If you are a US Citizen and looking to bring your parents from your home country to America to permanently live and work, you can easily apply a green card for your mother and father through filing the appropriate immigration applications to USCIS. The parents count as immediate relatives that means they can start to get a green card as soon as the petition is approved. Please note that you have to over 21 years of age and you need to have sufficient financial funds to sponsor your parents. If you are not yet over 21, you cannot sponsor your parents. If you don’t meet the financial requirement, which is detailed on I-864p, you must find others who are willing to sign on as a sponsor for your parents. As an single individual, and sponsoring just 1 parent, you are looking at least $19,662 of documented income or assets. The income/asset requirements go up as your household size goes up. The immigration petitions and applications themselves are also costly. The total cost is roughly $508 to the US Citizen, and $395 (not counting fees necessary for medical exam, obtaining home country’s civil documents) for the parent. If you are paying for your parent, you are looking at total application fees of a minimum $903 for each parent. Also, sponsoring your parent’s children (married or unmarried), is in a completely different category and will not be covered here. Please note, to the USCIS, if you were adopted, you cannot file for your birth parent as they are not considered your “legal” parent. The following are situations where you cannot apply for your parent:

  • your birth father/mother who has given you up for adoption
  • your birth father whom you had no contact/relationship with when you were under 21 or before you were married

Now, if you are ready, here is the step-by-step guide to start your process. Please note that you MUST file a separate application for your mother and father. Yes, that means 2x the fees and 2x the work. USCIS gets you like that. I will detail the entire guide for both the US Citizen and the parent who is abroad. If the parent is in the country already, then there is a separate process through adjustment of status which will be covered in another guide.

1. The US Citizen gathers important documents to demonstrate relationship

Filing a petition for your parent will require some documents to demonstrate that the person you are sponsoring is indeed your mother or father. The documents are different for each parent and also may be different in your particular situation.. All documents should be either original or certified copies. If they are not in English, they must be certified translated. If you have trouble producing the documents because your country uses a different system, check out my guide on country specific documents to use for your visa application.

  • For mother:
    • Your birth certificate showing your name and your mother’s name. If your name or your mother’s name was different at the time of birth, you must also provide legal documents on the name change for whoever that changed name, or both.
    • Your US Citizenship proof. Either your passport or your Naturalization Certificate, demonstrating that you are a US Citizen.
  • For father that was married to your mother at the time of your birth:
    • Your birth certificate showing your name and both your father’s and mother’s names. If your name or your father’s name was different at the time of birth, you must also provide legal documents on the name change for whoever that changed name, or both.
    • Your parent’s marriage certificate showing that they were married at the time of your birth
    • Your parent’s divorce certificate, death certificate or annulment certificates that shows your parents marriage ended legally (if they are no longer married)
    • Your US Citizenship proof. Either your passport or your Naturalization Certificate, demonstrating that you are a US Citizen.
  • For father that was NOT married to your mother at the time of your birth but later married before you turn 18:
    • Your birth certificate showing your name
    • Evidence that your father married your mother before you were 18: marriage certificates, common law marriages, whatever your home country dictates a valid marriage
    • If there were any name changes, provide all legal documents showing evidence of name change
    • Your US Citizenship proof. Either your passport or your Naturalization Certificate, demonstrating that you are a US Citizen
  • For father that was NOT married to your mother at the time of birth and never married:
    • Your birth certificate showing your name
    • Evidence of the father-child relationship such as pictures of trips together, letters, phone calls.
    • Evidence of an emotional and financial bond existed between you and your father, such as exchanging gifts, each other’s birthday parties.
    • Your US Citizenship proof: Either your passport or your Naturalization Certificate, demonstrating that you are a US Citizen
  • For an adoptive parent::
    • Your birth certificate showing your name
    • Certified official copy of your adoption decree, showing that the adoption of you to your step parents that was done legally before you were 16 years old
    • Sworn affidavit showing dates and places that you lived with your stepparents
    • Your US Citizenship proof: Either your passport or your Naturalization Certificate, demonstrating that you are a US Citizen
  • For step parent:
    • Your birth certificate showing your name and birth parents names
    • Civil marriage certificate of one of your birth parent to the step parent, showing their names and dates of marriage that occurred before your 18th birthday. If anyone’s names have changed, you must also provide legal documentation showing the name changes
    • If your birth and step parents are no longer married, provide legal divorce, death or annulment certificates showing the dissolution of the marriage. If anyone’s names have been change, also provide all legal documentation showing the name changes.
    • Your US Citizenship proof: Either your passport or your Naturalization Certificate, demonstrating that you are a US Citizen



