son daughter green card

I-130 Timeline For Unmarried Son Or Daughter Under Age 21

What does family mean to you? Imagine for a second that you are separated from your son or daughter for months or years. This would probably cause you to go into a panic or depression, right? This is the life that many people face when they immigrate to a new country leaving behind young children. But, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel: the I-130 petition.

As long as your child is under the age of 21 and unmarried, you can file the I-130 petition to bring them to the U.S.. The definition of a “child” also differs when it comes to U.S. immigration.

Who Qualifies as a Child to USCIS?

  • Biological children born to married parents
  • Biological children born to parents who are unmarried
    • if father is filing the petition, he will need to prove legitimization or a bona fide parent-child relationship.
  • Stepchildren
    • as long as the child was 18 or under when the parents married, and the parents are still married.
  • Adopted child (the petition process is different and will not be discussed in this post)
    • as long as adoption took place before age 16 and can prove legal adoption.

How To Bring Unmarried Son or Daughter Under 21 To The U.S.

The first step is to find out if you and your children are eligible to file for the I-130. Some of the requirements are basic but it can be hard to know whether you can file or not. Below are some the basic things that will allow you to bring your unmarried son or daughter to the U.S.:

  • Petitioner must be a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
  • Your son or daughter must meet the definition of a “child”
  • Son or daughter must be under the age of 21 at the time of filing
  • Son or daughter must be unmarried at the time of filing

Now, lets’ go through some these factors in detail to help you understand them better.

The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen or LPR. This basically means that you have to have legal status in the United States and have permanent residency before you can bring your son or daughter to live with you. If you are a green card holder but live abroad full-time, it will be difficult to petition for your child because you will need to prove domicile in the U.S..

Your son or daughter must be considered a child. This is where people seem to be confused because if you have given birth, adopted or raised your child, why wouldn’t USCIS consider them a child? You are correct. As long as your child meets the definition of a child mentioned above, you can petition for them. You’ll need to include evidence of your family relationship such as birth certificate, adoption records, stepchild relationship and paternity testing.

Son or daughter is under age 21 at the time of filing. It’s really important not to delay the filing of the I-130 because a child can “age-out” and no longer be eligible for a green card. As soon as you become a green card holder, you should file for your foreign children. If they turn 21 before you file, they will fall lower down on the preference category for family-based visas. This delay can means years of waiting for a priority date to become current.

Son or daughter is unmarried at the time of filing. Another important factor that can affect your child’s case is whether they are single or married. Once married they are no longer eligible to be sponsored as a “child” for a green card. They will need to filed for as a relative in a different preference category.

Learn more about the preference categories and priority dates for family-based green cards.

What is a priority date?

A priority date is the date your case is accepted by USCIS. This date is used when processing the first through third preference categories. When a visa becomes available, it is given to the person who’s priority date is next.

For example, if you filed for a daughter and the case was accepted by USCIS May 16th 2016 your priority date is May 16th 2016. Once USCIS begins processing May 2016 cases in November 2017, your daughter’s case gets to the top of the list for a visa.

priority date

How To File I-130 Petition For Your Son or Daughter

The first step to get your son or daughter a green card is to file a petition asking for permission to file for a visa. The process is similar to bringing a foreign spouse to the U.S. but you may need to wait for a priority date before a visa is available.

  • Step 1: File I-130 Petition with USCIS
    • Filing the I-130 is only the first step and should be done immediately when you become eligible to sponsor your child. If you delay this step, your child may drop lower in the preference category which will delay approval.
  • Step 2: National Visa Center Processing
    • After the I-130 petition is approved by USCIS, it’s passed on to NVC to process. If your child’s preference category is anything other than immediate relative, your case will be set aside until the priority date becomes current. This can take a year or more to hear back from NVC about your case.
  • Step 3: Apply for Visa at US Consulate/Embassy
    • For immediate relatives, there is no waiting for a priority date so they can apply for a visa as soon as the case is transferred to the U.S. consulate. For children who are in the 1st – 3rd preference, they will need to wait for a visa to become available before applying for one. You will be notified by NVC when this time approaches.

Although the 3 step process seems easy above, it will actually take a long time to complete. You’ll need a lot of patience to wait it out, especially for those of you that will need to wait for your priority date to become current.

Common Problems When Filing I-130 For Son or Daughter

Case Example 1: After I-130 Filed, Child Gets Married

Marcy is a green card holder and has an 18 year old daughter that still lives in Panama. Marcy wants to petition for her daughter to move to the U.S. with her so she quickly files the I-130 petition for her. After 6 months the petition is approved and sent to the National Visa Center for processing. Since her daughter is in the 2B preference category, she will need to wait for her priority date to become current.

After 11 months waiting, her daughter calls and tells her that she has gotten married to a man she loves. Marcy doesn’t know how this will affect her daughters case but hopes that she will be approved for her visa soon.

Her daughter will now need to wait years longer now that she is married. It’s best to have your child wait until she secures the green card before marrying anyone.

Case Example 2: Stepchild of U.S. Citizen No longer Immediate Relative

Brian is a U.S. citizen that petitioned for his wife a year ago for a green card. His wife has a son who is now 19 and still lives in the Philippines that they would like to bring to the U.S.. Brian and his wife Janet were married after her son turned 18 so he is no longer considered an immediate relative and will need to wait for his priority date. Instead, the son is now a 1st preference applicant.

If their son later gets married while waiting for a priority date, he will drop to 3rd preference which can add years to the waiting time. It’s best that he remains unmarried since this is something that he can control. Turning 21 after filing I-130 will still keep a child in the 1st preference as long as they remain unmarried.

How Long The Process Take For An Unmarried Son or Daughter?

How long it will take for your son or daughter to get a green card will vary depending on the circumstances of the case.

  • Unmarried children under age 21 of a U.S. citizen:
    • Are considered “Immediate” relatives so there is no waiting for a visa to become available. There are also no limits to the number of visas issued to unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen as long as they are under age 21 and remain single.
  • Unmarried children under age 21 of green card holder:
    • Are considered “Second Preference” relatives, in subcategory 2B. This category has only 26,000 green cards available each year. This means that your child will have to wait many years before a green card becomes available for them.

If you want the process to be as quick as possible, you should apply as soon as possible. Your children should also remain single until they get their green card so they don’t fall lower in the preference category.

Final Thoughts on I-130 Petition For Unmarried Son or Daughter

Reuniting with your family members is extremely important and the immigration system allows for this to happen. It’s not easy but if you do it right, you’ll be with your son or daughter in the United States in no time.

U.S. immigration is only getting more and more complicated. If you’re concerned about the process you should consider speaking with an immigration attorney. I’ve seen many parents apply for their son or daughter themselves but it does take time to understand how the process works. I’m hoping that this post has helped you become familiar with some of the steps and requirements.

If you have more time than money, I always recommend reading as much as possible on the process to bring your child to the U.S.. There are instructions that are included when you download the I-130 form from http://uscis.gov website. Use these instructions to help you fill out the form correctly. I understand that some of terms can be complicated, so I try my best to put together guides to help you through the process in plain English.

Are you ready to file for your son or daughter? Is your case waiting for a priority date? Let me know in the comments below.

Ayan is a Somali born Canadian who has successfully immigrated to the United States and is passionate about helping fellow immigrants move to the U.S. to pursue their dreams. Whether you're applying for a visa, green card or naturalization; get real answers to your immigration questions.Contact Me With Questions 10 Fun Facts About Me 🙂

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