My law practice is undergoing some changes. I am continuing to work with current clients, but unable to accept any new clients right now. If you are looking for an immigration attorney to begin a new case, please check the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association’s page. More information to come! Thank you for your patience.
USCIS released a message earlier this month stating that eligible students can apply for naturalization in the state where they attend school, or in the state where their family lives as reflected in the USCIS Policy Manual.
Q: I am sponsoring my wife for a green card. She has 2 children from a previous marriage. Can we add her children to her green card application as derivatives or dependents?
A: Your wife’s children may be able to receive permanent resident status (green cards), but not as derivatives of your wife. Your wife is considered an Immediate Relative for immigration purposes, and so her children would need to qualify on their own for permanent residency. Generally this is done by the stepparent (you) sponsoring the stepchildren. Here’s how it works:
Q: My 5-year-old son and I have been in the US as permanent residents and I recently married a US Citizen. My new US Citizen wife has adopted my son. What steps do we need to follow to get my son US Citizenship? Can he naturalize more quickly now that he has been adopted by a US Citizen?
A: Congratulations on your recent marriage! Your child has a couple options, but none of the options will allow him to immediately become a US Citizen (USC). The process will involve simply applying for a US Passport for him. He does not likely need to go through the naturalization process.
There are 2 paths your son could follow to become a USC:
Q: I am a US Citizen and want to sponsor my parents and 16 year-old brother for a green card. Since my brother is a minor and a dependent, can we just list him on my parents application – can he join them?
US Citizens over 21 years old and can apply for a green card for their parents. Parents are considered immediate relatives for immigration purposes, and they do not need to wait in line for a visa number. However, your brother could not just follow along as part of your parents’ application and would need his own separate petition. Unfortunately, because a brother is not considered an immediate relative, he would also have a long wait. Brothers and Sisters of US Citizens over age 21 are 4th preference, or the F4 category in the visa bulletin, and the wait is over a decade.
Usually in these situations, there would be another (faster) pathway for the brother after your parents become permanent residents. Keep in mind that turning 21 or getting married can make a difference in priority dates for your brother. If your parents are able to become permanent residents, then their unmarried children under 21 would be F2A category, which has a much shorter waiting period than unmarried children over 21 (F2B). Your family would benefit from a consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer to talk through the dates and timing of these different paths.
If you are filing form I-130 to petition for permanent residency for your spouse, you need to show your relationship is bona fide, or genuine. Give yourself time to think about what documents you have that can be used to prove your relationship. Below is a list with some ideas, but it is not a comprehensive list. An attorney can talk in more detail to you about your particular relationship and the best evidence for your case.
USCIS gives a list in the instructions of evidence to provide, and this is the best starting place. Below is USCIS’s list, with my advice for preparing evidence:
Documentation showing joint ownership or property
If you and your spouse own property together, like a house, car, or boat, include a title or deed with that shows both of your names.
A lease showing joint tenancy of a common residence
Include a copy of your lease if it shows both names.
Documentation showing co-mingling of financial resources
While not required, many couples do share a checking or savings account, and this is a good way to show evidence of your relationship.
Birth certificate(s) of child(ren) born to you … and your spouse
This one is pretty straight-forward! Include birth certificates of any children you had together. Make sure both of your names are on the certificate(s).
Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by third parties having personal knowledge of the bona fides of the marital relationship
Ask family members and friends to write letters affirming your relationship. Writers should include their full name, how they know you, how they know about your marriage (e.g.: I know they are really in love, I attended their wedding, or I enjoy eating dinner with them, or we took a trip together last year). Letters should end with an oath, swearing that the information provided is accurate.
USCIS states that each affidavit should also include the writer’s full name, address, date/place of birth, relationship to the couple.
Normally, it is also beneficial for the couple to write similar affidavits explaining how they met and describing the the relationship.
Any other relevant documentation to establish that there is an ongoing marital union
Include 3-10 photographs showing you and your spouse together in different places, seasons, and with different people.
Print and include emails, text messages, cards, or other notes between the two of you that show your relationship
Include your tax return, if it shows both of your names.
Another idea is to dig up records from trips you’ve taken together. Find airline tickets, confirmation emails, or matching passport stamps. These can be organized and labeled to show you travelled together to the same places.
Still need more evidence? Be creative! Look for Facebook posts showing both of you, receipts for wedding rings, wedding announcements, and photos from your wedding. Find documents for insurance benefits that have both your names, or even copies of your state ID’s showing you have the same address.
I am a US Citizen and would like to sponsor a green card for my fiancee. She has a 6-year-old child she adopted herself, and an 8-year old child who has a biological father in her home country. Can she bring her children to the US with her?
Yes, it might be possible. To begin, each child has a special requirement you need to be aware of:
- Child 1: Adopted children need to be in custody of the adoptive parent, and need to have resided with the adopted parent for 2 years to be considered a “child” for immigration purposes. These 2 years or residing with the parent can happen before the child is adopted. You would need to show proof of the residency, so check to see if your fiancee has a court order or document showing the dates of custody.
- Child 2: many countries logically have special requirements to prevent children from being taken out of the country agains a biological parent’s wishes. You may need the biological father’s written notarized statement allowing his children to obtain a US visa and leave the home country. Check your country’s US Embassy page to see specifically what the embassy needs before allowing the children to travel. Be careful – while some countries do not specifically list this requirement for a US visa, the process to obtain a child’s passport may require consent of both biological parents. Make sure to consult with the child’s biological parent to make sure all parties consent to the children traveling to the US.
If you’re able to satisfy each child’s special requirements, you can move forward with helping your fiancee and the children come to the US! Generally, there are two paths you could follow to get started (I discussed them in more detail here, and an attorney could discuss additional options depending on your particular circumstance.) Here is an overview of costs/timelines related to the 2 children of your fiancee:
Path A: You marry your fiancee anywhere in the world, and then petition for her, as your new wife to be a US Permanent Resident. You would also file petitions for the children at the same time. They would both be considered your step-children, and a step-child is considered a “child” for immigration purposes as long as “the child was under 18 when the step-relationship was created.” This means you would pay the $420 filing fee 3 times. Processing would take anywhere between 6 months to 1 year, and then all 3 would have a visa interview with the US embassy. There would be additional fees with the Embassy for all 3 people. If all went smoothly, all could then come to the US and would receive green cards.
Path B: You will begin by filing a K-1 visa petition for your fiancee, which takes around 4 – 9 months to be determined and would cost $340. Her children are able to be listed on her application because they are under 21 and unmarried, so there is only 1 fee to pay. They will attend her visa interview along with her (paying Embassy fees again for all 3 people), and if all goes well — travel with her to the US in K-2 status. Next, you would marry within 90 days, and then your new wife and both children would apply for an adjustment of status. This would require a large petition, showing proof of the marriage and of each family member’s relationship. There would be a separate petition for your wife and each child, and 3 government processing fees of $1070.
This is a general overview of the process. Speak with an attorney so that you can describe your situation in detail to make sure no other complications would arise. Best Wishes!