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The Child Immigration Petition Process and Immigrant Visa Application

1. The Green Card Application Process for Children of U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents

There are two scenarios for children of U.S. citizens or permanent residents to apply for immigration petition: 

1) The first scenario is that the child is already in the United States in a nonimmigrant status. In this case, the U.S. citizen or permanent residents may file an immigration petition for the alien child. The child has to wait for the immigrant visa number to become current before he or she may apply to adjust to permanent resident (if not unmarried children under 21 year of age of U.S. citizens). During this waiting period, the child needs to independently maintain a valid nonimmigrant status. 

2) The second scenario is that the child is outside the United States. In this case, the U.S. citizen or permanent residents needs to file an immigration petition and request that the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services notify a U.S. Consulate in the country where the child lives. Once the immigration petition is approved and an immigrant visa is available, the National Visa Center of the U.S. State Department sends a forms and information package to the U.S. citizen or permanent residents. After the necessary forms are completed, the child goes to the U.S. Consulate overseas to apply for an immigrant visa. 

As a U.S. citizen parent, you should also be prepared to prove that you meet the income requirement of a sponsor. When your child has been scheduled for an immigrant visa interview with a consular officer overseas, or when your child is about to submit an application for adjustment to permanent resident (Form I-485), you will need to complete an I-864 Affidavit of Support.

2. Get Immigrant Visa at U.S. Embassy or Consulate

For a immediate relative of U.S. citizen, a child who is unmarried and under the age of 21 can get immigrant visa without waiting time. The first step in applying for an immigrant visa is for the U.S. citizen or permanent resident (petitioner) to file an immigrant visa petition with a Service Center of USCIS. Each person immigrating will be required to complete a biographic data form. The appointment for the visa interview and medical examination will be scheduled. 

The Immigrant Visa Unit at U.S. embassy or consulate will process the application for an immigrant visa. While no assurance can be given regarding the appointment date of a visa interview, the alien child should prepare for that appointment and obtain the documents required for the visa application. 

When an alien child have obtained all of the required documents and are prepared for the interview, the child should notify U.S. embassy or consulate. The alien child may notify them by mailing to the Immigrant Visa Unit, using form and document checklist. 

3. How to Fill the Electronic Immigrant Visa Application Form DS-260

The Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application (also called "Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application") replaces the paper-based DS-230 Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (parts I and II); while the Form DS-261 Choice of Address and Agent will replace the DS-3032 Choice of Address and Agent.

The Department of State (DOS) has implemented use of the DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, and the DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. These two forms are used for immigrant visa applicants processing at all U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. The online forms are submitted to DOS through the Consular Electronic Applications Center (CEAC) website at https://ceac.state.gov/ceac/. In order to access the online forms, the applicant must input his or her NVC case number and invoice I.D. number.

All of the information entered online is accessible by the National Visa Center (NVC) and the consular posts, the applicant is not required to submit a paper version to the NVC or bring a copy to the visa interview.

    *  Most fields on the DS-260 must be completed before the application can be submitted to DOS. The system will not allow you to continue without providing the required information unless the field is specifically marked "Optional."

    * If a mandatory field is left blank, an error message will appear and the applicant must complete the required field before proceeding with the form. A partially completed application can be saved by clicking on the "Save" button at the bottom of each page.

    * It is recommended that data be saved often to ensure information is not lost. A saved application can be accessed by returning to the website and selecting View/Edit from the Alien Registration section of the Immigrant Visa.

    * The applicant can continue completing the form by clicking on the "Edit" button on the right side of the application's listed status. Once all of the fields are completed, the applicant submits the form by clicking on the "Sign and Submit Application" button.

    * Should the applicant need to make any changes to the form after submission, he or she will have to contact the NVC to request access to the form. If a case has already been sent by NVC to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate interview, any changes to the form will have to be made at the post. 

4. The Form I-485 Adjustment of Status for Child inside U.S.

The Form I-485 adjustment of status application is for an applicant who is in U.S. already on a non-immigrant visa. If your Form I-130 application has been approved, you can submit Form I-485 to get your Green Card.

If the eligibility of your I-485 application is based on an immigrant petition, you need to attach a copy of the approval notice for an immigrant petition that makes a visa number immediately available to you. If your eligibility is based on the Form I-130 approval, you need to attach a copy of the Form I-130 approval notice.

The medical examination, endorsed by a civil medical doctor on Form I-693, Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status, is a necessary part of the Green Card application process. The examination is submitted in connection with the Form I-485, to ensure that the individual does not have any "communicable diseases of public health significance" or other medical conditions that may pose a danger to the individual or to others. The medical examination includes proof that the foreign national has had vaccinations against a specified list of preventable diseases.

5. The Relationship Requirements to File an Immigration Petition for Adopted Child

In the immigration regulation, a stepmother is actually considered a closer relationship than an adoptive mother. An adoptive relationship must meet more requirements: 

  • The child must be adopted before his or her 16th birthday; 

  • The adoptive parent or parents must have had legal custody of the adopted child for two years upon filing the immigration petition; and 

  • The adopted child must have resided with the petitioner for at least two years before filing the immigration petition.

There is a rationale for treat stepchildren on a more favorable standard than adopted children on immigration petitions. It is primarily fraud prevention. Many U.S. citizens, especially naturalized citizens, have relatives with children in foreign countries. They may intend to bring these children to the US. 

