For many adults working their way through the immigration process, US immigration can seem very complex. There are USCIS forms to fill out, eligibility requirements to meet, and complex legal issues to understand. For a child, these issues can be even more overwhelming. However, US immigration policies affect children all the time. Many young children petition and apply to immigrate to the US when their families already live and work in the US. In some cases, entire families move to the US, requiring different application processes for children and adults in the family. In some rarer cases, children arrive in the US first and wish to be reunited with their families by having their families immigrate to the US.
US immigration laws have specific provisions when it comes to child immigration. For example, if you are a US citizen and have a child in another country, you may apply for a green card, which would allow your child to move to the US and live and work in the US. If you are a US citizen, you can apply for a green card for any child you have – the child can be a minor, an adult, married or unmarried.
If you have a green card and are therefore a lawful permanent resident of the US, you may apply for a green card for any unmarried child you have. This allows your unmarried child to enter the country and enjoy the rights and privileges of permanent residency. If you are a green card holder, you may petition for any child of any age you have, provided that your child is unmarried.
One factor which often complicates the US immigration process when it comes to children is that children may be born at various stages of the immigration process in various countries. For example, someone who is a legal resident of the US may travel to a foreign country and have a child there. A US green card holder may apply for US citizenship and then wish to sponsor children from a previous marriage – children who are living overseas.
If your children were born before you became a permanent resident of the US, you may not have to fill out USCIS Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) for your children. Instead, you may apply for following-to-join benefits for your children. If you and your children are eligible, they may receive a visa more quickly through this system.
In general, in order to bring your children to the US, you must be able to prove that you can financially support your children while they live with you in the US. In most cases, you will need to prove that you can support your entire household (including any existing dependants as well as the children you plan to sponsor) at minimum 125% above the US poverty level for your household size.
If your child or children are born in the US, they will generally be given US citizenship, simply by their place of birth. The parents’ immigration status will not usually affect the child’s or children’s citizenship status.
In some cases, children arrive in the US by themselves and eventually hope to sponsor their families to arrive with them. There are a number of charitable groups and organizations which assist children in this situation. For example, The Immigrant Child Advocacy Project is one such advocacy group. The USCIS has a very handy web page, as well, explaining how different children’s situations can be resolved.