Petition for Stepchild Immigration: The Complete Guide
Interested in filing a petition for stepchild immigration? Find out how with Michael G. Murray, P.A.
What Is a Petition for Stepchild Immigration?
According to statistics from the American Immigration Council, in 2018, there were about 4.9 million immigrants (foreign-born individuals) living in Texas, comprising 17% of the state’s population. When people migrate, they usually leave their families behind in their home country. Fortunately, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR) are eligible to file a petition for their children or stepchildren living overseas to immigrate to the United States and receive their green cards.
A process under the umbrella of family immigration, a visa petition for the immigration of a stepchild can be described as the process whereby a person (specifically a step-parent) who is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident files an immigration petition for their child or stepchild, who isn’t already a U.S citizen, to migrate to the U.S. and become a lawful permanent resident. For the purpose of this, a “stepchild” refers to the biological child of a foreign-born spouse married to a U.S. citizen or individual with permanent resident status. Therefore, you (the spouse – American citizen or lawful permanent resident) will be making a request for your stepchild or stepchildren.
If you’re trying to file an immigrant visa petition for your stepchild, consulting with an experienced Austin immigration attorney is crucial for proper guidance. At the Law Office of Michael G. Murray, P.A., we are dedicated to offering experienced legal guidance and strong advocacy to clients in legal matters of immigration, including stepchild immigration. Attorney Michael G. Murray will be available to discuss your personal situation and help you understand your possible legal options to unite you with your stepkids.
Our law firm is proud to serve clients across Austin, TX, and nearby communities. If you’re considering filing an immigrant visa petition for your stepchild immigration, Attorney Michael G. Murray will prepare a solid application on your behalf, guide you through every step involved, and fight compassionately to ensure that your stepchild immigration petition is granted so that he or she can enjoy all privileges of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residence.
How to Complete an Immigration Petition for Stepchild
The immigration petition for stepchild process begins by submitting a visa petition on Form I-130, including supporting documents and a specified fee. You can visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) online to download the I-130 Form for free. It is often advisable to fill the form on your computer. However, if you’re filling manually, ensure that you use a pen with black ink.
Once you have filled, prepared, and assembled all your forms, make photocopies and keep them for your personal records. You can file the petition online or mail the entire petition package to the USCIS “lockbox” detailed here. Once you have paid the specified fees, your petition will be forwarded to the USCIS Service Center for further processing. You will be contacted if additional information is required from you. It often takes a few months to a year before the USCIS makes a decision on your I-130 petition.
While this process can be completed on your own, it’s best to seek legal guidance when doing so to give your family the best chances of being quickly united. A knowledgeable immigration attorney can help review your form and ensure that all details are accurate.
Form I -130 Checklist for Child
Children for whom you can file a petition for immigration using the USCIS Form I-130 include:
- Natural-born children born to married parents
- Natural-born children born to unmarried parents
- Stepchildren, provided that the American petitioner and the child’s mother or father get married before the child turned 18, and the parents remain married.
If you want your children to be eligible to live in the United States and get a green card, you have to prove that you are actually the parent of your foreign-born children. Proof of parentage or the relevant parent-child relationship for the petitioner’s biological child or children can be proven with the child’s birth certificate. In other cases, this process can be more complicated.
In case a biological child was born out outside the marriage (child born out of wedlock), whose father hadn’t legitimated them before they turned 18, the father-child relationship has to be proven. That is referred to as ‘bona fide parent-child relationship’ and includes financial ties, as well as concern and interest by the father for the child’s welfare and support. These documents can provide proof of parentage.
Before you can be allowed to bring your stepchildren to the United States, you must present your legal and valid marriage certificate. This will be verified by the U.S. government.
Furthermore, at the time of petitioning, the child must be under 21 years of age. Also, the child must be below 21 years at the time of receiving the green card. However, in many cases, the child may be able to qualify for approval if they turn 21 in the process of waiting for a green card or immigrant visa.
In addition, under the USCIS interpretation, the new spouse of the child’s parent has to establish a legal relationship with the stepchild. That can be done by the stepparent adopting the child or obtaining legal custody of the child. In addition, the legal relationship can also be proven if the marriage between the stepparent and parent creates that type of connection between the child and the stepparent under the law.
How Long Does It Take to Process Stepchild Immigration Visa Petition?
The time it takes to process a stepchild immigration visa petition usually varies depending on whether the family member falls under the category of an immediate relative or a second-preference relative.
Unmarried minor children (below the age of 21) of U.S. citizens are referred to as “immediate relatives” under U.S. immigration laws. They are eligible for a green card immediately once their application has been approved or completed.
Unmarried minor children (below 21 years old) of green card holders are referred to as “second preference relatives” under category F2A. Unfortunately, only a limited number of green cards are allocated per year. Thus, your child or stepchild may have to wait for a couple of years before the green card is available. If you have any questions about this, immigration attorney Michael G. Murray can give you more information as it applies to your case.
Child Immigration – Is It Easier to Petition for Stepchild or Adopted Child?
As mentioned earlier, the processing time to petition for a stepchild to receive a green card depends on whether the petitioner is an American citizen or a lawful permanent resident, as well as the relationship between the petitioner and the child (parent or sibling). The processing time can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months.
What’s more, just like a stepchild, a petitioner may also be able to bring an adopted child to the U.S. and request their green cards provided that the child was adopted before he or she turned 16 years old. In the case of stepchildren, the petitioner can prove a relationship with the child with a marriage certificate. For adopted children, the petitioner can show the relationship with the child with the adoption decree. Also, the adopted child must meet all other conditions required for a valid adoption under Texas laws. For example, the adopted child has to be in legal custody or live with the adoptive parent or parents for at least two years.
Generally, the process to petition for an adopted child to immigrate to the United States and receive a green card is different. Instead of Form I-130, the adoptive parent will be filing a petition (Form I-800) for Alien Relative. Read our blog on immigration through adoption for more information.
Work With an Experienced Petitioner Immigration Lawyer in Austin, Texas
Sponsoring a stepchild for U.S. permanent residency involves several complexities. If you need help bringing your stepchildren to the United States, contact the Law Office of Michael G. Murray, P.A. today to schedule a one-on-one consultation.
Attorney Michael G. Murray can offer you the comprehensive legal counsel, advocacy, and strong representation you need to navigate key decisions in your stepchild immigration visa petition and ensure a successful outcome.
Our law firm is proud to serve individuals and families throughout Austin, TX, and surrounding areas. We invite you to reach out to us today to speak with an experienced petitioner immigration attorney and receive the detailed guidance and advocacy you need.