Sponsoring Green Card for Parents – A Step-by-Step Guide

Sponsoring Green Card for Parents - A Step-by-Step Guide

So, you’ve probably been living in the States for some time now – you’ve established yourself in terms of personal and professional life, and finally, the moment has come for you to bring your parents to the U.S. Bringing your parents to the USA to live with you may be a tiresome, but such an exciting undertaking!

If you’re a U.S. citizen of at least 21 years of age, the fastest way to turn your parents into lawful permanent residents of the U.S. is to apply for a green card for your parents.

As we all know very well, applying for any kind of certificate or official papers can cause a lot of stress for many, and the same applies to immigration paperwork.  However, it’s actually not as bad as it sounds, especially in this day and age when some aspects of petitioning for a Green card for parents can be done online.

In this article you will learn:

Green Card in 3s!

Take a photo with your smartphone, upload it to the website, we will prepare it as required and send you a digital or printed version. Simple? You can’t get more convenient than that!

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A Green Card benefits for parents

Permanent residence for parents in the form of a Green Card carries with it many advantages, such as, most importantly, being able to reside and work legally in any of the 50 states. Other perks of being a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. include: 

  • being able to travel freely to and from the U.S.; 
  • the possibility to sponsor Green Card for other immediate relatives; 
  • being eligible for federal education grants and other benefits; 
  • qualifying to apply for U.S. citizenship after a period of five years; 
  • being eligible to apply for Social Security benefits;
  • the possibility of carrying over pension from your home country to the United States.

There are some inconveniences to it as well, for example, not being protected from being deported to your home country (for instance, for committing a crime), not being able to vote in U.S. elections, or obtaining citizenship for your children if they were born outside of the U.S., or simply just the time and effort needed to complete and submit all the immigration forms and supporting documents. However, we still believe that the upsides of being a Green Card holder outweigh the downsides. 

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Application for a Green Card for parents 

So what are the exact steps you need to take in order to apply for a Green Card for parents and what is the parent Green Card processing time? The first thing you must consider is whether your parent is admissible to the United States. This means that if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime or deported from the U.S., their eligibility to apply for a Green Card is virtually impossible. 

Sometimes even when a person meets all the requirements to apply for permanent residence, they may still be considered inadmissible due to something called the “Public Charge Rule”. Under this rule, anyone who is seen as a potential future beneficiary of government assistance is deemed a “public charge”, and therefore ineligible for permanent residence in the U.S. 

However, if your parent qualifies to petition for permanent resident status, below we will go over the necessary immigration forms that need to be filled out in the Green Card petitioning process. Your parent may have to file all or some of the forms based on their individual situation. 

Immigration forms for a parents’ Green Card – inside the United States 

The following 4 (four) documents play a significant role in petioning for green cards for parents. Further down below we will cover optional forms that may or may not be necessary in your parents’ case. 

I-130 – Petition for Alien Relative

The first basic form to fill out is the I-130. It is the petition for your parent to obtain permanent residence. You’ll need to demonstrate your relationship with your parent (whether they’re your birth parent, step-parent, or adoptive parent – more on that below).

You can sponsor both parents, but separate forms must be filled out for each one. The petition filing fee for Form I-130 is $535.

I-864 – Affidavit of Support

The next form you’ll have to complete is the I-864, which is the financial support contract. This form is required in helping your parent obtain permanent resident status because you’ll need to prove that once your parent arrives in the U.S. you’ll be capable of supporting them financially and they won’t require federal assistance. A $120 filing fee may be charged for Form I-864 if applied from within the country.

I-485 –Application for Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status

If your parent (the beneficiary) is currently in the United States, they’ll be able to apply for an adjustment of status by submitting Form I-485.

It is most beneficial to file this form together with Form I-130, since by doing so, you will greatly speed up the Green Card process.

Along with this form, your parent will be required to include 2 (two) passport-style photos, a government-issued ID, as well as their birth certificate.

The filing fee for this form is $1140 and there is also an additional biometrics fee of $85 that must be paid. 

I-693 – Medical Examination

Each person applying for a Green Card is required to go through a medical exam whether they’re in the U.S. or not, and the same applies to a parent petitioning for permanent resident status. This is done by submitting Form I-693.

There is a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requirement that the medical exam be conducted by a U.S. based doctor.

There is no fee for filing the I-693 form, however, there are fees associated with the medical exam itself determined by the doctor.

Remember that your parent must bring a copy of their I-693 document with them to their green card interview. Your parent will be given an envelope with their medical records, which must be submitted to the USCIS, unopened and not tampered with as the USCIS cannot accept a tampered medical envelope. 

If your parent is already inside the United States and applying for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485), they will have to be examined by a civil surgeon.  

Green Card interview

Parents who are in the United States will attend their green card interview at the local USCIS office. The appointment notice will contain all the crucial information regarding what and who to bring to the interview – the sponsor may or may not be required to attend. The parent will have to bring a copy of their government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license or passport. 