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2. The US Citizen files I-130

The journey begins with the US citizen, who is the petitioner, filing a petition for the parent. The form to use is the I-130 (always get it fresh from USCIS). Fill out the form as instructed. Attach the documentations necessary from the above list of documents that is relevant to your situation. Send only the photocopies of each document. Do not send in originals! Your parent needs to send in originals in Step 7. For the address, you should use an address that you can receive mail without any issues for at least 2-3 months AFTER you have applied. The reason is simple: USCIS mails are not forwarded by USPS. Changing address with USCIS is also very problematic and sometimes do not work. You can use P.O. Box in the address for this form. You can also put your friend’s addresses, it does not have to be exactly the one you are living in now, if you plan on moving. If you absolutely have to move and no friends’ addresses can help you, try the guide to change mailing address after you move. Keep in mind this isn’t guaranteed. You need this address to be current so that you can receive your I-797C notice of action as well as the processing bill for I-864. The form’s filing fee is currently $420.

3. The I-130 is approved and notice sent to the US Citizen

Once your I-130 is approved, the case is forwarded from USCIS to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC is the organization that will handle the entire process from this point forward. They are the ones you send all documentation to, NEVER directly to the consulate or embassy of your parent’s home country. The consulate/embassy only takes documents from NVC and do not accept them directly. The NVC will first send a I-864 processing bill to the US Citizen, which is currently at $88. Pay the fee as instructed.

4. The US Citizen submits I-864 affidavit of support

Once the fee is paid, the NVC will ask the US Citizen to fill out a I-864 to demonstrate that the US Citizen has enough financial resources to support the parent once they immigrate to America without any government support. You need to provide at least 3 years of Federal Tax returns as well as job information to prove steady income. You can also add savings account statements here if you have significant amount of money saved. Employment is more important though, so make sure both you and your spouse have steady jobs with steady incomes. Assets are counted 1/5 of their value, so for example if you own a $200,000 car, it is counted as $40000. For actual residence address, you can put the one that you are currently living in. Submit the form to the correct address as it shows on the NVC instructions.

5. Give the case number to the parent to start DS-261

At this point, you should also have received a case number for this petition. Give the case number to your parent(s) who are going to immigrate. They need to file a DS-261 online (http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/forms/online-immigrant-visa-forms.html). This is to get them to start being involved in the petition. Fill out the address that can receive mails without any issues for 7-9 months. This is the address that the NVC will use to communicate with your parents, regarding any documents they might need, and the interview dates at the consulate/embassy of their home country. This is important, do not use an address that may not be able to receive mails because otherwise the letters from NVC will get lost and you would never know what is going on with the immigration petition and all the fees will be lost.

6. NVC sends Immigration Visa bill to the parent

The parent(s) overseas will receive an Immigration Visa bill from NVC. The fee is currently $230. The US Citizen can pay the bill online for the parent.

7. NVC sends Packet 3 to the parent

The Packet 3, also called Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants, is the most important part of the process. This package requires the parent to submit all necessary documents to be reviewed by NVC and once everything is good, an interview will be scheduled. The package will take some time to assemble but if you have all the documents ready, it should be ok. Also keep in mind the package varies from country to country. The typical documents required are: (remember some countries could need others)

  • Photocopy of a valid passport biographical page
  • 2 identical 2 inch by 2 inch passport photographs. Check my guide on how to make your own
  • Original Birth certificates of your parent. The NVC understands some countries use different methods of recording birth and will accept your parent’s local version of the birth certificate. Check the instructions of the Package 3
  • Certified copy of adoption documentations, if any, showing dates and places
  • Original or certified copy of marriage certificates. Again the NVC knows this varies country by country so if there is a local version that is prevalent, use that. Check the instructions to be sure
  • Original or certified copies of divorce documentation, if any.
  • A copy of military service record, if any. Because this will vary by country, submit whatever is available locally
  • Original police certificates issued by the police/law enforcement agency of the country. The police certificate must cover the entire period of time of residence in the current area.
  • Certified copies of court or prison records, if any, to show any crimes that were committed and convicted
  • Original or certified copies of the US Citizen’s birth certificate
  • Original or certified copies of the US Citizen’s marriage certificate, if any.
  • If you have previously been removed from US, you must file I-212 for permission to reapply after deportation.

