A Green Card For Kids

A Green Card For Kids

The process for getting a green card for kids is multifaceted, with many different nuances to consider depending on a person’s specific situation. Because children are immediate relatives, both U.S. citizens and permanent residents can petition for green cards for their children.

However, the child’s marital status and their parents’ legal status in the U.S. play a very significant role here – while a U.S. citizen may petition for married children too, a permanent resident can only petition for unmarried children.

An important thing to mention here is that if you were already a U.S. citizen at the time your child was born, they might have already been granted U.S. citizenship automatically, so it’s best to confirm that information before you go ahead and start their immigrant visa petition for permanent residence.  

In this article, we’re going to try and demystify the child green card process for you, and guide you to the tools you’ll need to get your child’s application ready.

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Who can you petition for?

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) rules, you can petition for your:

  1. child born in wedlock;
  2. child born out of wedlock;
  3. child that was conceived through some form of assisted reproduction, for example, IVF;
  4. stepchild, provided that the relationship with the stepparent began before the child turned 18;
  5. adopted child. 

The USCIS rules state that any child under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen or someone with Lawful Permanent Residence, provided they meet minimum eligibility requirements, may apply for a Green Card. Within each category, though, there are many factors that must be taken into account. It is also possible to apply for a Green Card for an older married and unmarried son or daughter, but this can take longer. 

There is a special visa category for children of U.S. citizens who live abroad and aren’t permanent residents or haven’t yet acquired U.S. citizenship through their parents – it’s the IR-2 visa category. The IR-2 visa allows children of U.S. citizens to legally enter the United States. 

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How long does it take to obtain a Green Card for a child?

Depending on the child’s age and situation, the time it takes to get a Green Card may vary. The below information illustrates key examples of this:

  • Children of U.S. Citizens (Under 21 years of age)
    Estimated timeline (entire process): around 10-13 months
    Additional information: The U.S. government does not limit the number of green cards that can be given for this category, meaning the process takes a very short time.
  • Children of Lawful Permanent Residents (Under 21 years of age)
    Estimated timeline (entire process): around 23-28 months
    Additional information: In this case, children have to wait for a green card to become available once Form I-130 has been filled out and submitted. The process can take around 3 (three) years, but the green card will become available after around 2 (two) years. Citizens of Mexico, the Philippines, India, and China will face a longer wait time.
  • Adult Unmarried Children of U.S. Citizens (21 or over)
    Estimated timeline (entire process): around 7 (seven) – 8 (eight) years
    Additional information: if you are a citizen of the Philippines or Mexico, the process takes a lot longer: the Philippines: 10+ years, Mexico: 20+ years.
  • Adult Unmarried Children of Lawful Permanent Residents (21 or over)
    Estimated timeline (entire process): around 8 (eight) – 9 (nine) years
    Additional information: If you are a citizen of the Philippines or Mexico, the process takes a lot longer: the Philippines: 10+ years, Mexico: 20+ years.
  • Adult Married Children of U.S. Citizens
    Estimated timeline (entire process): around13-14 years
    Additional information: It may take 22 years or more for citizens of the Philippines and Mexico.

Form I-130 – Petition for Alien Relative 

First comes Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), which must be completed (by the citizen parent or parent who’s a green card holder) and sent to USCIS or filed online.

The permanent resident or citizen parent may also request to file Form I-130 for their unmarried child at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

If the child is currently in the United States, their immigrant visa processing will be handled by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and if they are abroad, their application will be handled via consular processing, and thus, the petition will have to be approved by the National Visa Center. 

You will need to send in evidence of your legal status in the United States (U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident), which will assess your eligibility to sponsor your child for a Green Card.

You will also be required to provide proof of your relationship with the child. The child’s mother will only require a birth certificate, while the mother’s spouse would need a birth certificate and proof of connection to the mother, e.g. marriage certificate or divorce papers.

Keep in mind that a separate form must be filed for each child that you’re applying for. 

Forms I-485 or DS-260 and DS-261

Once your petition is processed, which can take months or potentially years depending on whether you hold U.S. citizenship or permanent residence, you will be able to view your priority date, which is the date your form was received, effectively marking your place on the waiting list.

Bear in mind that the priority date only applies to groups where there are a limited number of Green Cards available. After that, you simply have to file the relevant forms and these may be: 

  • Form I-485 – Adjustment of Status* (if you are seeking to adjust status for your child and are applying from within the U.S.);
  • Forms DS-260 and DS-261 (Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application) if your child is currently living abroad.

*NOTE: If your child is in the United States, it’s best to file Form I-130 and Form I-485 together to expedite the immigrant process.

By using the “Case Status Online” page on the USCIS website, or by contacting the consulate you are working with, you will be able to track your application throughout the various stages. 