Applicants whose knowledge of English is not proficient enough to be interviewed are encouraged to hire an interpreter to attend the interview with them. Also, the green card applicant can contact a law firm that specializes in immigration law and can provide legal advice to them. The applicant can also be accompanied by an attorney at their interview, however, the attorney will have to act on their behalf and answer all the questions. 

The immigration officer will ask questions about the bond between the parent and the child. If they decide that there are no objections and that the petition is approved, the parent will be issued a green card that will be sent to their U.S. address.

Optional forms

The upside of your parent being in the U.S. at the time of their Green Card process is that they can apply to obtain a permit to legally work in the U.S. as well as leave and re-enter the country while they wait for their application to be reviewed.

I-765 – Application for Employment Authorization

If your parent’s Form I-765 is approved by the USCIS, they will be issued an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) which they’ll be required to present to their potential employer as proof that they are permitted to work in the U.S. The filing fee for the form is $410. 

I-131 – Application for Travel

Form I-131 is also optional, however, it’s advisable to submit it if your parent plans to be away from the United States while their Green Card petition is being reviewed.

By submitting this form, the parent will be applying for ‘Advance Parole’, meaning the permission to leave and re-enter the U.S. without an immigrant visa. ‘Advance Parole’ will make it a lot easier for the parent to re-enter the U.S. without any problems.

If your parent has applied for adjustment of status and covered the Form I-485 fee, there will be no fee for Form I-131.

However if they haven’t filed the I-485, the I-131 petition filing fee will be anywhere between $105 and $575 with an additional $85 biometrics fee, depending on different factors. You can calculate all the federal form fees here.

Immigration forms for a parents’ Green Card – outside the United States 

If your parent is not physically present in the United States at the time of applying, they will have to file their paperwork at a U.S. embassy or consulate and their green card petitioning will undergo consular processing. Below we cover the green card steps to be taken when applying through consular processing. 

Form I-130 – Petition for Alien Relative

As with all other family-based green cards, Form I-130 must be submitted. If both parents are being sponsored, a separate form must be completed for each and 2 (two) filing fees have to be paid. The fee for Form I-130 is $535.

If petitioning for a mother who is outside of the U.S., you will have to provide:

  • a copy of your birth certificate showing your and your mother’s name;
  • copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport if you weren’t born in the United States.

If petitioning for a father who is outside of the U.S., you will have to provide:

  • a copy of your birth certificate showing your and both your parents’ names;
  • a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport if you were born outside of the U.S.;
  • a copy of your parents’ marriage certificate.

Form I-864 – Affidavit of Support

The Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) must be submitted by the beneficiary’s financial sponsor who doesn’t have to be the sponsoring child – it could be a friend or family member who can demonstrate that they have substantial means to support the new immigrant in case such a necessity arises. The financial sponsor will be required to provide proof of their U.S. status and IRS tax transcript. 

Form I-864 is free of charge if filed from outside of the United States.

Form DS-261 – Online Choice of Address and Agent 

Form DS-261 can be filled out online, on the U.S. State Department website. The approximate wait time for the DS-261 to be processed is 2-3 weeks and there is no filing fee. The main purpose of this form is to let the Department of State know how to contact you during the application process. 

DS-260 Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application

The next component of immigration paperwork to be filled out by parents living outside of the U.S. is Form DS-260 which can also be submitted online and the filing fee for this application is $220.

When the USCIS receives all your parent’s documentation, the parent will be notified via a receipt called I-797C, or Notice of Action

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

In order to prove that the parent is not inadmissible to the United States based on any health conditions, they will be required to submit Form I-693.

The medical exam must be completed by a panel physician approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The form will include thorough information on the parent’s health as well as a vaccination record (refer to the U.S. Department of State website for more information on the required vaccinations). 

Green Card interview 

Once all of the forms have been processed, the USCIS will assign an immigrant visa number to your parent and inform them about attending the Green Card interview.

During the interview, the immigration officer will ask questions about the relationship between you and your parent (or parents).

Also, your parent’s criminal record will be reviewed and they will be asked questions about any law violations they may have been involved in the past.

The questions will slightly differ from applicant to applicant as each case is very individual, and the best way to pass the green card interview is to just be honest.

The parent will also need to present: 

  • a copy of their DS-260 application 
  • Form I-693 
  • 2 (two) passport-style photos
  • original birth certificate 
  • Form I-864 
  • proof of their child’s U.S. citizenship
  • a passport with at least another 6 (six) months of validity
  • the appointment letter. 

If everything goes well and the application is approved by the consular officer, the parent will be issued a visa and they will receive their actual green card once they arrive in the U.S. 

A Green Card for parents outside of the U.S. – other circumstances 

Birth parents are not the only ones you can petition for – you can also file an immigrant petition for an adoptive parent or a natural or step-parent. The U.S. State Department has also foreseen situations involving being born out of wedlock.

Below we cover some of the other family situations in which a child may apply for a green card for their parent and what documents they should prepare in addition to the basic forms (I-130, I-864, I-693, DS-260 and DS-261/I-485).

