Family Picnic

Children of U.S. Citizens

United States immigration law makes a distinction between “children” (unmarried and under that age of 21) and “sons and daughters” (over the age of 21 and/or married).

If you are a United States Citizen, and you have a child who is under the age of 21 and unmarried, you may be able to petition for him or her to become a U.S. permanent resident. If your child is currently overseas, the first step is to file an immigrant visa petition for an immediate relative with United States Customs and Immigration (USCIS). Once your child’s visa petition is approved, he/she will have to attend an interview at the U.S. consulate in his/her home country before receiving an immigrant visa. Upon entering the United States on an immigrant visa, your child will become a permanent resident of the United States.

If your child is already in the United States, and is otherwise eligible, he/she may file an application to “adjust status” to that of a permanent resident without having to leave the country.

Keep in mind, children born overseas to a United States citizen parent automatically acquire U.S. citizenship at birth if certain requirements are met. Also, under the Child Citizenship Act, certain children of United States Citizens will automatically derive citizenship upon becoming permanent residents.

If you have a son or daughter who is married or over the age of 21, you can also petition to bring him or her to the United States by filing form I-130. Once your petition is approved and a visa number is available, your son or daughter will be able to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate overseas. The amount of time your son or daughter will have to wait for a visa to become available will depend on their home country, age, and marital status.

Happy Indian family at home. Asian parents piggyback their child

Children of U.S. Permanent Residents

United States permanent residents can also petition to bring their unmarried children of any age to the U.S. Unfortunately there is no provision for permanent residents to bring their married children to the U.S. The wait time for a visa will depend on whether the child is over or under the age of 21, as well as their home country. The wait time is significantly longer for children over the age of 21.

Adopted and Step-Children

The definition of a “child” under U.S. immigration law includes adopted or step-children under certain circumstances. For immigration purposes, an adoption generally must take place before the child’s 16th birthday. Likewise, a marriage which creates a step-parent/step-child relationship must take place before the child’s 18th birthday. However, be aware that a step-child is not considered a “child” for naturalization purposes.


If you would like to discuss your options, contact us today to set up a consultation.

The above information is provided for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice.