Applying for a Green Card Through your 21 year old U.S. Citizen Child

Q#1: I heard that if I have a U.S. Citizen child over the age of 21, I can apply for a Green Card in the U.S. through them. Is that true?

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A#1: U.S. Immigration Law allows a U.S. Citizen Child that is 21 years of age or older to file the first step towards a Green Card for their parents or siblings. However, the wait time for most of these categories is many years long.

Q#2: What is the shortest amount of time that a undocumented parent would have to wait to apply for a Green Card in the U.S. based on sponsorship through their 21 year old U.S. Citizen Child?

A#2: Depending on the circumstances, some parents could have their Green Card in hand in as little as 6 months after their U.S. Citizen Child turns 21 years old. 

Q#3: Do most people who have 21 year old U.S. Citizen Children get their Green Cards this quickly?

A#3: No. Most people have to qualify to actually get their Green Card based on an exception to the law in addition to having a petition filed by their 21 year old U.S. Citizen Child. 

Q#4: What are a few of these exceptions that would allow me to get my Green Card in the U.S.?

A#4: Typically, a person needs to have both a Green Card petition filed by their 21 year old U.S. Citizen Child AND have either a separate petition filed before April 30, 2001, a legal entry to the the U.S., Advance Parole, or have a child/spouse in the U.S. military. 

Q#5: Must I have the petition and one of these exceptions to get my Green Card?

A#5: Yes. If you don’t qualify for one of these exceptions, it is necessary to leave to Mexico to get your Green Card there, but as soon as you depart the U.S., you would probably have to wait in Mexico for 10 years before returning to the U.S. with your Green Card. 

Q#6: Can a parent living in Mexico get a Green Card through their 21 year old U.S. Citizen Child?

A#6: If the parent has been in Mexico for over 10 years, then they can most likely re-enter the U.S. with a Green Card based on the approved petition filed by their 21 year old U.S. Citizen Child. 

Q#7: Is there anything else that I need to be aware of or that I need to know?

A#7: Yes. Just because you have a 21 year old U.S. Citizen Child does not guarantee that you are entitled to a Green Card. The U.S. Immigration Service looks at each individual case to determine if a person has any criminal issues, 10 year/permanent bar issues or other potentional disqualifiers.

Q#8: What should I do now if my U.S. Citizen Child isn’t 21 years old yet, but will be soon?

Eamonn Roach Roach and Bishop Law

A#8: You should meet with a qualified attorney NOW in order to determine if you are eligible for this process or any other Immigration program. You should discuss these specific issues with someone qualified because if you were to apply and are determined to be ineligible, a person can get sent to Mexico and have to wait for many months, maybe up to 10 years. If you do qualify, you should begin preparing this process now becasue there are many steps prior to submitting the applications that need to take place, including submitting a petition, paying government fees and gathering copies of any criminal documents from contact with the police and/or copies of immigration files if you have ever come into contact with Border Patrol. 

Eamonn P.S. Roach is an attorney of the firm Roach & Bishop, LLP in Pasco, Washington, who practices immigration law. This information does not constitute legal advice. It is possible that this information does not apply to you. Each case depends on specific facts. If you have questions regarding the immigration laws that you would like answered in this column, please send them to: Eamonn P.S. Roach, 9221 Sandifur Pkwy, Suite C., Pasco, WA 99301, phone: (509) 547-7587, fax: (509) 547-7745; or email

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