If petitioning for your father who is outside of the U.S., you were born out of wedlock and were not legitimated by your father before you turned 18:

  • a copy of your birth certificate showing your and your father’s name;
  • a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport if you were born outside of the U.S.;
  • proof that an emotional or financial existed between you two before you turned 21/got married.

If petitioning for your father who is outside of the U.S., you were born out of wedlock and were legitimated by your father before you turned 18:

  • a copy of your birth certificate showing your and your father’s name;
  • a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport if you were born outside of the U.S.;
  • proof that you were legitimated by your father before you turned 18 through your natural parents’ marriage, your state’s or country’s laws, or the laws of your father’s place of birth or residence.

If petitioning for your step-parent who is outside of the U.S.:

  • a copy of your birth certificate with the names of your natural parents;
  • a copy of your birth parent and step-parent’s marriage certificate showing that the marriage occurred before your 18th birthday;
  • if applicable, copies of any death certificates, divorce decrees, or annulment decrees showing that your birth parent’s or step-parent’s previous marriage or marriages were dissolved legally.

If petitioning for your adoptive parent who is outside of the U.S.:

  • a copy of your birth certificate;
  • a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport if you were born outside of the U.S.;
  • a certified copy of the adoption decree showing that the adoption happened before you turned 16;
  • a statement that includes the places and dates where you have lived with your adoptive parent. 

Green Card for parents – processing times and validity 

Depending on your individual circumstances, the time it takes to get a Green Card is approximately from 7 (seven) to 15 months and the green card itself is valid for 10 years (unless you’re a conditional resident in which case the Green Card is valid for 2 years).

Form I-130 is the longest one to process – it may take anywhere from 4 (four) to 14 months – however, if Form I-485 is filed concurrently with Form I-130, the processing time is significantly shortened.

The USCIS states that a Green Card should be renewed 6 (six) months prior to its expiration date and the entire renewal process may take from 1.5 to 12 months.

A Green Card for parents – passport photos 

Another very important aspect of the Green Card process are the required photos. Here is a breakdown of what the ideal photo for a Green Card application should be: 

  • the photo should be taken in color;
  • the head should be between 1 and 1 ⅜ inches of the photo’s height (from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head);
  • the photo cannot be older than 6 (six) months;
  • the expression must be neutral; 
  • the photo must be taken against a white background and facing the camera; 
  • no headwear, headphones, or any accessories that would obscure the face can be included in the photo (unless they are medically necessary, i.e. hearing device or a head covering worn for religious purposes).

Who would’ve thought that someday we’d be able to take a passport or ID-style photos from the comfort of our home?

Well, today it’s a luxury that’s available to us and it can also speed up the Green Card application process for your parent. With all the different costly forms to be filed when applying for a Green Card, at least this part of the process can be done at a super low cost and hassle-free, right? Passport Photo Online is a great tool to achieve this – it’s super easy, cost-effective, and saves you a lot of time – you can get your photos in as little as 5 (five) seconds.

The photos are printable and they can be taken using your smartphone. You can also take as many photos as you like and pay only when satisfied with the outcome. Here you can find all the help you need in terms of the Green card photo requirements as well as have your photo taken right away.

Sponsoring Green Card for parents: FAQ

The green card process can be a bit bewildering, so we’ve prepared a brief overview of frequently asked questions regarding sponsoring a green card for parents.

What is the parent green card processing time?

The green card for parents processing time may take anywhere from 7 (seven) to 15 months, however, it won’t be the same for every applicant.

The actual time it takes to process your parents’ green card application will depend on their individual situation and whether there are any circumstances that may potentially hinder or delay the process.

Can a green card holder sponsor parents to the U.S.?

No, a green card holder cannot sponsor their parents to the U.S., only U.S. citizens can petition for their parents.

How to bring your parents to the U.S.?

To bring your parents to the U.S., you must be a U.S. citizen. You must file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support), and I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record).

If your parents are abroad, they must file Forms DS-260 and DS-261, and their application will be handled by consular processing.

If the parents are in the United States, instead of Forms DS-260 and DS-261, they are required to submit Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status).

Once their forms are approved, they will be invited to a green card interview – if outside of the U.S., it will be held at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and if in the U.S. – at their local USCIS office.

A Green Card for parents – conclusion

Petitioning for a green card is definitely not an effortless task and it can cause a lot of frustration for many. Some people even choose to seek legal advice from a law firm or hire an immigration attorney. If your financial situation allows you to do so, then such an option could undoubtedly guide you through the process more efficiently. However, it’s not something that cannot be done without help. 

If you assist your parent in following each one of these steps adequately, you’ll get closer to bringing your parent or both your parents to live with you in the U.S. and begin a new chapter in your family life. We hope that we’ve clarified most of your questions regarding the steps to making your parents permanent residents of the U.S.

You can learn more about the topic on the USCIS website where you’ll always find all the up-to-date requirements about everything you need to apply for a green card.

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