Your Guide To Bringing Your Child to the United States

Your Guide To Bringing Your Child to the United States

Parents who’ve immigrated to the United States often leave their children behind.

They may worry the journey to the U.S. is too rigorous or dangerous for little ones. 

Parents may also want to become established before bringing their children over. One parent may already hold U.S. citizenship, but it doesn’t always automatically apply to their stepchildren. Whatever the reason, helping your child legally enter the U.S. is a top priority.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to ensure your child can enter the country legally. The process can be complex, frustrating, and time-consuming, but the rewards are well worth the effort. If your child is a resident of another country, here’s what you should know about bringing them to the U.S.

Necessary Documents

Whether you’re bringing a biological or adopted child to the U.S. from another country, you’ll need to meet one of two requirements. You’ll either need to be a U.S. citizen or have a valid permanent residence, also known as a green card. 

Getting around this requirement is virtually impossible. The only exception may be if you can prove the child is in immediate danger. An example is if the child lives in a country currently experiencing war, revolts, or another type of armed conflict. An immigration lawyer can explain any exceptions and find out if they may apply in your case.

The U.S. considers anyone under the age of 21 a child, so this means even an eighteen-year-old may be able to legally enter the United States as their parent’s dependent. So, after digging out your U.S. passport, birth certificate, military I.D., driver’s license, state-issued I.D., or green card, you’ll need to gather a few more documents to satisfy immigration requirements.

Fill Out the Correct Form

After gathering the necessary documents to prove you’re a U.S. citizen or at least on your way to becoming one, the next step is to grab the correct immigration form. Yes, there’s more than one, and submitting the wrong one will delay your immigration case. 

So, what form do you need? Whether you’re the biological, adoptive, or stepparent, you want to fill out form I-130. Don’t forget to send in the filing fee with the form. Your form won’t be processed without the fee.

Along with providing proof of U.S. citizenship, you may also need to submit additional paperwork if you’ve changed your name. A marriage certificate or divorce decree can provide proof. You may also submit a court document or adoption decree. If your name hasn’t changed since birth, go ahead and skip this step since there’s nothing for you to submit beyond your citizenship paperwork.

Provide Proof of Relationship to the Child

Okay, this is when it can get a little confusing. The required paperwork can vary even with biological parents. Biological fathers typically need to supply a little more proof of their relationship to the child than mothers. 

Why? There isn’t a good answer. The most common response is it’s simply immigration law. So, dads get ready to dig for several documents.

While biological mothers only need to supply a copy of the child’s birth certificate. Biological fathers will need to produce the following:

  • Copy of the child’s birth certificate
  • Copy of the father’s marriage certificate establishing marriage to the child’s biological mother
  • If no longer married to the child’s biological mother, evidence of legal termination of a marriage
  • Evidence of an established parent-child relationship before the child turns 21 years of age (or marrying)

Don’t forget, that children 21 years and older don’t qualify for Form I-130. This also applies if the child is legally married.

So, what about if you’re a U.S. citizen and the stepparent to a child living in a foreign country? You’ll only need to provide the stepchild’s birth certificate and a legal marriage license with both your name and that of the child’s biological parent. The marriage must be legal and recorded. In other words, you can’t just say you’re married without going through all of the legal steps.

Stepparents will also need to provide proof that the original marriage is legally dissolved. Either a divorce decree or death certificate is usually enough to satisfy this immigration requirement.

Why do you need to prove the original marriage is legally over? You can’t legally bring a child to the United States to live permanently if your spouse is still married. Your marriage isn’t legal and you’re not the child’s step-parent.

If you’re an adoptive parent and the child has lived with you for at least two years, you can apply to bring them legally to the U.S. Yes, you’ll fill out Form I-130 and provide the following documents:

  • Copy of child’s original birth certificate
  • Copy of adoption decree
  • Evidence that the adoptive parent had two years of legal custody

Since out-of-country adoptions can be difficult to navigate, it’s often a good idea to work with a child immigration attorney. They can help make the process go a little more smoothly.

Average Processing Times

Okay, so nothing ever seems to move quickly when a government agency is involved. This applies to the child immigration process. Be prepared to wait, especially now that Title 8 processing is back.

If the child has a relative living in the United States, you may be lucky enough to get a priority date. This also means you don’t have to worry about visa availability. Yes, there are limits on the number of visas handed out each year. 

If you have a priority date, you can skip this concern. Since you’re applying for the child’s visa as a parent, you already meet the criteria for a priority visa.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the child will be in the U.S. in a day or so, but it can significantly shorten the wait time to weeks or months. At least you’ll know when the time comes, there’s a visa waiting for your child.

Don’t Go Through the Immigration Process Alone

Even if you’re a biological parent, it’s still a good idea to work with an experienced immigration attorney or at least an advocate. 

Not only can they help you with the paperwork, but they’re ready to answer any questions. In other words, they can help simplify the process so you can be reunited with your child.

Leave A Reply