Green Card For Parents: A Complete Guide

Two parents happy to get their green cards

US citizens 21 or older can apply to get their parents a green card, making them lawful permanent residents in the US.

There’s no limit regarding how many parent green cards the USCIS can issue each year, and the process takes around 12 -18 months.

We’ll cover how to get a green card for your parents in eight steps and break down each one in the most straightforward manner possible.

Related: How to Petition a Family Member for a Green Card

Eight Steps to Get a Green Card For Your Parents

While it may seem complicated, we’ll break down the steps you must follow to get a green card for your parents into eight easy-to-digest sections:

  1. Check Their Eligibility

If your parents want to get a US green card, they must be admissible and eligible. Luckily, the eligibility requirements are pretty straightforward.

For a citizen’s parent to get a green card, they must be a legal parent of the citizen. A legal parent includes:

  • Adoptive parent
  • Birth parent
  • Step-parent 
  • Father to a child who was born out of wedlock

However, even eligible parents may not be admissible.

Who Is Inadmissible?

There are four primary factors that might make your otherwise eligible parent inadmissible to the US:

  • Finances — In order for your parents to receive a green card, you’ll have to prove that you have the assets or income to support them at 125% of the poverty guidelines.
  • Health — Your parents will have to have a medical examination performed by a USCIS-designated physician to ensure they don’t present a public health risk or have a dangerous disorder.
  • Violations — Any previous immigration violations will likely render your parents inadmissible.
  • Criminality — Certain crimes, including acts of terrorism, drug-related, and aggravated felonies may also render them inadmissible.
  1. Complete Form I-130

Once you’ve confirmed that your parents are admissible and eligible, you’ll need to complete an immigration petition for them: Form I-130. After filling out the form, you’ll submit it to the USCIS (along with a filing fee of $535). 

If you’re petitioning for two parents, you’ll need to fill out Form I-130 twice and pay the filing

Note: Filing Form I-130 doesn’t give your parent’s status; there are still additional steps required.

  1. Collect Proof of An Eligible Relationship

For the USCIS to approve Form I-130, you’ll have to prove your relationship to your parents.

  • If you’re petitioning for your mother, you’ll need your birth certificate that includes your and your mother’s name.
  • If you’re petitioning for your father, you’ll need your birth certificate that shows your and both your parents’ names. You’ll also need a copy of your parent’s marriage certificate.

In addition, if you were born outside the US, you’ll need a copy of your US passport or Certificate of Naturalization.

Petitioning for an adoptive parent, step-parent, or a father who wasn’t married to your mother at birth will require additional documentation.

At Brudner Law, our Orange County/Irvine immigration attorneys can help you prepare and file the paperwork you need to help get your parents their green cards.

  1. Complete Form I-864

Next, there’s another form you’ll have to file: Form I-864. This form shows that you agree to support your parents financially and that they will not seek government assistance for financial support. 

You can file this form from within the US by submitting it to the USCIS or by submitting it to the DOS from outside the US.

Either way, there’s no fee required to file Form I-864.

  1. Prepare Their Green Card Application

Next, your parents will need to prepare their applications for their green cards. There are two possibilities for applying, depending on where your parents currently live.

Adjustment of Status

If your parents are currently in the US, they’ll file for Adjustment of Status by submitting Form I-485. They can file this form together with Form I-130 or any time afterward.

When filed together, the processing time for their green cards will typically be significantly shorter than other filing methods. Form I-485 requires two passport photos, a birth certificate, and a government-issued form of ID. There is a filing fee of $1140 and a biometrics fee of $85.

Consular Processing

If your parents currently live outside the US, they need to submit for permanent residence through a process called consular processing through a US consulate or embassy. After waiting for USCIS approval on Form I-130, their application will continue on to the National Visa Center (NVC) and send your parent’s confirmation.

Once a visa number becomes available, your parents will need to fill out Form DS-261. Upon approval, they’ll pay a $445 fee and fill out one more form: Form DS-260.

