Filing a Stepparent Immigrant Visa Petition


It is common to hear of US citizens petitioning for their biological parents to get a Green Card. However, information concerning immigration laws on nuanced parental relationships is much less common.

If you are a citizen child with an alien stepparent, you probably wonder what the rules are for you. Can you petition for your stepfather or mother as if they were your biological parent? The answer is yes and no. You can petition for them. However, the requirements are different from that of biological parents.

The success of your petition would depend on whether or not you meet certain criteria and provide evidence of doing so. The decision of approval is taken on a case-by-case basis but hiring a qualified visa lawyer may give you an advantage.


Stepparent Visa Petition 


Citizens of the US have an advantage over lawful permanent residents in that they have an exclusive visa group for immediate relatives. Visas for this group of immigrants are always available, meaning the waiting period is much shorter than for other limited visa categories.

Legal permanent residents can only apply for their spouses and children and do not fall under this unlimited visa category. Immediate relative visas are reserved for:

  • The spouse of a United States citizen

  • The child of a US citizen

  • A US citizen’s parents (where the child is at least 21 years old)

In the context of these categorizations, the word ‘child’ encompasses step, adopted, and biological children. A person could be a parent by way of any of these relationships. Hence, if the other specific requirements are fulfilled, one can help their alien parent immigrate to the United States as they would a biological parent.


Immigration Law Requirements for Immigrating your Step Parents


Two general requirements apply when immigrating parents to the United States. It does not matter whether the parents are biological, step, or parents by adoption. The first is that the child submitting the petition must be a US Citizen, not a lawful permanent resident. They must also be 21 years old or above to be able to petition legally.

Beyond these broad requirements, the following things also matter in making an eligible petition:


The Stepchild’s Age When the Stepparent Married Their Biological Parent

A stepparent must have married the child’s biological parent before the child turned 18. This requirement is tricky, and different marriage situations will lead to different petition outcomes.

If the stepparent had been living with the biological parent and raising the stepchild for years without marrying their partner until after the child is above 18, they will be deemed not to have met this requirement. However, in states where common law marriage is recognized, like Texas, such an arrangement may allow the couple to claim that they were married at an earlier date before the child became 18. Otherwise, a civil marriage certificate will suffice.

An Austin immigration lawyer can help you in a complicated marriage situation. An attorney can tell you what to do, how the law could still favor you, and the necessary documents you’ll need to present.


Ongoing Relationship With the Stepchild

Immigration authorities require proof in relationships like this. They need to know that the two parties have had a continuous relationship. For example, if the stepparent and biological parent got divorced and the stepparent cut communication with the child, immigration may deem this requirement flouted.

It is important to note that the stepparent does not need to have adopted their stepchild for immigration benefits to accrue to them.

The child must submit a valid marriage certificate between the stepparent and their biological parent. They also need to submit proof that previous marriages of both parties have been terminated, e.g., former spouses’ divorce certificates or death certificates. A trained immigration lawyer can guide you on the appropriate documents to prepare and file.


Steps for Immigration


Hiring an immigration lawyer would be a helpful first step. Then you need to file form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This form is essential to prove your relationship with the stepparent you are petitioning for. You need to submit it with the required proving documents. You may also need to file form Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, to attest that you will be financially responsible for them until they can support themselves.

There is a waiting period after which the USCIS approves or denies the petition and informs you of the outcome. If the petition is approved and your stepparent is currently outside the US, they will be required to file form DS-260, their immigrant visa application. The USCIS will then send it to the National Visa Center, where they process it and ask for additional evidence from the parent if necessary.


Consular Processing

If your stepparent is still outside the US, the NVC will send their application to the consulate in the city or country where they live. Then the consulate will contact them, set an interview date, and tell them all the documents they must bring. Their visa will be approved if the consular officer is satisfied with the answers provided in the interview.

After that, they can travel to the US. They would likely get a passport stamp that acts as a temporary permit. Once they arrive in the US, they will receive their green card in a month to 90 days.


Adjustment of Status

If the parent is already in the US at the time of the immigration petition, they can file for adjustment of immigration status, form I-485. This could help them get their legal permanent residency without needing to leave the country. A lawyer should be involved in this process, since your initial immigration circumstances may make you ineligible.


Bringing Over a StepChild


If you are a citizen parent, your question is likely different. You are asking, ‘can I file an immigrant petition for my stepchild?’ The answer is a resounding yes, and the process is essentially the same. The only difference is that the parent must provide proof of the relationship when filing an I-130 petition.

Also, if the child is over 21 or married, the child will not fall under the immediate relatives category. They will therefore have to wait several years for a family preference visa to become available.

Without this hiccup, the stepchild path to green card status is no different from the regular immigrant petition process.


Why Hire an Immigration Attorney?


There are many processes involved with getting a green card. You must prove relationships, answer interview questions carefully, file the right forms at the right time, and provide the correct supporting documents. The assistance of an Austin immigration lawyer could increase your chances of success, so do not hesitate to contact Austin immigration lawyer today.

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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