Can Your 21-Year-Old U.S. Citizen Child Petition You?

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Can Your 21-Year-Old U.S. Citizen Child Petition You?

Recent estimations show that 16.7 million individuals belong to mixed-status families, with at least one family member who needs proper documentation. Within this group, a noteworthy 5.9 million consist of U.S. citizen children born to undocumented parents.

These immigrant parents undoubtedly provided profound emotional and financial contributions to their children. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that such support is not the only requirement for family sponsorship under the prevailing regulations. Understanding the relevant laws surrounding this issue is vital to determine the best action.

Read on to discover the criteria and potential options for a 21-year-old U.S. citizen child to petition for a parent. Learn more about the other considerations to bring family members to the United States.

Know What Requirements And Qualifications Are Necessary To File A Family Petition If Your U.S. Citizen Child Is 21 Years Old

Petitioning For Parents

The eligibility criteria are specific when it comes to petitioning parents. It’s important to note that not everyone can file these; only citizens over 21 years old can initiate the process. If your child is a permanent resident, they cannot file for you.

The timeline for the process varies depending on several factors. Suppose you entered the country legally with a visa and have no criminal history or deportations. Then, your child may be eligible to file a petition. This filing typically takes about a year or, at most, 15 months.

However, it calls for further assessment if any complicating factors exist. It may include entering without permission, a criminal history, or uncertainties regarding deportation details. The processing time will be influenced by the specific circumstances involved in each case.

Situations To Consider When Petitioning A Parent

Understanding the complexities of petitioning a parent is crucial. Consider these critical scenarios that individuals may encounter when initiating the process. Here, you’ll discover if your child can still accomplish it if they face the following circumstances.

Parents Live Abroad

You may wonder if your child can petition you if you live outside the country. The answer is yes. However, the process entails specific considerations.

The family petition process can be straightforward if you haven’t stayed illegally in the United States. It will not require a waiver, such as Form I-601, or the Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. This form seeks permission to overcome the barriers that would otherwise prevent you from entering the United States.

The process involves obtaining approval from the U.S. Citizenship And Immigration Services. Once granted, you can proceed to have their interview in your home country. However, there’s another situation that may come to mind: what if your child is adopted?

The Child Is Adopted

The possibility of an adopted child petitioning for a parent introduces complexity. This is primarily due to an international agreement known as the Hague Convention. This convention establishes explicit rules governing international adoptions. If the adoption process does not adhere to the specific steps outlined in this agreement, immigration authorities may not recognize it as legal.

To ascertain the viability of such a petition, a thorough examination of the adoption papers and adherence to the Hague Convention guidelines is crucial. International adoption complexities and legal nuances contribute uniquely to the question of a child’s eligibility to petition for a parent.

Facing A Deportation Case & A Criminal History

An Immigration Lawyer Will Guide You On The Right Path To U.S. Regularization If You Have A U.S. Citizen Child

Your child can petition for you in certain circumstances, even if you have a deportation case. The process can be complex and challenging. It’s possible if you have been outside the country for over five or ten years. However, it will depend on whether you tried to reenter the country illegally after the deportation.

It’s crucial to understand that having a deportation case does not automatically disqualify you from being petitioned by your child. The determination will depend on various factors. It includes the specific grounds for deportation and whether any waivers or relief options are available.

Your child can also initiate a petition for you even if you possess a criminal record. It’s crucial, however, that your offense doesn’t breach immigration laws.

It is essential to acknowledge that specific categories of crimes, such as drug-related offenses, can indeed pose challenges. The determining factor is whether the crime led to a conviction within immigration regulations.

The Parent Has A Permanent Bar

If you are facing a permanent bar and are considering reentering the country without documents, consequences may arise. However, you can seek a waiver, Form I-601, if you’ve been outside the United States for ten years without attempting illegal reentry. Your child can file the case within the U.S. on your behalf.

However, during the processing and approval period of the waiver, you must remain outside of the country. With these in mind, you may wonder if a child can petition for their step-parent.

Petitioning For A Step-Parent

Some situations may move one to ask: Is a petition possible for the step-parent? The answer depends on the circumstances. It is possible if your marriage occurred before the child turned 16 because immigration law recognizes your spouse as their legal parent.

However, if the marriage occurred after they turned 16, the process involves first adjusting your status. Then, you can petition for your spouse, who is their step-parent. The timing of the marriage plays a crucial role in this sequential process.

In various situations, a child is vital in facilitating their parents’ residency in the United States. Given the intricacies of these circumstances, seeking the assistance of an immigration lawyer becomes imperative. These professionals can provide the necessary guidance to navigate the complexities of legal processes.

Seek The Help Of An Immigration Lawyer

An immigration attorney plays a pivotal role in assisting U.S. citizens with the petitioning process for their parents. They have the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the complex landscape of immigration laws and procedures.

Firstly, lawyers can assess the situation, guiding one on the eligibility and requirements for successful parent petitioning. They also provide invaluable insights into potential challenges. These include legal barriers or procedural intricacies. With these, they offer strategic solutions to overcome them.

Additionally, an immigration lawyer ensures that all documentation is accurately prepared and submitted within the required timelines. Their knowledge of evolving immigration policies enhances one’s ability to advocate for their parents effectively.

By leveraging their legal knowledge and experience, immigration attorneys become indispensable allies. They empower individuals to navigate the intricate immigration process and facilitate the lawful residency of their parents in the United States.


Navigating the complexities of immigration laws can be challenging, particularly when petitioning for a parent. Remember that your child must be a U.S. citizen over 21 to do it for you. In addition, residency filing takes about a year, but uncertainties or complexities may extend processing time.

There are various situations to consider, including parents living abroad, adoption scenarios, deportation cases, and parents with a permanent bar. With these, the assistance of an immigration lawyer becomes crucial. They ensure a comprehensive understanding of the legal landscape and facilitate the lawful residency of parents in the United States.

If you have additional questions about your family petition, your immigration case, or your specific case, you may contact us at (855) 502-0555. After a brief 10-minute evaluation of your case over the phone, we will let you know what options you have. You can also follow us on our social networks so you don’t miss our weekly broadcasts on Facebook, YouTube and Twitch.
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About the Author: Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch

I am the managing partner of Lincoln-Goldfinch Law. Upon graduating from the University of Texas for college and law school, I received an Equal Justice Works Fellowship in 2008, completed at American Gateways. My project served the detained families seeking asylum. After my fellowship, I entered private immigration practice. My firm offers family-based immigration, such as green cards and naturalization, deportation defense, and humanitarian cases such as asylum, U Visa, and VAWA. Everyone at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law is bilingual, has a connection to our cause, and has demonstrated a history of activism for immigrants. To us, our work is not just a job.

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