Can green card holders immigrate their parents to the US?
There are many different legal status categories under immigration law. Each category carries with it different rights and privileges. United States citizens, either by birth or through naturalization, carry more privileges and rights than lawful permanent residents. One notable distinction is who they can sponsor. While U.S. citizens can sponsor their parents living abroad to immigrate to the United States, lawful permanent residents do not have the same privilege.
Lawful Permanent Residents
Under immigration law, green card holders are known as lawful permanent residents or LPRs for short. A green card holder or LPR has many rights and privileges that U.S. citizens have. For example, a green card holder is legally authorized to live in the U.S. permanently. LPRs can travel freely within the U.S. They can also leave the U.S. and return. Green card holders, just like U.S. citizens, can attend public schools, get a driver’s license, obtain a social security number and Medicare benefits. LPRs are also legally authorized to work and can accept offers of employment without special restrictions. They can own property receive financial assistance at public colleges.
In the U.S., there are many different pathways to immigration. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) creates several avenues of admission to foreign nationals who wish to immigrate to the U.S. However, the most common method to gain admission into the U.S. is through family reunification. That means that non-citizens with some type of status, like a green card or a U.S. citizen, can immigrant their family members living abroad. However, a lawful permanent resident can only sponsor certain family members.
Who Can Lawful Permanent Residents Sponsor?
U.S. immigration law allows for a lawful permanent resident, often referred to as a green card holder, to immigrate certain family members. These special family categories are provided by law. Usually, before any one immigrates to the U.S., they must have a valid visa for travel. To promote family united, the immigration laws allow certain petitions for family members. The petition provides the legal basis for a family member to come to the U.S. with the intention of permanently living here with the rest of their family.
The law allows lawful permanent residents to immigrate their spouses when they are living abroad. Green card holders can also immigrate their unmarried child under the age of 18. LPRs can also sponsor their children over the age of 18 to come permanently live in the U.S.
However, unlike U.S. citizens, immigration laws do not enable green card holders to immigrate their parents. That means that a LPR living in the U.S. cannot sponsor to bring their parents who are living abroad. No category exists under the law that would allow lawful permanent residents to enter the U.S. in this category.
While a green card holder cannot petition for their parents who live abroad, there are alternatives. If you are a green card holder and wish to sponsor you parents to come into the U.S., you can seek U.S. citizenship.
Immigration laws allow U.S. citizens to petition for their parents who live outside of the U.S. The U.S. citizen child must be 18 years old when they seek to sponsor their parents. The parents will qualify for an immediate visa. After the petition based on the child/parent relationship is approved, the parent will also have to consular process.
Lawful permanent residents can apply to become U.S. citizens when they meet certain eligibility requirements. Generally, to qualify for U.S. citizenship, a lawful permanent resident must hold green card status for at least five years. The person must also be 18 years old when submitting a Naturalization application. Lastly, the green card holder must physically be present in the U.S. for 30 months out of the five years immediately preceding the application filing. If the application is approved, the green card holder must also take an oath. After complying with these requirements, a green card holder’s status can change to a U.S. citizen. With that, they enjoy the rights and privileges of being an American citizen. This includes petitioning for parents.
There are many reasons why a green card holder may not want to wait to become a U.S. citizen before having their parents in the U.S. Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney will help you discuss your options. While your parents may not be able to travel with the intention of permanently living in the U.S. with you, they may be able to seek a visitor’s visa. There may also be other temporary visas that allow your parents to travel. Our experienced lawyers can ensure that you choose an option that works best for your family.
Attorney Domingo Castillo is a workers’ compensation & personal injury lawyer who serve Southern California from our 5 offices: Indio, Pomona, Riverside, San Diego & Calexico.