Adjustment of Status for Parent Overview
Note: “Parent” will be used throughout but it should be understood to also include a stepparent. The stepparent must have been married to the stepchild’s biological parent before the stepchild’s 18th birthday.
A U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old can petition their parent for a green card.
If your parent is in the U.S., entered legally, and is otherwise “admissible”, then your parent can obtain a green card through the adjustment of status process. Some individuals are not “admissible”. Certain circumstances can make an individual inadmissible like entering unlawfully, being convicted of certain crimes, or engaging in fraud or misrepresentation.
The first part of the process is the submission of the Immigrant Relative Petition by the U.S. citizen for their parent. The petition confirms that the U.S. citizen would like to sponsor their foreign national parent for a green card and establishes the parent-child relationship.
The second part of the process is for the foreign national parent to submit an Application to Adjust Status in the U.S. from a nonimmigrant status to an immigrant status. This application is used to show that the parent is eligible to adjust their status in the U.S.
If the parent is in the U.S. and is “admissible,” then both the Immigrant Relative Petition and the Application to Adjust Status should be submitted simultaneously.
More Information on the Adjustment of Status Process for Your Parent
What if my parent has overstayed?
Even if your parent has overstayed a visa or accrued unlawful presence, they may still be able to apply for a green card through the parent-child relationship. A U.S. citizen petitioning for their parent qualifies as an immediate relative relationship. This relationship forgives certain immigration violations including overstaying a visa and accruing unlawful presence. It is VITAL, however, to discuss these violations before filing the green card application with an experienced immigration attorney.
What if my parent has worked unlawfully in the U.S.?
This is another violation that may be forgiven when a U.S. citizen petitions for their parent. It is important to discuss any work history your parent has had in the U.S. WITH YOUR ATTORNEY.
Affidavit of Support
The affidavit of support is an essential aspect of the green card application. The green card application will not be approved without meeting the affidavit of support requirements.
Any person submitting an affidavit of support is required to meet certain income and/or asset requirements. The U.S. citizen petitioning for their parent is required to complete an affidavit of support. If the U.S. citizen petitioner does not meet income and/or asset requirements on their own, then a joint sponsor will be necessary. A joint sponsor can be any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident 18 years old or older. In some scenarios, the foreign parent can use their assets for the affidavit of support and avoid the need for a joint sponsor.
The affidavit of support is a determinative document that helps the U.S. government assess whether the foreign national will likely become a “public charge” (receipt of certain Federal, state, or local means-tested public benefits). The affidavit of support is a contract between the petitioner/joint sponsors and the U.S. government and between the petitioner/joint sponsors and the foreign national. The contract provides that if the foreign national receives specific means-tested public benefits, the U.S. government can request reimbursement from the petitioning U.S. citizen and any joint sponsors. The contract also provides that the petitioning U.S. citizen and any joint sponsors are responsible to maintain the foreign national at an income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
A foreign national wishing to become a lawful permanent resident must undergo a medical examination as part of the green card application process.
Generally, the medical examination will consist of a complete medical history, vaccination overview, blood tests, chest X-rays, and a syphilis and gonorrhea test. Some of these tests can be waived by the physician to account for an individual’s specific medical history and age. The medical examination must be carried out by a physician designated by USCIS as a civil surgeon. You can review a list of USCIS civil surgeons here. The medical examination results are provided in a sealed envelope to the foreign national. The sealed envelope can be submitted with the adjustment of status application or handed in at the eventual interview. The sealed medical examination will remain valid for 2 years from the date the USCIS civil surgeon signs the sealed examination.
The medical examination assesses whether the foreign national seeking a green card meets health and vaccination conditions imposed by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). These conditions provide that foreign nationals who have certain communicable diseases of public health significance, have mental or physical disorders that may or have threatened the welfare of others, or are drug abusers cannot obtain a green card. Additionally, foreign nationals must be vaccinated against certain vaccine-preventable diseases. The vaccinations required are determined by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some of these conditions can be waived. To have any conditions waived, a waiver application with supporting documentation must be submitted with the adjustment application.