Remember to send with your documents:

  • Barcode cover letter that you received from NVC
  • Your own cover letter listing all documents that you are submitting
  • Immigrant Visa fee receipt

8. NVC receives Packet 3 documents and sends Packet 4 to the parent

Once NVC receives all the necessary documents in Packet 3, they will send Packet 4 to the parent. This will include

  • Interview appointment letter at the local embassy/consulate.
  • Instructions for medical examination.
  • List of documents to bring to the interview, if any.

Packet 4 is also called Appointment Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants. Time to get Packet 4 varies, from 1 month to 4 months after sending in Packet 3.

9. The parent(s) go get the medical examination

Follow the instructions in Packet 4 to do the medical examination. They will likely specify particular doctors that you have to go to for medical exams. This cost will vary by country.

10. The appointment interview at the local embassy/consulate

Make every effort to show up on time for the interview. The consular officer will ask you multiple questions about the documents that you have submitted and answers that you have provided on your immigration forms to verify their accuracy. You may also be questioned about the nature of your relationship and other questions about your life with the US Citizen. At the end of the interview, you will be required to take an oath and sign Part II of form DS-230, affirming that everything in your application is true. If the officer has any reason to doubt that your case is real, they may send your application back to USCIS for reexamination. Otherwise, your immigrant visa application will be approved. If your application is denied, it will be reviewed by a supervising officer, who may also request that the State Department review the application. Denials may not be appealed.

11. Receive an approval notice and sealed envelope called Visa Packet

If you are successful, you should receive an approval notice in the mail and a Visa Packet. This packet is very important. DO NOT OPEN IT. This is to be opened by the immigration officer at the port of entry in USA when the parent arrives in America. The packet will also contain original documents that were submitted to NVC. Tell your parents to make travel arrangements to America. You have to pay a fee if you receive your immigrant visa on or after February 1, 2013. You must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after you receive your immigrant visa and before you travel to the United States. (IR-3, IH-3, IR-4, IH-4, SB-1, SI-1, SI-2, SI-3, SQ-1, SQ-2, SQ-3, K-1, K-2, K-3, and K-4 visa holders will not pay the fee.) Select USCIS Immigrant Fee on the USCIS website for more information. USCIS will not issue a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 or Green Card) until you have paid the fee.

12. Arrive in America and get the green card stamp

Once your parent arrive in America, and gives the sealed Visa Packet to the immigration officer at the airport, they will admit the parent into the USA as a permanent resident. The officer will stamp a I-551 stamp into the passport and this will serve as the temporary green card. Use this stamp in the passport to live and work in America until the real green card arrives in the mail. If you do not receive your green card within 30 days of your arrival, please call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or visit your local office by making an InfoPass appointment.

Good Luck!

4 thoughts on “Guide to immigrating your parents to America – part A

  1. Pingback: Guide to immigrating your parents to America - part B - IMMIGRATE TO AMERICA

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  3. Pingback: Family Based Green Cards Common Questions and Answers - Part Three | IMMIGRATE TO AMERICA

  4. Sitegar

    Hi Ray,謝謝您的建議!目前我進展到談offer letetr 了美國公司將在4/1幫我遞出H1B申請,在10/1 之前,我將加入他們海外分公司,用B1 在US/Taiwan 間travel ,直到10/1後,我將在US on board 並帶家人過去我要問的是,美國那邊是只要幫我辦H1B,我拿到I-797後,就可以到AIT辦H1B及家人的H4 visa嗎?還是針對家屬的部分,美國那邊還需要另外提供申請H4的support 文件?(因為我在offer letetr 上只見到公司要sponsor 我H1B並沒提及H4thanks,AL

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