As a Miami immigration attorney, I often am asked whether a stepchild relationship counts for immigration. The short answer is, yes – as a stepparent, you can certainly file an immigrant petition for your stepchild.

If you are a U.S. citizen or a green card holder (lawful permanent resident), you may be able to petition for your stepchildren to immigrate to the U.S. and receive legal permanent residence (green cards) in case they are not already U.S. citizens.

You can start the process by submitting a Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with other required documents. You also have to show evidence of your U.S. citizenship or demonstrate your status if you are a green card holder. Besides, you have to provide proof of a relationship with the stepchild or child in question. For example, in case a genetic father is filing a petition for a child he didn’t legitimate under the law. He would have to prove he had established a ‘bona fide parent-child relationship,’ meaning he was emotionally and financially involved in the child’s life before he or she had turned 21 years or got married.

In case of stepchildren, the parent-child relationship can be proved by your stepchild’s birth certificate, issued by civil authorities, a civil marriage certificate to your stepchild’s genetic or legal gestational parent, or with the proof of the legal termination of all previous marriages for you and/or the genetic parent or legal gestational mother.

Bear in mind that the USCIS processes the I-130 petitions by the Priority Date. Because of that, it’s essential to get onto the waitlist as soon as possible. Reach out to an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible to begin your new life in the U.S. together with your family.

Below are some frequently asked questions.

1. Do I have to adopt my stepchild in order to file for adjustment of immigration status for him/her?

You may file an immigrant petition for a stepchild without having to legally adopt your stepchild. However, please be aware that under U.S. law, a stepparent and the biological parent of the stepchild must get married before the child turns 18 years old.

You can file an immigrant visa petition for an adopted child as long as the child was younger than 16 when he or she was adopted, as well as if other legal conditions for a valid adoption are met. But, in this case, the process for getting a green card for a child can often be different.

2. My stepchild has already turned 18. What options do I have?

If your stepchild has already turned 18 years old, another option would be for the biological parent to petition for his/her child after his or her permanent residency status is obtained. At this juncture, I would strongly urge you and/or your family member to first consult with an immigration lawyer.

3. Is there any benefit to having a U.S. Citizen stepparent file for a stepchild?

Yes. By having the United States Citizen file for his/her stepchild, you may be able to avoid the visa backlogs currently experienced by legal permanent residents who are filing for their minor children (second preference category).

Also, in case a U.S. citizen is filing an immigrant visa petition for his or her stepchild, before preparing Form I-130, check your stepchild or stepchildren’s immigrant status. There is a chance they have already become U.S. citizens.

If you, as a U.S. citizen, want to file a petition for your spouse and a child you have with that spouse, file separate I-130 Forms, one for each person. But, if you are a green card holder and you want to petition for your spouse and the children you have together, you have to file a single I-130 Form for all of them, according to U.S. immigration laws.

4. I am the biological parent of a child who is already over 18 years of age, and I plan on marrying a United States Citizen. What options do I have?

You may want to consider postponing the marriage to give the child an opportunity to enter the U.S. faster. Here’s how – if you delay your marriage to the United States Citizen fiance, he/she can file a fiancé petition for you, the biological parent.

Once the fiancé petition is approved, K visas can be issued for both you (the biological parent) and your child to enter the U.S. After marrying your United States Citizen fiance, you and your child can apply for adjustment of status to switch from K to permanent resident status.

If you are wondering how long it would take for your stepchild to get an immigrant visa after filing Form I-130, the answer is – it depends. For example, unmarried children of U.S. citizens younger than 21 years are eligible for a green card as soon as they are done with the application procedure. On the other hand, children or stepchildren of green card holders could face several years of waiting before a green card is available.

If you think would like more information on filing a petition for stepchild immigration, please contact Miami immigration attorney at (512) 215-4407 or visit our website at www. mmurraylaw.com. Immigration attorney Michael G. Murray offers the comprehensive legal representation you need to navigate critical decisions in your stepchild immigration visa petition and make sure your outcome is successful.

Coronavirus update: We are safely open for business! USCIS is still accepting new filings for all applications. Our office is offering virtual consultations for new clients so that you don't have to come to our office in person. Call us to schedule your virtual meeting today.
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