Form I-693 – Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record

All applicants will be required to file Form I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record) with the USCIS. If in the United States, the medical examination will have to be conducted by a civil surgeon, and if abroad – by a panel physician (a U.S. embassy-approved doctor).

The doctor will place the child’s medical examination in a sealed envelope and it must be mailed to the USCIS exactly that way – not tampered with or altered in any way. 

Form I-864 – Affidavit of Support 

Since your son or daughter will rely on you for financial support, you will have to file Form I-864 to demonstrate that you’re capable of providing for them. The form will have to be accompanied by some additional documents including proof of U.S. citizenship or legal immigrant status (lawful permanent resident), pay stubs, and your income tax return. 

Green Card interview for a minor child

If Form I-485 or DS-260 is approved, your child may be called in for an interview. However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services waives the interview obligation for minor children (14 years of age and younger) of permanent residents if they are included in their parents’ petition. The only time a child may be asked to attend an interview is when they are the only applicants on their petition.  

All Green Card applicants must have an immigrant visa number made available to them before they can schedule an interview. Children of U.S. citizens will be assigned this number immediately upon the approval of their immigrant petition, and children of green card holders will have to wait for the U.S. State Department to issue this number to them. 

If the child is required to attend the interview (either at a USCIS office in the U.S. or at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad), they may expect to be asked questions about their relationship to you and basic questions about themselves to make sure all the answers they provide correspond to the information provided in the immigration forms. 

Green Card for kids – costs

In terms of costs, the entire process of applying to become a green card holder will amount to $1,760 for those living in the U.S. and $1,200 for those living abroad. This includes the cost of processing the application forms, government filing fees, state department processing and the biometric appointment, but it does not include the cost of the medical examination, which varies from doctor to doctor. Also, keep in mind that if you choose to use the services of an immigration attorney, you will have to pay legal fees as well. However, in some situations, applicants may apply for a fee waiver for their permanent resident card application by filing Form I-912. You can find information on the green card application request for fee waiver here and see if your child qualifies for one.  

A Green Card for an adopted child

When applying for a Green Card for adopted kids, there will be some extra documentation you’ll need to prepare for your child’s application. You will need to have access to your child’s birth certificate – preferably your child’s birth certificate issued before the adoption, showing the biological parents’ names. You will have to provide proof that the child was adopted before they turned 16 (or 18, if they have a sibling adopted by the same parents). 

You will also need adoption papers, along with proof that you have had legal custody of the child and that you lived together for two years or more (this may have been before or after the adoption, but definitely before submitting the Green Card petition).

Since the United States follows the rules of the Hague Convention, that two-year period cannot be in the U.S. if the child was adopted on or after April 1st, 2008.

Also, it’s impossible to get a visa petition approved for a child adopted after April 1st, 2008 who has been living in the U.S. with you, but who resided in one of the Convention countries prior to coming to the U.S.

For more detailed information on a green card for an adopted child visit the USCIS website. 

A Green Card for a child living abroad

When you are applying for a Green Card for kids living abroad, you need to file some supporting documents with the National Visa Center after submitting your application for an Immigrant Visa. You need to provide proof of your child’s nationality, proof they are in the US legally, proof that they had undergone a government-approved medical examination and proof of any criminal convictions or immigration violations. 

Children will also need to fill out a DS-5540 Public Charge Questionnaire, which assesses the means of the household in question. You will need to show that you can be self-sufficient, both financially and in other areas, when in America.

Green Card application for a mentally disabled child

The application process for a mentally disabled child is mostly as detailed above. However, there are a few extra considerations, particularly when it comes to the consular interview. Information about any mental disorder a child has will need to be disclosed during the medical exam and is likely to be addressed in the interview.

Evidence will be required that the child’s mental disorder will not manifest as violent or dangerous behavior as U.S. immigration law prevents Green Cards in such cases. 

The U.S. immigration officials will accept medical proof that the disorder does not make the child violent. This can include existing diagnoses or prognoses, doctors’ notes, or evidence of a course of treatment that mitigates the effects of the disorder.

If such evidence cannot be found, you can try to apply for a waiver. These are reviewed on a case-by-case basis but can be an effective way to avoid the rejection of your application. You will need to provide medical reports and/or treatment plans to the Department of Homeland Security to qualify for this, showing that the child will not be a danger going forward.

Thus, in addition to medical information, you will need to provide documents showing your financial information, to demonstrate that you possess adequate means to provide for your child.

Once again, you will be required to fill out the previously mentioned Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) that states you are financially capable of supporting your child. It should be noted that this form, once signed, becomes a binding contract with the United States Government, leaving you liable if the child needs state assistance.

All of these procedures may leave you feeling quite overwhelmed, so we recommend that you seek the services of a law firm that’s experienced in immigration law. You should also remain in close liaison with your medical professionals at all stages of the process. Some private organizations also offer online immigration solutions and advice, which can also help you through the stages.

