Immigrant Visa For Parent Overview

Schedule Your Consultation
Immigrant Visa 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 lives abroad probably the best option to obtain a green card for your parent is to apply via the immigrant visa process (also known as consular processing). Through this method, your parent is applying for an immigrant visa which will be granted and approved at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. The immigrant visa issued to your parent will be used to enter the U.S. and once they are admitted they will enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). (Please see below for more information in connection with approval.)

The immigrant visa process consists of three parts.

  1. Filing The Immigrant Petition. The first step requires the submission of an immigrant petition to USCIS by the U.S. citizen on behalf of their parent. The focus of the immigrant petition is to prove the parent-child relationship and to indicate that the U.S. citizen wants to sponsor the foreign national parent for permanent residency.
  2. National Visa Center. After the immigrant petition is approved, the case is transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC) for some processing. The NVC contacts the U.S. citizen, the parent, and the attorney of record by email with instructions to sign into the case online. Through the account online the NVC requests payment of relevant fees and various documents from the U.S. citizen and parent. The documents required at this point include the affidavit of support and its supporting material, Form DS-260, birth certificates, police certificates, marriage certificates, and potentially court and military records. The NVC reviews everything submitted. After its review, the NVC contacts all parties confirming acceptance of the documents and that your parent has been placed in line for an interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate
  3. U.S. Embassy/Consulate Interview. The last step is the interview your parent has at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad. The U.S. Embassy/Consulate contacts all parties when an interview has been scheduled. Your parent will need to conduct a medical exam prior to the interview to comply with health and vaccination requirements set by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). At the interview, your parent will present various civil documents and affidavit of support documentation. The interview focuses on information about your parent specifically and evidencing the parent-child relationship.

Additional Information on the Immigrant Visa for Parent


Processing times for the immigrant visa process for a parent vary greatly. Generally, the process can take about 1.5-2 years, but it can also take longer.

For the first part of the process, the filing of the immigrant petition, processing times often fluctuate but currently, it is taking about 12-15 months for the petition to be approved.
NVC processing can take approximately 2-6 months.

Processing for the last part of the process, the interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate, is hard to predict because this is specific to each U.S. Embassy/Consulate. The U.S. Embassy/Consulate schedules the immigrant visa interview based on their appointment availability. Certain Embassies/Consulates have more availability and can schedule an interview about 2-5 months after NVC processing, while others have a longer wait.

The 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.

Medical Exam

A foreign national wishing to become a lawful permanent resident must undergo a medical examination as part of the green card application process. For the immigrant visa process, there will usually only be 1-3 embassy-approved physicians per country that are able to conduct the medical examination. Generally, the 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 results are either sent directly to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate where the foreign national will have their interview or will be provided in a sealed envelope to the foreign national to hand in at their interview.

The medical examination assesses whether the foreign national seeking a green card meets health and vaccination conditions imposed by the 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 the INA health and vaccination conditions can be waived. To have any conditions waived, a waiver application with supporting documentation must be submitted to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate at the interview.

Travel to the U.S. during Immigrant Visa Process

The immigrant visa process DOES NOT provide your parent any underlying benefit to travel to or stay in the U.S. while undergoing this process. If your parent would like to travel to or be physically present in the U.S. while this process is pending, they must have a U.S. visa.

If your parent does have a U.S. visa and wants to travel to the U.S. while the process is pending, they could receive increased scrutiny when they attempt to enter. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer may be able to see that your parent is going through this process while processing your parent’s entry. The officer could assume that your parent is attempting to enter the U.S. to complete the green card process in the U.S. While each situation is different and this situation should be discussed with your attorney, it is possible to clarify this situation by explaining that the green card process is being pursued via the immigrant visa process.

The Interview

Your parent will have an interview at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad. The interview will focus on details about your parent specifically. The Form DS-260 your parent completed at the NVC stage will guide the interview. The DS-260 gathers extensive history about your parent, such as residential, work, family, U.S. immigration history, and information aimed to assess your parent’s “admissibility”, which is your parent’s eligibility to become a lawful permanent resident. The questions at the interview will cover the information asked about on the DS-260.

Throughout this process, you and your parent will have submitted copies of various civil and financial documents, and at the interview, your parent will be expected to present originals of most of these documents.

The best way to tackle the interview is to be thoroughly prepared. Be sure to discuss the DS-260 with your attorney ahead of time. If you had to provide an explanation to a question on the DS-260, then the topic will likely be discussed at the interview. That’s okay! The interview is a conversation with a person and after an interview prep session with our firm, your parent will be prepared for this conversation.


Your parent will know at the conclusion of the interview if they have been approved! Your parent’s passport will be taken away so that an immigrant visa can be placed inside. They will receive instructions on how the passport with the immigrant visa will be returned to them.

The immigrant visa will be valid for a period of a few months and your parent has until its expiration to enter the U.S. When your parent is ready to enter the U.S., they will present the immigrant visa when going through customs. Your parent will most likely be taken to a secondary inspection to process their entry. After processing is done your parent will be admitted into the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Your parent will receive an I-551 endorsement in their passport which will evidence their status as a lawful permanent resident for 1 year. This is needed because it can be several months before the green card arrives in the mail.

Your parent will eventually 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 a lawful permanent resident’s responsibility to renew their green card, see: Green Card Renewal.


A denial at the immigrant visa interview does not have to be final. An individual can be denied at the immigrant visa interview for countless reasons. There could be documentation missing, some issues could have arisen during the interview, and sometimes it could simply be an error.

If your parent is not approved for the immigrant visa, they should be given a written 221(g) letter outlining the decision reached by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. The visa will have been denied under section 221(g) of the INA because the consular officer will have deemed your parent not eligible for the immigrant visa. The letter will provide details on the denial including whether new information or documentation must be provided, or if the case has been placed under additional administrative processing.

Again, a denial does not have to be final. The specific reason for the denial should be reviewed and assessed by an experienced immigration lawyer to determine the best options moving forward.

The total filing fees for the green card application via the immigrant visa process are $1,200. This is comprised of $535 for the Immigrant Relative Petition, $325 for the Immigrant Visa Application Processing fees, $120 for the Affidavit of Support fee, and $220 for the Immigrant Fee (fee associated with the issuance of the physical green card).


Our firm specializes in family immigration matters. Let us guide you through this complex process. We will advocate for you every step of the way.

Our Immigration Insight

Grace Period Improvements to certain Work Visas
Our I-751 has been denied, now what?
How to Select an Immigration Lawyer for Your H-1B Visa Application