Family Petitions for Children

If the petitioner is a U.S. citizen, they are eligible to petition for:

  1. A child (unmarried and under 21 years of age)
  2. An unmarried son or daughter ( 21 years of age and older)
  3. 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 an unmarried, minor child was admitted or paroled into the U.S., he or she may file to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent resident at the time the relative petition is filed.

If the petitioner is a lawful permanent resident, they are eligible to petition to petition for:

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

Please Note: a lawful permanent resident may not petition for a married son or daughter.

If a person had children before you became a permanent resident and they did not immigrate as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, their unmarried, minor children may be eligible to receive following-to-join benefits without filing a separate petition.

There is a 3-step process for a child or son or daughter to become a legal immigrant.

  1. Obtain USCIS approval of an immigrant visa petition filed on behalf of a child, son or daughter.
  2. The State Department must then give the son or daughter an immigrant visa number, even if he or she is already in the United States. If the petitioner is a U.S. citizen and the child is both under 21 years of age and unmarried, a visa number is not required.
  3. If the 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 the 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.

Definition of a Child

The immigration law defines a “child” as an unmarried person under the age of 21 who is:

  1. A child born to parents who are married to each other (born in wedlock)
  2. A stepchild if the marriage creating the step relationship took place before the child reached the age of 18
  3. A child born out of wedlock (the parents were not married at the time the child was born). Note: If the father is filing the petition, proof of a bona fide (real and established) relationship with the father must be supplied.
  4. An adopted child if the child was adopted before the age of 16 and has lived with the adoptive parent(s) in their legal custody for at least two years
  5. An orphan under the age of 16 when an adoptive or prospective adoptive parent files a visa petition on his or her behalf, who has been adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen or is coming to the U.S. for adoption by a U.S. citizen, or
  6. A child adopted who is under the age of 18 and the natural sibling of an orphan or adopted child under the age of 16, if adopted with or after the sibling.  The child must also otherwise fit the definition of orphan or adopted child

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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