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Green Card for Kids: Is it Different?

How to Obtain a Green Card for a Child?

Caring for Your Child

The process of getting a green card for a child is slightly different from the process of getting a green card for an adult. Some children born outside of the United States may not need a green card if at least one of their parents is a United States citizen. 

Here’s what you need to know about the process of obtaining permanent resident status for a child in the United States.

What Is a Green Card?

A green card is the special card given to permanent residents of the United States. A permanent resident card (which is primarily green in color) serves as proof that you’re a documented immigrant. 

Permanent residents of the United States are awarded more rights and freedoms than non-immigrants. A green card allows you to build a life in the United States and participate in American society for as long as you hold a valid green card. 

Green Card for Kids: How It Differs

Children cannot request green cards for themselves. They need an adult to petition for them, and that adult needs to be a permanent resident of the United States or a United States citizen. 

The adult must have an established relationship with the child as a biological parent, adoptive parent, or step-parent. 

Children can also be derivative beneficiaries of immigrant visa petitions filed on behalf of a parent, whether by a family member or employer. The child must be under 21 and unmarried at the time an immigrant visa is available to their parent to derive benefits. 

Who Can You Petition for a Green Card?

If you’re a permanent resident of the United States, you can petition for any child with whom you have a parental relationship. This includes children born in wedlock, children born out of wedlock, children conceived through IVF, children carried by a surrogate who lived overseas, a stepchild, or an adopted child. 

You will need to petition for a green card for your children if you’re a permanent resident. If you’re a United States citizen, your biological children may already be U.S. citizens and, therefore, not need a petition.

If your child is a citizen at birth, it doesn’t matter where in the world your child was born. You’ll work with the U.S. consulate or U.S. embassy nearest where the child was born. They will provide you with a special record called a Consular Report of Birth Abroad to accompany your child’s birth certificate. Unlike biological children, stepchildren born to foreign parents cannot be automatically awarded U.S. citizenship.

If you adopt a child overseas, that child is considered an immigrant and will need a visa to enter the United States before they can move through the process of becoming a permanent resident or a United States citizen. 

How Much Does a Green Card for a Kid Cost?

The total cost of a green card for a kid depends on the number of forms you need to file. The immigrant visa petition is $535. If the child is in the U.S., they will likely need to pay the green card application fee is $750 to $1,225 depending upon age and whether filing with a parent. You’ll also have to pay other fees such as for the immigrant visa application, translation services, and medical examination. The total cost is usually less than $1,500. 

What Is the Green Card Interview for Kids Like?

Very young children don’t necessarily need to attend a green card interview. Babies, toddlers, and small children obviously will not have criminal histories, and they cannot commit fraud. A one-year-old child isn’t capable of understanding or responding to any of the questions the interviewer would ask, so it doesn’t make much sense to schedule an interview. 

USCIS will get all the information they need from the child’s parents if the child is under 14 years of age. If the child is 14 years of age or older, they must attend the interview with their parent. Teens can answer basic questions in a green card interview. The interviewer will ask the child questions to verify their identity in terms they can easily understand. 

If the child is 18 years of age or older, the interview process will essentially be the same as it would be for any adult. The biggest difference is that USCIS may require you to be present for the interview if you and your child are currently in the same country. 

If your child is attending their interview abroad, you don’t need to travel to them. 

Can Kids Living Abroad Get Green Cards?

Kids living abroad can receive immigrant visas to enter the United States. Many parents of children living abroad prefer to apply for a green card on behalf of their child while the child is still living abroad. 

The process of obtaining a green card can take a long time. Parents can use consular processing to apply for immigrant visas on behalf of their children while their children are still living in a different country. When the child’s immigrant visa application has been approved, their children can use it to enter the United States, and they will be considered lawful permanent residents upon their arrival. Their green cards will be mailed to them shortly after arrival.

Children can visit the United States on a tourist visa while their green card application is pending, but travel can be tricky. In order to obtain a tourist visa, you have to express intent to return to your home country. If you have a green card application pending, it can be harder to prove that you intend to return when your authorized period of stay expires.

If you have a return ticket for your child and proof of enrollment at a school in their home country, it may prove that your child intends to return home while their immigrant visa petition is still processing. You may need the help of an experienced immigration attorney if your child intends to travel to the United States before receiving their green card.

Can Kids Living in the United States Get Green Cards?

If the child is in the United States, you may be able to file for an adjustment of status for the child while they’re still in the United States. Eligibility for adjustment of status will depend upon several factors, including the petitioner’s immigration status and the child’s manner of entry. 