If there are no strict regulations on immigration petitions based on adoptive relationships, many people may take advantage of the system. Although fraudulent activities also happen in marriage-based immigration, it is harder to cheat the USCIS in a marriage relationship than in an adoptive relationship. 

6. Application Related Fees for Filing USCIS Form I-130

Immigration application related fees are charged for different services, such as fees for Department of State government services, fees for Visa Services, and fees for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

  • Filing an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, this fee is charged by USCIS;
  • Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260;
  • Medical examination and required vaccinations - costs vary.
  • Other costs may include: translations; photocopying charges; fees for obtaining the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.); and travel expenses to go to the embassy or consulate for the interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.

Also, Form I-864 is required for most family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants to show that they have adequate means of financial support and are not likely to rely on the U.S. government for financial support. There is no fee when filed with USCIS or abroad with the Department of State (DOS). DOS does charge a fee when this form is filed in the U.S.  

7. The Differences Between Sponsor, Joint Sponsor, and Substitute Sponsor for USCIS Form I-864 - Affidavit of Support

An affidavit of support, USCIS Form I-864, is a document an individual signs to accept financial responsibility for another person, usually a relative, who is coming to the United States to live permanently. The person who signs the affidavit of support becomes the sponsor of the relative coming to live in U.S.  The sponsor is usually the petitioner of an immigrant petition for a family member. An affidavit of support is legally enforceable; the sponsor's responsibility usually lasts until the family member or other individual either becomes a U.S. citizen, or can be credited with 40 quarters of work - usually 10 years.

A joint sponsor is someone who is willing to accept legal responsibility for supporting the family member with you. A joint sponsor must meet all the same requirements as you, except the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant. The joint sponsor, or the joint sponsor and his or her household, must reach the 125% income requirement alone. You cannot combine your income with that of a joint sponsor to meet the income requirement.

If the visa petitioner has died after approval of the visa petition but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides to let the petition continue, a substitute sponsor must file a Form I-864 in place of the deceased visa petitioner.

Some other eligibility requirements apply to the substitute sponsor as well. He or she must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of at least 18 years of age who has a domicile in the U.S. And the sponsor must be a relative of yours. In order to be a substitute sponsor, you must be related to the intending immigrant in one of the following ways: Spouse; Parent; Mother-in-law; Father-in-law; Sibling; Child (if at least 18 years of age); Son; Daughter; Son-in-law; Daughter-in-law; Sister-in-law; Brother-in-law; Grandparent; Grandchild; Legal guardian of the beneficiary.

Serving as a substitute sponsor is a primarily financial relationship, and it involves filling out an Affidavit of Support on USCIS Form I-864. The Affidavit must indicate that the new sponsor is able to support the immigrants and his/her own household, at a level that is at or above 125% of the federal Poverty Guidelines. In fact, by filing Form I-864, the substitute sponsor promises the U.S. government to pay back any need-based public assistance that the named immigrants receive for approximately the first ten years of their having a green card.

8. The Form DS-260 for Online Immigrant Visa Application and Registration

After your form I-130 is approved by USCIS, the form U.S. Department of States form DS-260 is used to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa. The form DS-260 is an online Immigrant Visa Application and Registration form used to collect the needed application information from persons seeking U.S. immigrant visas. This form is completed and submitted online to the Department of State via the Internet through the Consular Electronic Applications Center (CEAC).

You can access the DS-260 from the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website, by going to Immigrant Visas.state.gov and clicking on “Submit Visa Application and Civil Documents,” or on the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will apply.

After you pay your fees, you and each qualified family member immigrating with you must complete the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (Form DS-260) in the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). You may wish to preview a sample  DS-260 before beginning.

    * Submitting Form DS-260 does not formally execute a visa application.  The visa application is not formally made until the visa applicant is interviewed by a U.S. consular officer.

    * You will need your NVC Case Number, Beneficiary ID Number, and Invoice ID Number from your NVC Welcome Letter, to access CEAC.

    * After submitting Form DS-260 online, you must print the confirmation page and bring it to your interview. You can print this from CEAC any time after you complete your DS-260 application.

It is important to distinguish the mandatory use of the DS-260 for processing at all U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide from the "Electronic Processing Program" used for electronic submission of documents and the I-864 Affidavit of Support for processing at select embassies and consulates. Under this program, the I-864 is downloaded, completed, signed, scanned, saved as a PDF file and e-mailed to the NVC.

Also, the required civil documents and supporting documents must be converted to PDF files and then e-mailed to the NVC. For these select consular posts it is not required to mail the I-864, civil documents, and other supporting documents to the NVC, but the applicant must be prepared to present the original physical documents at the time of the visa interview. For all other posts, the I-864 and documentation are still mailed to the NVC.

For additional information on the DS-260, DS-261 and Electronic Processing Program, you should go to travel.state.gov and read the FAQs on DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application and the instruction pages on Required Electronic Processing and Optional Electronic Processing.

More Articles about Immigration and Green Card Application for Child
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Child Immigration, Visa Number, and Required Documents for Relationship
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The "Following-To-Join" Benefit for Permanent Resident's Child to Get Green Card
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers of Green Card Application for Children
Our Help Desk's Answers for Questions of Green Card Application for Children
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The Green Card and Immigration Application for Children
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