How To Get a Green Card for Your Parents as a U.S. Citizen

Under U.S. immigration law, it is possible for U.S. citizens to obtain green cards for individuals who are considered “immediate relatives.” Because parents of U.S. citizens fall into this category, this is often the easiest way to bring your parents to the United States legally. Below is some basic information about this process and how you can get started.

How it Works

If you and your parents meet all the qualifications, you can use an I-130 petition to apply for permanent residence on their behalf. The United States approves an unlimited number of applications for green cards in this category each year, which means there won’t be a waiting list. You may also be able to use the same process to adjust the status of your parents even if they are already living in the U.S., provided that they came to the country legally.


In order to apply for a green card on behalf of your parents, you must be at least 21 years of age. Because you will be serving as your parents’ sponsor, you must also show that you have enough income and assets in your name to support them adequately after they arrive in the United States. This means that you will need to show that your household, including your own family and your parents, will have resources equal to at least 125 percent of the U.S. poverty level. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that your parents won’t be a financial burden for the government or the public when they arrive.
Keep in mind that the U.S. poverty guidelines change over time, so you will need to check the most up-to-date publication to make sure you meet this requirement.
In order to receive a green card, your parents must not possess any characteristics that would make them inadmissible to the United States. For example, they must not have been diagnosed with any dangerous mental disorder or disease that could be considered a public health risk. Certain immigration violations or a criminal history can also be problematic.

Applying for U.S. Permanent Residence

The first step in applying for permanent residence for your parents involves filling out the Petition for Alien Relative, otherwise known as Form I-130. Keep in mind that each applicant must have a separate form, so you will need to fill out two copies of Form I-130 if you are applying for permanent residence for both of your parents.
The purpose of Form I-130 is to prove that you are a citizen of the United States, as well as to show legal verification of the child-parent relationship between you and your parents.
To support the information provided on this form, you will also need to include a copy of a document proving your citizenship. Examples include your naturalization certificate or U.S. passport. To prove that a parent-child relationship exists, you should provide a copy of your birth certificate or similar documentation.

What Happens Next?

If your parents are living outside the United States, the approved I-130 petition will be forwarded to a U.S. consulate in your parents’ country. Your parents will then need to submit their own documentation and application forms. At this point, you will also be asked to complete and submit Form I-864.
If all the documentation submitted is approved and all requirements are satisfied, the U.S. consulate will schedule a final interview with your parents. Following this interview, your parents should receive a visa allowing them to enter the United States, provided there are no issues during the interview itself.

Notes on Adjustment of Status

If your parents are already living in the United States, the process of applying for permanent residence will be a little different. In most cases, you will need to submit Form I-485 in addition to Form I-130. In the event that you have already submitted Form I-130 and received an approval notice, simply submit the approval notice along with Form I-485 to complete the adjustment of status process.
If your parents did not come to the United States legally, applying for permanent residence is much more complicated and may even be impossible. If you are in this situation, it is best to consult an attorney.

Contact an Attorney

Although it is generally easier and faster to obtain a green card for a parent than in other cases, the process can still be complicated and confusing. For this reason, it is often in your best interest to contact an experienced immigration attorney who can help you through this process. Not only will an attorney be able to help you understand the requirements, but he or she will also be able to make sure you have all the documentation you need to have the application approved as quickly as possible.