How to Sponsor an Immigrant Child

In this article, we explain how to sponsor an immigrant child in 4 steps including who is considered a child, who can sponsor a child, what documents are required, and how to track a child’s visa petition.

If you’re a US citizen or green-card holder and you want to help your foreign-born son or daughter obtain permanent residence in the US, you may be able to sponsor your child’s immigration application.

It’s important to understand your options, relevant eligibility requirements, and necessary documentation in order to ensure the process is as smooth and straightforward as possible. Keep reading to learn about how to become an immigration sponsor for your child.

How to Sponsor an Immigrant Child

1) Who is legally considered a child?

For immigration purposes, USCIS considers a child to be:

  1. a genetic child born in wedlock
  2. a genetic child born out of wedlock (additional documentation is required for father petitioners)
  3. a non-genetic child born through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) assuming there is a legal parental relationship
  4. a step child or adoptive child under certain circumstances

In general, you’re eligible to sponsor your step child or adopted child as long as the following conditions apply to your situation:

Step Children

USCIS recognizes the relationships of parents and their step children for immigration sponsorship purposes provided the marriage that created the step-relationship took place prior to the child’s 18th birthday.

Adoptive Children

USCIS recognizes the relationships of parents and their adoptive children for immigration sponsorship purposes only if the child was adopted before the age of 16 OR before their 18th birthday if certain conditions apply.


2) Who can sponsor an immigrant child?

Generally, a parent who is either 1) a US citizen or 2) a current green-card holder can sponsor their child for immigration. However, your current status in the US as well as your child’s age and marital status will impact the sponsorship process.

US Citizens

If you’re a US citizen, your child will likely receive priority, meaning you can expect shorter wait times.

You can petition for your son or daughter if they are:

  • Unmarried and under the age of 21
  • Unmarried and over the age of 21 (you may be able to include their children on your petition)
  • Married at any age (you may be able to include their spouse as well as their children in your petition)

Green-Card Holders

Permanent residents are also eligible to sponsor their children. However, if your child is married (even if they’re under the age of 21), your parental and green-card status will not grant them priority in the immigration process.


3) What documents are required?

In order to sponsor your child for permanent residency in the US, you must submit the following required documentation.

US citizens must submit:

  1. Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
  2. Proof of citizenship, via a copy of one of the following:
    • Your US birth certificate
    • Your unexpired US passport
    • Your Consular Report of Birth Abroad
    • Your naturalization certificate
    • Your certificate of citizenship

Permanent residents must submit:

  1. Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
  2. Proof of status, via a copy of one of the following:
    • The front and back of your Form I-551 (green card)
    • Your foreign passport with a stamp showing temporary evidence of permanent US residence

If your name and/or your child’s name has changed and doesn’t match the name featured on your supporting documents, you must also provide proof of the legal name change. This proof may take the form of a marriage certificate or divorce decree, an adoption decree, a court judgment, or other official document.

In general, once your petition is approved by USCIS, your child or other relative is eligible to apply for their green card.

If your child lives in the United States…

If you’re a US citizen and your unmarried child is under the age of 21 and currently resides in the US, the child may file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status at the same time you file Form I-130.

If your child is married, over the age of 21, or you’re a green-card holder and not a citizen, they may only file Form I-485 once a visa is approved.

If your child lives outside the United States…

If your child resides outside of the US, you will need to file Form I-130 and wait for processing and approval regardless of their age or marital status.


4) How to Track the Status of a Visa Petition

When you file your application with USCIS, you’ll receive an official receipt number that’s unique to your case. Using this number, you can check the status of your visa petition on the USCIS website’s “My Case Status” page.

Processing times may vary. To check the processing time for Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative or any other form, visit the USCIS “Check Case Processing Times” page.


When to talk to an immigration lawyer

There are a lot of factors to consider when sponsoring an immigrant child for permanent residency in the US. In many cases, it’s beneficial to discuss your specific situation with a qualified immigration lawyer prior to filing Form I-130. If your petition is denied, an immigration attorney can also work with you to determine the next steps in your case.

An experienced immigration attorney with specialized knowledge regarding immigration law will be able to offer guidance and representation throughout the process to give you and your friend the best chance possible of being approved.

Immigration Lawyer Portland Oregon