Related: What Happens If My Green Card Expires?

  1. Complete Additional Forms (Optional but Recommended)
Two people signing legal documents.

If your parents are applying for their green cards from within the US, they can apply for additional benefits while quaint for USCIS approval. There are two helpful forms to complete at this time:

  • Form I-765 — If your parents plan to work in the US, they need to file Form I-765 and seek approval from the USCIS. There is a $410 filing fee, and upon approval, your parents will receive an Employment Authorization Document, permitting them to work legally in the US.
  • Form I-131 — When filing for Adjustment of Status, your parents may have to spend their time waiting for approval outside of the US. However, with Form I-131, they can apply for Advance Parole, which can grant them permission to leave and reenter the country without applying for a visa. 
  1. Schedule a Medical Examination

For your parents to get their green cards, Immigration requires them to get a medical examination from an approved US doctor. They need to schedule an appointment with a doctor designated by the USCIS; if they’re located outside the US, they can visit a DOS panel physician for their examination.

At the doctor’s visit, they’ll need to bring Form I-693 to document the results.

After the examination, your parents will receive a sealed document containing their medical record to submit to the USCIS. They will need to bring this unopened envelope with them to the green card interview in the future.

  • Parents applying from inside the US can send their Form I-693 with the other required forms mentioned above.
  • Parents applying from outside the US should follow their instructions from the consulate processing and NVC to submit Form I-693 properly.
  1. Submit the Paperwork

Finally, it’s time to gather all of the forms, filing fees, and supporting documents and send them to the USCIS. We recommend that they include a cover letter that details everything included in the paperwork.

Adjustment of Status

Parents filing for their green card through Adjustment of Status should mail their packet of documents to the USCIS. This packet should include:

  • Form I-130
  • Form I-485
  • Your proof of relationship to your parent
  • Proof of your parent’s lawful status in the US
  • Your parents:
    • Government-issued ID with photograph (copy)
    • Two passport-size photos
    • Birth certificate (copy)
    • Form I-864

The USCIS may also require additional case-specific documents for your parent’s application. You can find the Form I-485 checklist here.

Consular Processing

After your parents file Form DS-260, they will receive a notice that the NVC received it (typically the same day). Their next step is submitting any required supporting documents, which can vary from consulate to consulate.

The most commonly needed items include:

  • Your birth certificate (copy)
  • Your passport photo page (copy)
  • Proof of domicile
  • Your parents:
    • Passport photo page and birth certificate (copies)
    • Any adoption documents (if applicable)
    • Marriage certificate/marriage termination document (copies)
    • Military record copies (if applicable)
    • Police clearance letters (if applicable)

Related: Divorce & Green Cards: What Happens Next

Consulates will have different requirements for how you provide these documents. You may have to physically mail them, email them, or upload them to a website. Upon submitting these documents, the NVC will combine all of the forms and materials before sending them to the consulate to process their case.

What Comes Next?

Once the USCIS receives your parent’s application, they’ll get a Form I-797C to confirm. They may also receive a Request for Evidence stating that the USCIS requires additional information before processing their application.

About two to three weeks after filing, your parents will usually receive a notice to attend a biometrics appointment that includes the time, date, and location they must report to. After that appointment, the USCIS will finish processing the application and send a notice for your parent’s green card interview. After the interview, their application will either be approved or rejected, depending on the examiner’s decision.

How An Immigration Attorney Can Help

An attorney working at his desk

The process of getting a green card for your parents is complex, requiring various forms, fees, and supporting documentation. A single missed step or misfiled form can set the entire process back, making your parents wait longer and raising the odds of USCIS rejecting the application.

At Brudner Law, our Orange County/Irvine immigration lawyers believe in helping your family stay together. We can provide our assistance to ensure that your green card filing goes smoothly and each step gets completed properly.

Consult with an experienced Orange County immigration attorney today — See how we can help get your parents their green cards.