How Long Will My Child’s Immigration Process Take?

As a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident (Green Card holder), you can play a pivotal role in your child’s immigration process. The time his or her immigration will take from start to finish will vary significantly depending on your immigration status and your child’s age, marital status, and current location.

For immigration purposes, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines a “child” as an unmarried individual under 21 years old. A “daughter” or “son” is a person at least 21 years old or is married. Here, we will focus only on those who fall under the USCIS’s definition of a child.

Happy mother with her daughter and son in a park setting.
A non-immigrant visa allows your children to join you in the U.S. while your Green Card is processed.

What USCIS Forms Are Required for My Child’s Immigration?

The immigration process for your unmarried child under 21 years of age can involve several different government forms and phases, including:

What if My Child Currently Resides Outside the U.S.?

If you have your Green Card or have been naturalized as a U.S. citizen, but your child is outside the United States, he or she will first need an immigration visa to enter the country to join you. The following is what you need to do to obtain one:

  • File Form I-130 — This document establishes your child as your alien relative. Application approval can take a few months to as long as five years, depending on your immigration status and the caseload at your USCIS field office.
  • Once the I-130 is approved — Your family may need to wait months for your child’s visa to become available if you are a Green Card holder, which is contingent on the number of available visas in your child’s home country. Children of naturalized U.S. citizens have no wait-time for their visas since there’s no limit to the number that the government can issue. 
  • When a visa is available — The petition will be sent for consular processing. You will then receive further information and notifications from the U.S. Embassy or consulate in the country where your child resides. 

Can My Child Live in America While the Visa Application Is Pending?

If you are a U.S. citizen and after you submit Form I-130, your child is entitled to petition for a nonimmigrant K-4 visa. This optional form allows your child to work, live, or go to school in the United States while the citizenship visa is pending. 

File Form I-129F to apply for this benefit, though your child does have the option of waiting abroad while waiting for immigrant visa processing. A K-4 visa is a way for your child to come to the U.S. more quickly. 

Children of lawful permanent residents may be eligible to file for a V visa classification if more than three years have passed since the Form I-130 petition was filed. The government established this non-immigrant visa to allow families to remain together in the U.S. while their immigrant visas are processed.

What if My Child Lives in the United States?

If your child has a non-immigrant (temporary) visa and is already in the United States, there is no need for a U.S. embassy or consulate involvement. Therefore, the immigration process to acquire permanent resident status will likely be significantly faster.

There are variations in the process based on whether you are a Green Card holder or a naturalized citizen petitioning on behalf of your child.

What if I Am a Green Card Holder?

As a legal permanent resident (Green Card Holder), filing USCIS Form I-130 is the initial step to helping your child gain their Green Card. Here is what else you can expect during the application process:

  • The USCIS will send you a notice indicating that your Form I-130 citizenship application was processed and approved. 
  • The approval form also contains your Priority Date, the date when you can submit your family-based Green Card application. You can find up-to-date Priority Dates on the State Department’s Visa Bulletin
  • As soon as your child’s Priority Date becomes current, you can file for their Green Card application using USCIS Form I-485 — Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
  • Submit this petition, along with any supporting documents, to the USCIS, and about two to three weeks after you file you will receive an acknowledgment receipt and a notice for a biometrics appointment. Once filed, applications can take months for processing.

What if I Am a U.S. Citizen?

As a citizen parent, you can petition for your child to get a Green Card to stay in the U.S. permanently. 

You are allowed to file Form I-130 to establish a relationship with your child at the same time you file your child’s Green Card application, Form I-485. Your family doesn’t have to wait for an immigrant visa to become available. This is because granting a visa is immediate for children of U.S citizens.

Filing for Your Adult Daughter or Son

Though this blog specifically addresses the approximate time your child’s immigration process will take, your 21-or-older daughter or son’s I-130 citizenship application, subsequent immigrant visa, and Green Card will likely take longer to get. 

This is especially true if your adult child or children are married, which can cause your family to wait several years for their visa to be approved.

FileRight Makes Your Child’s Immigration Process Easier

When it comes to your child’s immigration, leave nothing to chance. Call FileRight to easily prepare their application with easy-to-complete forms featuring straightforward, step-by-step instructions.
No matter which stage of your child’s immigration process you are in, FileRight will give it the attention and care it deserves. Get started with your Form I-130 or check your child’s Green Card eligibility by taking the Form I-485 qualification quiz today!

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