How to renew a Green Card for a child?

All Green Cards are valid for 10 (ten) years before they require renewal. However, minors must renew their permanent resident cards once they turn 14. If the child’s Green card renewal is completed within 30 days of the child turning 14, you will only need to pay $85 in biometrics fees, however, after that, you will be required to also pay a $365 filing fee, bringing the total up to $450.

To renew your child’s Green Card, you will have to fill out Form I-90. You will be required to attach your old card to the renewal form as evidence that you are staying in the country lawfully. Once the renewal application is received, you will get a receipt notice that you can use to prove your child’s status as a lawful permanent resident in the absence of their Green Card.

Can a child sponsor parents for a Green Card?

In theory, a child can sponsor their parents for a Green Card, if they are eligible to sponsor relatives. In practice, a child will need to be 21 or over to be able to do this. They will also need to be subject to means-testing to ensure that they will be able to financially support their family at 125% or higher above the national poverty line. 

They will also need to be able to prove that their parents truly intend to live in the United States. If they live out of the country for too long, they risk their Green Cards lapsing.

A photo for the Green Card lottery for a child

To apply for a U.S. Green Card for kids, you need to submit a photo of your child for the card itself. As with adult photos, this must be less than six months old and must be reflective of their current appearance. The picture has to be digitally uploaded to the application and can be either a digital file or a scanned picture.

Green Card photo size and requirements

The photo for a Green Card for kids must conform to very specific size and formatting requirements. Follow our guide for U.S. government criteria for a green card photo

  • your picture must always be 2 x 2 inches in size; 
  • digital images must have a square aspect ratio;
  • the allowed size for digital files ranges between 600 x 600 pixels (minimum) and 1200 x 1200 pixels (maximum); 
  • the image must be in color, 24-bits per pixel.
  • the picture cannot be overexposed.
  • your head and face, comprising the top of your head to the bottom of your chin, should make up 50% to 69% of the total height of the image;
  • your eye height, measured from the base of the image to your eye-line, should likewise be between 56 and 69% of the image height;
  • the photo must be taken against a plain, white background.

Green Card photos with Passport Photo Online 

Since the permanent resident petition for your child involves so much paperwork, we’d like to tell you about Passport Photo Online – a convenient and professional online photo tool that thanks to which you’ll be able to snap your child’s green card photo at any time, anywhere you wish. 

Simply upload a photo, and we’ll check it over to make sure it fits all the requirements. Our background remover will even provide a plain white background for your photo, so you won’t have to worry about finding the right setup. Since there is no limit on the number of photos you can take with our app, you can keep taking photos until you get that perfect one.

Our service is available 24 hours a day, making it a lot more flexible than traveling to a pharmacy or a photo studio where you have a particular timeframe to have your photos taken. You can just pick a time when your child is relaxed and take the picture from the comfort of your house.

We guarantee acceptance, so if your photo gets rejected by USCIS, we’ll give you double your money back.

A Green Card for a child – FAQs

If my child is born in the U.S., can I apply for a Green Card?

If your child was born in the U.S., then they are automatically U.S. citizens and can sponsor you for a Green Card, provided you haven’t previously committed any immigration violations. The child will also need to be a legal adult, i.e. 21 years of age, to be able to sponsor you.

How long will it take to acquire a Green Card for my child?

The time it takes to get a green card for a child varies greatly depending on different circumstances. It may take from 10 (ten) to 13 (thirteen) months, and in other cases even up to 20 years.

Is there a fee for a Green Card for a six-month-old child?

Yes, you will still have to pay the fees for a six-month-old child. Details of fees can be found in this post.

Can my child sponsor me for a Green Card?

If your child is a U.S. citizen, they can sponsor you for a green card as long as they are over 21 years old.

Should kids’ photos be updated in a Green Card?

When you submit a photo for a Green Card for kids, it must be no older than 6 (six) months and must reflect your child’s current appearance.

If your child is younger than 14, they will have to have their green card renewed once they turn 14, and therefore, will be required to update their photo. After that, photos only need to be renewed with the green card, every 10 years.

Can a minor get a Green Card?

Yes, regardless of the child’s age, they can apply for a Green Card if their parent is a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder.

Green Card for kids – wrap up

As you can see, the process of getting a Green Card for kids is multifaceted, with many different nuances to consider depending on your individual situation. It must be stressed that when preparing your application, you should thoroughly research the United States government guidelines to make sure  you correctly fill out all the immigration forms.

Because it may be tedious to apply for an immigrant visa for your child who is overseas or adjust their immigration status if they’re in the U.S., it’s recommended that you consider reaching out to an experienced immigration law firm.


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