Typically, foreign nationals are expected to apply for permanent residence outside the U.S., through consular processing. Immigrant Visa Processing refers to a situation when upon USCIS approval of an immigrant petition (i.e. I-130 Petition for Alien Relative filed by U.S. citizen immediate relative), foreign national beneficiary applies for immigrant visa at U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Once the U.S. Embassy or Consulate issues immigrant visa, foreign national may travel to the U.S. and officially become a permanent resident upon entry into the U.S. (For more information on consular processing for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, see our “Immigrant Visa Processing” page).
- Applying timely. If foreign national immediate relatives, who’s petitions have been approved, do not apply for an immigrant visa within one year following notification from the Department of State, their petitions may be terminated.
- Turning 21 years of age or getting married. Children of U.S. citizens fit into the immediate relative category, for which there is no waiting in line. However, not all children of U.S. citizens are considered “children” for the purposes of immigration into the U.S. – only those who are unmarried and under 21 years of age are considered to be immediate relative children. Those who are married or are over 21 years of age can still be sponsored by their U.S. citizen parents and immigrate to the U.S., however, they will have to wait in line for quite a long time. This is because upon reaching 21 years of age or marrying, these children move from the immediate relative category to the “first preference” category. For more information on this issue, see our Visa Availability & Priority Dates page.
- Child Status Protection Act. In certain cases, the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) may allow immediate relative children to retain the classification of “child” and the ability to immigrate quickly to the U.S. even if they have turned 21 years of age. To determine if the CSPA applies to your situation, please contact us. Also, please see the Child Status Protection Act page.