Seyfarth Synopsis: When the time comes for adult children to explore senior living options for their aging parents who may be living abroad, dealing with the immigration system may seem daunting. Senior care providers can offer assistance in reuniting families by providing information and access to resources to help families and residents navigate the immigration process.

Becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident (“Green Card” Holder) Through a U.S. Citizen Child

One of the most common ways people immigrate to the U.S. is through family.  However, there are some family-based green card categories that come with lengthy processing times due to significant backlogs in visa availability–some wait times reach 23 years!

Fortunately, for U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years of age or older, sponsorship for a parent is one of the most streamlined visa processes, as this category does not have a visa backlog or a “wait list” to slow down the application process.

This post is an introduction to the basics of green card processing for a parent of a U.S. citizen through two different paths: Consular Processing (for parents residing abroad) and Adjustment of Status (for parents residing in the U.S.).

Parents Residing Outside of the U.S. — Consular Processing

The process to obtain a green card for a parent residing outside of the U.S. is divided into two steps:  (1) Filing an I-130 Immigrant Visa Petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the U.S., and (2) Submitting forms and documents to the National Visa Center and Consulate or Embassy having jurisdiction over the parent’s place of residence.

First, the U.S. citizen child files Form I-130 (Immigrant Visa Petition) with USCIS to establish a valid parent-child relationship and also to demonstrate that the child is a U.S. citizen who is eligible to sponsor his or her parent.  Among the documents necessary to file are birth certificates, filing fees, photographs, and evidence of the child’s U.S. citizenship.  Once the I-130 petition is approved by USCIS, the case is transferred to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC).  The NVC will request documents and information from the U.S. citizen child as well as the parent.  The U.S. citizen child will be responsible for completing an application to demonstrate the financial ability to support his or her parent when they arrive in the U.S.  The parent will be required to submit biographic documentation, such as birth and marriage records, as well as police clearance letters.  Once the file is deemed complete by the NVC, the file will be transferred to the Consulate or Embassy having jurisdiction over the parent’s place of residence.  The parent will be required to undergo a medical examination performed by a government-designated physician and attend an interview at the Consulate or Embassy where an Immigrant Visa Packet will be issued.  The parent may then take the Immigrant Visa Packet to the U.S. port of entry where he or she will be admitted to the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Resident.

Parents Residing in the U.S. in a Lawful Immigration Status — Adjustment of Status

Similar to Consular Processing, the process to obtain a green card for a parent residing in the U.S. in a lawful immigration status is conceptually two-fold: (1) Filing an I-130 Immigrant Visa Petition with USCIS, and (2) Filing Form I-485 Application to Adjust Status with  associated forms and supporting documents to USCIS.  However, unlike Consular Processing, both steps may be filed concurrently and to USCIS stateside.

The documents that accompany the I-130/I-485 application consist of proof of financial support of the parent, documents to establish a parent-child relationship, a completed medical exam, filing fees, and photographs.

Once the application is received by USCIS, the parent will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment at a local USCIS office where he or she will be fingerprinted for a routine background screen.  USCIS will also grant a temporary work authorization and travel permission card while the I-130/I-485 application is pending.  The parent and child will then be interviewed by a USCIS officer at the local USCIS District Office and a decision on the case will be made.

While sponsorship of a parent by a U.S. citizen child is one of the more streamlined green card processing queues, these applications can be somewhat technical, as it is a multi-step process with many government forms and associated nuances for completion.  It is advisable to seek the counsel of an immigration professional. Senior care providers can help families and residents navigate the immigration process by offering information and access to resources.