One of the most generous aspects of the US immigration system is that US citizens who are over the age of 21 can help a foreign national mother or father obtain a green card, which gives the right to live and work in the US and is a path to US citizenship.  Green card for parents cases are some of the least adversarial to handle as the evidentiary proof required to obtain a green card consists primarily of establishing a legal parent-child relationship, that the parent is admissible, and that he or she will not be a burden to US taxpayers. Contrast this with the level of proof required to prove a valid marriage in a spousal green card case, and you can see why a US immigration attorney enjoys handling parent green card cases. That is not to say, however, that complications do not arise — they can and do.

Parents of US citizens can obtain a green card in one of two ways. Those parents who are in the US after entering with inspection can likely apply for a green card and complete the entire process without having to leave.  To obtain a green card for parents located outside the US, the immigration attorney will need to deal with both the Department of Homeland Security and US consular officials abroad.

Green Card for Parents Controversial issue

One of the hottest topics in the ongoing US immigration debate is whether we should stop allowing babies who are born here to automatically become US citizens at birth. One of the main arguments used by immigration opponents against automatic citizenship is that those babies can then go and obtain a green card for parents and other family members. They fear that the lure of a green card encourages pregnant women to enter the US in order to give birth.

Green Card for Parents Not Available Until Age 21

However, the parental green card process is not as simple, or as generous, as reformers would make it seem. First, and foremost, is the fact that US citizen children cannot file an application for a parental green card until the child is at least 21. Thus, although giving birth to a baby in the US does establish a path to a green card for the foreign national parents, that path is 21 years long.

Green Card for Parents Not Available for Some Unlawfully Present in the US

In addition to waiting for a green card for 21 years from the date of birth of the US citizen child, parents who entered without inspection (EWI) and remain in the US without authorization must usually return to their home countries in order to finish processing their applications. Upon exiting the country, however, the parent may be barred from re-entering the US for 3 or 10 years, depending upon how long they were in the US for without authorization. Those who are in the US without authorization for between 6 months and 1 year, and then depart the US for their green card appointment, will need to remain outside the US for an additional 3 years due to an unlawful presence (ULP) bar. Those who were in the US for a year or more will need to wait another 10 years. Thus, for someone who was unlawfully present for over a year, the wait for a green card will be 31 years. Not such an easy path to a green card, eh?

Unlawful Presence Waiver of Inadmissibility for Parent Green Cards

The 3 or 10 year unlawful presence bar is, conceivably, waivable for some green card applicants.  If a waiver is approved, the applicant will be allowed to return to the US without having to wait outside the US. However, since only those with US citizen or lawful permanent resident parents or spouses qualify for an unlawful presence waiver, parents of US citizens typically will not be able to get these bars waived as the only link to the US is the US citizen child (who cannot sponsor an unlawful presence waiver).

If you are a US citizen and wish to sponsor your foreign national mother or father for US green card, contact us today for a free consult with an immigration lawyer.