If you use a K visa to bring your future spouse to the United States, you may also get K visas for their children. You do not need to adopt your spouse’s children in order to help them get green cards. You can petition for your spouse’s children to receive K visas if you intend to marry before the child’s 18th birthday. 

You can file for an adjustment of status for your spouse and your new stepchildren after you’ve filed your marriage certificate.

How Long Do You Have To Wait for a Green Card for a Child?

Green card processing for minor children usually takes between one and two years. It’s important to start the process as early as possible to avoid delays that may lengthen the processing stage. 

If you make a mistake or forget an important form, processing of your request can be delayed.

Many people choose to hire an immigration attorney to help them review the necessary paperwork. An attorney knows what to look for, and a thorough approach can help you avoid unintended delays due to missing forms or incomplete information. 

Forms Related to the Green Card for Kids: What To Know

When you apply for a green card for a child, you’ll need to file the right forms for your situation. These forms are commonly used during the green card process for kids. 

The process is slightly different for stepchildren, married adult children, unmarried adult children, and adopted children. If you’re unsure of what forms to use, an immigration lawyer may be able to help.

Form I-130

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is a form that United States citizens and permanent residents can use to petition for their family members who are citizens of other countries to immigrate to the United States. 

This form is used to determine whether there is a qualifying parent-child relationship. When approved, the child can officially apply for permanent resident status.

You can use this form when your child is living in the United States and needs an adjustment of status to become a permanent resident. You can also use this form to request consular processing for a child living abroad.

Form I-485

Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is the form you’ll use to apply for your child’s status to be adjusted to lawful permanent resident. This form is the official request for a green card. You may be able to file this Form at the same time you file the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

When this form is approved, your child will become a permanent resident of the United States and receive their green card in the mail. During the process, you and your child may receive an interview date. USCIS will tell you what documents to bring, but it’s best to assume that any document that verifies your child’s identity and your parent-child relationship is necessary.

Forms DS-260 

If you’re applying for an immigrant visa for your child, you’ll need to fill out a form online. The DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application is necessary to process your child’s immigrant visa. 

You only have to submit them online along with required supporting evidence. Your child will not need physical copies of the form. 

Form I-693

Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, is necessary for people seeking green cards in the United States.

Your child will need to be examined by a designated civil surgeon, who will check to be sure that your child doesn’t have any communicable diseases that may be hazardous to public health. The civil surgeon won’t exclude your child if they have an illness that cannot be transmitted to others, like asthma or diabetes. 

You also need to provide your child’s vaccination records. If your child doesn’t have all the vaccines necessary for immigration, your child will need to get those vaccines before immigrating. 

When the civil surgeon receives proof of vaccination, they will sign off on the medical examination form. This form should be submitted with your child’s official petition to become a permanent resident. 

Children applying for immigrant visas through consular processing must also go through a medical examination and submit proof of vaccination. The process varies from country to country so it is best to follow the country-specific guidance found on the U.S. Department of State’s website.

Form I-864

Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA, is a form that shows that you have the ability to financially support the relative you’re petitioning for permanent resident status. 

If you’re seeking permanent resident status on behalf of someone, the government wants to know that you’ll be responsible for meeting their needs. You’re responsible for reimbursing the government if they receive public assistance benefits. 

The government needs to see proof of your income. Your income must be at least 125% above the poverty level for your household size to sponsor an immigrant. If your income alone isn’t enough to sponsor someone, you can have a joint sponsor fill out an affidavit of support. 

They will also have to share the sponsorship responsibility with you, which means that they’ll be responsible for public assistance requests on behalf of the immigrant you’re sponsoring.

The Bottom Line on Green Cards for Kids

It’s important to have your children close to you. If you’re currently a permanent resident of the United States, you want your children to join you. There’s a lot of paperwork involved and an often-lengthy waiting period. 

An experienced immigration attorney can help you streamline the process and reduce the chances that you’ll run into obstacles throughout the process.

If you need help obtaining a green card for a child, Cohen, Tucker & Ades can help. We have over 40 years of experience helping immigrants and their families build vibrant lives in America as permanent residents and naturalized U.S. citizens. 

Contact us if you need assistance with your child’s immigration case.


Birth of U.S. Citizens Abroad | U.S. Department of State | Bureau of Consular Affairs

Chapter 5 – Interview Guidelines | USCIS

Form I-693, Instructions for Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record | USCIS

Interview Preparation | U.S. Department of State | Bureau of Consular Affairs


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