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How Do I Bring My Child, Son or Daughter to Live in the United States?

This information is for United Stated (U.S.) citizens and lawful permanent residents who wish to bring their child(ren) to live permanently in the U.S. Please note: If you are in the U.S. and considering adopting an orphan from another country, you should refer to How Do I Apply to Bring a Foreign-Born Orphan to the U.S.?

Definition of a Child
Definition of a Son or Daughter
Overview of Immigration Process
What Does the Law Say?
Who Is Eligible to be a Sponsor?
How Do I File the Petition?
How Can I Check the Status of My Visa Petition?
Can Anyone Help Me?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
Information for Your Alien Relative

Note: Information concerning the new K visa (advance admission for the spouse and children of a U.S. citizen) and new V visa (advance admission for the spouse and the minor children of a lawful permanent resident) nonimmigrant categories is available from the Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act page.

Definition of a Child
The immigration law defines a "child" as an unmarried person under the age of 21 (a minor) who is

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Definition of a Son or Daughter
An unmarried "son or daughter" is a person who was once a "child" but who is now 21 years of age or older. A "married son or daughter" is a person who has a recognized parent-child relationship, but who is also married, regardless of age.

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Overview of Immigration Process
A legal immigrant (or "lawful permanent resident") is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of living and working permanently in the United States. There is a three-step process for your child or son or daughter to become a legal immigrant.

  1. You must obtain USCIS approval of an immigrant visa petition that you file for your child, son or daughter.
  2. The State Department must then give your son or daughter an immigrant visa number, even if he or she is already in the United States. If you are a U.S. citizen and the child is both under 21 years of age and unmarried, a visa number is not required.
  3. If your child or son or daughter is outside the United States, he or she will be notified to go to the local U.S. consulate to complete the processing for an immigrant visa when one becomes available. If your child or son or daughter is legally in the U.S. when an immigrant visa number becomes available (or if one is not required), he or she may apply to adjust status to that of a lawful permanent resident using the Form I-485.

For an excellent overview of immigration, please see the chapter and tables on immigrants in the Immigration Statistical Yearbook. For more information on immigrant visa numbers, please see How Do I Get an Immigrant Visa Number?

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What Does the Law Say?
The Immigration and Nationality Act is the law that governs the admission of all immigrants to the United States. For the part of the law concerning immigrant status for children, sons, and daughters, please see INA 202, INA 203 and INA 204. The specific eligibility requirements and procedures for qualifying for immigrant visas and permanent residence are included in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 8 CFR 204.1, 8 CFR 204.2, 8 CFR 204.3 , and 8 CFR 245.

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Who is Eligible to Be a Sponsor?
A U.S. citizen may petition for:

  • A child (unmarried and under 21 years of age)
  • An unmarried son or daughter ( 21 years of age and older)
  • A married son or daughter of any age

A U.S. citizen's unmarried, minor child is considered an immediate relative, does not need a visa number, and is eligible to receive an immigrant visa immediately. Otherwise, sons and daughters of U.S. citizens will be eligible for a visa when their priority date is listed on the Department of State's Visa Bulletin .

If your unmarried, minor child was admitted or paroled into the U.S., he or she may file the Form I-485, Application to Register for Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, at the time you file your Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

If your unmarried, minor child has children, see the petitioning section on beneficiaries.

A lawful permanent resident may petition for:

  • A child (unmarried and under 21 years of age)
  • An unmarried son or daughter ( 21 years of age and older)

A lawful permanent resident may not petition for a married son or daughter.

If you had children before you became a permanent resident and you did not immigrate as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, your unmarried, minor children may be eligible to receive following-to-join benefits. This means that you do not have to submit a separate USCIS Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) for your children, and your children will not have to wait any extra time for a visa number to become available. See the Petitioning Procedures for more information on following-to-join benefits. Otherwise, children of LPRs will be eligible for a visa when their priority date is listed on the Department of State Visa Bulletin.

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How Do I File the Petition?
To petition for your child, son, or daughter to live in the United States permanently you should file a form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. To find out how to file this petition, please see Petitioning Procedures, which will help you identify what you need to do.

Exception: If you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for an orphan, you must file a petition to classify an orphan as an immediate relative. The petition is Form I-600, and the form to use for advance processing is Form I-600A.

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How Can I Check the Status of My Visa Petition?
To check the status of your visa petition, you will need to contact the USCIS office that received it. Full instructions can be found at Finding the Status of Your Case.

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Can Anyone Help Me?
If advice is needed, you may contact the USCIS District Office near your home for a list of community-based, non-profit organizations that may be able to help you in applying for an immigration benefit. In addition, please see the USCIS web page that provides information on obtaining free legal advice.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
Do you want further information? Click here for access to our Frequently Asked Questions on immigration.

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Information for Your Alien Relative
For more information on adjusting to permanent resident status, your child, son or daughter should refer to How Do I Become a Lawful Permanent Resident While In the United States?

 
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