible to enter the United States. Your mother and / or father must prove that they are not inadmissible in the United States, meaning that they do not represent a danger or burden to American society for financial, health, security, criminal, or immigration violation reasons.

Financial

You must show sufficient income or assets to support your parents within 125% of the US poverty guidelines (In addition to supporting your own family). If your parents are unable to support themselves, this measure helps ensure that they are not dependent on government assistance.

Health

Parents of an American citizen child will be required to have a medical examination performed by a USCIS designated physician establishing that they do not pose a risk to public health or have a dangerous physical or mental disorder.

Immigration violations

Your parents’ immigration history will be reviewed. The application is likely to be denied if your father or mother has exceeded the term of the temporary visa for six months or more, or if your father has ever entered the country illegally. The government will also seek to determine whether the parent’s visa (if any) has ever been misused.

Criminal record

Your parents will undoubtedly have problems if they have committed certain crimes, such as aggravated felonies, drug-related crimes, or acts of terrorism.

If you believe that your mother or father may be inadmissible for any reason, contact an experienced immigration attorney before submitting any USCIS forms. There may be an exemption available in certain cases, or they could be able to apply for a waiver.

If you are in need of immigration legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us! At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon we have wide experience in immigration proceedings, family law, and personal injury and have successfully defended our clients for over 10 years. Contact us through our website or give us a call at 281-606-5362!

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