Your parent can apply for work authorization as part of the adjustment of status process. Work authorization will allow your parent to legally work in the U.S. while waiting for the green card. Your parent will also be able to apply for a social security number through the work authorization application.
Work authorization processing times have fluctuated from 3-5 months to approximately 11 months. Once the application is approved, your parent will receive a physical card, the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), in the mail. If they applied for a social security number, they will also receive a social security card in the mail.
The EAD may be valid for WORK ONLY or for BOTH work authorization and advance parole. Previously work authorization and advance parole were approved together, and individuals received a combo card that was valid for both. However, USCIS has moved away from this practice in favor of approving work authorization applications faster. As a result, they have been issuing two separate documents, the EAD for work authorization and a separate advance parole document.
When a foreign national submits an adjustment of status application they will not be able to travel outside of the U.S. until they obtain advance parole. If the foreign national does travel internationally while the green card application is pending, the foreign national will be deemed to have abandoned the green card application and the application will be denied. There are two exceptions to this. A foreign national present in the U.S. in the H-1B or L-1 visa status with a valid H-1B or L-1 visa in their passport will be able to travel internationally before obtaining advance parole.
Advance parole will allow your parent to depart the U.S. and seek re-entry into the U.S. while the green card application is pending. Advance parole can be applied for as part of the adjustment of status process. Advance parole processing times have fluctuated from 6-8 months to approximately 12 months. Your parent will receive the advance parole document in the mail and cannot travel internationally until they are in possession of the document.
You should be aware that if your parent does use advance parole to re-enter the U.S. after a trip abroad, they will be treated as an “arriving alien”. This can be problematic if they have any issues with their application as “arriving aliens” have fewer rights than other individuals in the U.S.
What happens after submission?
You and your parent will receive receipt notices in the mail which acknowledge that USCIS has received and accepted all parts of the application submitted. You, the U.S. citizen petitioner, will receive 1 receipt notice for the Immigrant Relative Petition, and your parent, the foreign national, will receive 3 separate receipt notices for the Application to Adjust Status, Work Authorization application, and Advance Parole application.
Shortly after submission, anywhere from about 1-3 months, your parent will be asked to appear for a biometrics appointment. Your parent will receive a notice in the mail outlining the day, time, and location of the appointment. Your parent will provide some biographic information, will be fingerprinted, and have their picture taken at the appointment. The purpose of this appointment is to gather enough information to conduct a background check on your parent.
The next steps consist of waiting for the approval of the work authorization application and advance parole, the interview, and the approval of the green card. (See below for more information on the interview timeline and approval timeline.)
Usually when applying for a green card an interview is required. However, for the parent-child relationship, the requirement of an interview is OFTEN waived. Still, receiving an interview does not mean there is an issue with the application but could just reflect a reviewing officer’s mode of operation or change in procedures at the time.
If an interview is needed, USCIS will send a notice in the mail approximately 4-6 weeks before the interview outlining the day, time, and location of the interview. If your parent receives a request to appear for an interview, Lightman Law Firm will thoroughly prepare you for this. You will know the documents needed, what to expect, and how to manage the interview itself.
If your parent is asked to go in for an interview, this will be towards the end of the process. It can take as little as 2 weeks for your parent to be approved after the interview to 2-4 months on average.
The big question. When will my parent be approved? This is a hard answer to provide. It will depend on where the parent lives. The green card application is adjudicated at your parent’s local USCIS field office which is determined by their physical residence. For some field offices, the approval timeline is a few months. In the NYC and NJ area, green card applications on average take about 12-18 months to be approved.
After your parent is approved as a lawful permanent resident, they will receive a 10-year green card. The card should be renewed several months before the card’s expiration, but card expiration will not affect your parent’s status as a permanent resident. For more information regarding your parent’s responsibility to renew the green card, see: Green Card Renewal.
The total filing fees for the green card application are $1,760. This is comprised of $535 for the Immigrant Relative Petition and $1,225 for the Adjustment of Status Application and Biometrics fee. Filing fees for the work authorization application and advance parole are waived when these two items are applied for as part of the green card application.
Our firm specializes in family immigration matters. Let us guide you through this long and extensive process. We will advocate for you every step of the way.