Here are 6 facts about the IR5 visa, an immigrant visa for parents of US Citizens, that should be considered BEFORE you apply.

#1: The IR5 Visa is available to all qualified parents of US Citizens who wish to move to the US, without limit

The IR5 visa is used when US Citizens wish to legally move their parents, currently abroad, to the US to live permanently as green card holders, or lawful permanent residents (LPRs). While some immigrant visas, such as the F4 sibling visa, have limits to the number that can be issued in any given fiscal year, IR5 visas are not capped and US Embassies and Consulates around the world issue approximately 120,000 IR5 visas each year. The generous availability a of green card for parents is due to the fact that a parent is considered an “immediate” relative, like spouses and young children, while a sibling or an adult child is not.

Picture of parents who would immigrate on an IR5 visa

#2: Spouses or other children of the parent will not be able to immigrate to the US on this visa 

The unlimited availability of IR5 visas comes with a potential drawback, however. While other family-based visas, such as F4 or F3, allow dependents to immigrate with the primary beneficiary, immediate relative petitions only cover one person. If the parent’s spouse is also the parent of the US Citizen child, this is not a problem because the child can file an IR5 petition for each of them. However, if the parent of an adult US citizen has other children, or a spouse who is not the other parent of the US Citizen, they will not be eligible to immigrate to the US with the parent. This fact will, at best, require careful consideration and planning on the part of the family and immigration lawyer to determine how best to reunify the family at a later date or, at worst, result in a complete rejection of the IR5 visa as an option. It is extremely important to discuss these issues prior to embarking on the IR5 visa path to avoid wasting precious time and money on a process that will never be completed.

#3: US Citizen children under 21 cannot petition their parent for permanent residence

Only US Citizen sons and daughters who are 21 and over can initiate the IR5 application process for their parents. While it is entirely possible that someone born in the US has waited 21 years to immigrate one or both parents who are currently living abroad, IR5 visa applications are more commonly filed by newly naturalized US citizens who obtained their own permanent residence through marriage to a US Citizen, employment or asylum. Many of these naturalized citizens will have begun their own immigration journey via F1 student visas or H-1B work visas. IR5 visas are especially popular at US Embassies in both the Philippines (Manila) and India (Mumbai) due to the number of naturalized adult US Citizens from these countries.

#4: The Immigrant Visa Process Is Not Fast

Although an IR5 visa is considered “immediately” available to the parent of a US Citizen, the process can currently take over 2 years from the day the I-130 petition is filed to when the parent actually receives their IR5 visa from the US Embassy in their home country. There are three parts to each IR5 application – the I-130 petition process, the NVC document process and, finally, the Embassy interview. Each part is handled by a different government agency, each of which has their own standards for adjudication and timing. Further, issues such as uneven staffing levels, public health emergencies (COVD-19) and level of cooperation of other US and global government agencies can all have an impact on processing times. 

For some families, however, prolonged processing times for an IR5 visa is actually a good thing. Many parents of adult US citizens are finishing up their own careers in their home countries and, while they wish to immigrate to the US eventually, don’t necessarily want to move here immediately. For these applicants, the two year wait is not a terrible thing. And for even more flexibility, once an IR5 case reaches the NVC stage, processing can be put on hold indefinitely until the parent feels ready to make the (literal) move. 

#5: A green card is for parents who actually want to reside in the US 

Although brief trips abroad are, of course, allowed, parents of US Citizens who immigrate to the United States on the IR5 visa have to be careful to not abandon their LPR status by taking too many trips outside the US, working outside the US or remaining outside the US for too long. While an abandonment charge can often be overruled by an immigration judge or overcome with a new IR5 petition, LPRs who are charged with abandoning residence can be subject to detention upon return to the US. And nobody wants to think about their parents behind bars! The IR5 visa should NOT be used as an enhanced tourist visa or as a method of achieve easier entry at the US border or longer visits. Parents who have not yet retired from their careers abroad should wait to attend their IR5 visa interview until they ready to leave the job and make their home in the US. Talk to your immigration lawyer about delaying the final part of the IR5 visa process until your parents are actually ready to start a new life in the US and take brief trips abroad instead of the other way around.

#6: IR5 visa recipients may be without a health and welfare safety net, at least initially

Many parents who arrive in the US on IR5 visas are not entitled to Social Security retirement benefits or Medicare health insurance, no matter what their age or health status. Most will never have worked here before and, therefore, have not paid into either system; it will likely take several years of work after immigrating to build up those accounts. Further, many new permanent residents are barred by federal law from receiving public benefits, which may include cash assistance and public health insurance. Due to the age and medical status of some parents, plans should be made, in advance, for regular financial support and insurance coverage through private means upon arrival in the US.

If are a US Citizen and considering sponsoring your parent for an IR5 visa, please contact us for a free immigration consultation.