Petition for a Stepchild to Come to the U.S. With Form I-130
It’s possible to bring your stepchildren to the United States – and it may be easier than you think. Many people choose to work with an Austin immigration attorney to streamline the process.
Guide to Stepchild Immigration to the U.S.
When a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident marries a foreigner who has children, the government may allow those kids to come to the United States. There are a few requirements, though – and the most important of them is that the child is under the age of 18 on the date that their parent and stepparent married.
Do You Have to Adopt Your Stepchildren for Them to Immigrate to the United States?
You do not have to adopt your children for them to immigrate to the United States. You simply fill out and file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on the child’s behalf. You can adopt your stepkids, but that adoption doesn’t confer immigration benefits. You must still fill out and file Form I-130, even if they’re adopted.
Requirements for Bringing Your Stepchildren to the U.S.
If your spouse has children under the age of 18 (or who were under the age of 18 when you married), you can request that the U.S. government allow them into the country. However, there are different processes for children who are unmarried and under the age of 21 and for children who are over the age of 21 or who are married.
Bringing Unmarried, Under-21 Stepchildren to the United States
Stepkids who are under the age of 21 and who are not married are considered immediate relatives of an American citizen. Based on that relationship, the children can obtain green cards. You or your attorney can file a Form I-130 on each child’s behalf.
If the children are living abroad, USCIS must first approve the Form I-130 application and then forward the application packet to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. After the application is processed at the embassy or consulate (during a process called consular processing), the children will be able to come to the U.S. on an immigrant visa. They’ll become permanent residents at the time they enter the United States.
If the children already live in the United States, you may be able to file an adjustment of status petition for them. Your immigration attorney can give you case-specific guidance and tell you how to proceed.
Bringing Married or Over-21 Stepchildren to the United States
American citizens can request green cards for their adult stepchildren and stepchildren who are married – but as adults or married people, they don’t count as “immediate relatives” under U.S. immigration law. That means they fall into the family preference categories, so they have to wait until a visa becomes available for them. It can take several years for a visa to become available, so if it’s at all possible, you should try to begin the process before the children reach the age of 21 or get married. Your attorney can give you more specific guidance on requesting immigration benefits for stepchildren who fall into this category.
All About Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
Form I-130 is the form you need to file with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as the first step to request an immigration benefit (in this case, a green card) for your stepchild. Your immigration attorney can help you fill out and file the form, advise you on what type of supporting documentation you need, and track the petition for you.
USCIS will usually approve your Form I-130 if you can establish a qualifying relationship with your stepchild. That means you have to show that you’re married to their parent and that they’re the lawful children of your spouse.
FAQ on Stepchild Immigration
Stepchild immigration can be confusing, so here’s a quick list of questions that immigration attorneys often hear. If you don’t see the answer to your question listed here, we’ll be happy to answer it for you – just call our office to set up a free consultation.
Is a Stepchild Considered Immediate Family by USCIS?
USCIS does consider a stepchild who is under the age of 21 and who is unmarried to be immediate family. Because these children fall under the immediate family category, a U.S. green card is immediately available to them. However, if the child is married or over the age of 21 (or both), he or she doesn’t qualify for an immediate green card; instead, the child must wait until a green card becomes available to them under their family preference category.
What Are Family Preference Categories for Married Stepchildren Over the Age of 21?
The family preference categories are as follows:
- This category is for unmarried, adult children (age 21 and over) or U.S. citizens
- This category is for spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) of permanent residents
- This category is for unmarried adult children of permanent residents
- This category is for married sons and daughters (of any age) of U.S. citizens
- This category is for siblings of adult U.S. citizens
Because stepchildren count as children, the category they fall into depends on whether the petitioner is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Married stepchildren or stepchildren who are over the age of 21 are either F1, F2A, F2B, or F3.
Can You Derive Citizenship Through a Stepparent?
It’s only possible to derive citizenship through a stepparent if the stepparent adopted you and the adoption met certain requirements. However, it is possible to get a green card through your stepparent, and then derive citizenship through that green card on your own. If this sounds like a situation that may apply to you – either because your stepparent adopted you or because you obtained a green card when your parent married your stepparent – it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney about what you can do to gain citizenship in the United States.
Can I Bring My Stepparent to the United States?
You may be able to petition the U.S. government to bring a stepparent to the United States, much like your stepparent could petition to bring you here. You need Form I-130, a copy of your birth certificate showing the names of your birth parents, a copy of your parent and stepparent’s marriage document, and some other paperwork. You should speak to an attorney to find out if this is possible in your case.
Can a Green Card Holder Apply for a Child Over 21?
In some cases, it’s possible for a green card holder (lawful permanent resident) to apply for a green card for a child over the age of 21. However, you should speak to an attorney to learn about your options. There may be other, better avenues for your child or stepchild to come to the United States.
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Lawyer About Stepchild Immigration?
If you need help bringing your stepchildren to the United States, give us a call to schedule a free consultation. We may be able to help you.