Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
I just got my U.S. citizenship! My husband and I want to bring my mom and her husband to the U.S. to help us take care of our preschooler and toddler.
My biological dad passed away several years ago when I was an adult and my mom has since remarried. Can they get green cards?
— Appreciative in Aptos
Congrats on becoming a citizen! That is a long road, and you did it. 🙂 For all those out there awaiting citizenship, good news: It’s a priority for the Biden administration to speed up processing times. Other good news — the Muslim Ban is cancelled! And USCIS is going to make things a lot better for Dreamers seeking DACA.
We can definitely figure out a plan to support your mom and stepdad to get green cards in the U.S. As your mom married your stepdad after you turned 18, you can’t sponsor him directly. You need to sponsor your mom for a green card first, and then she can sponsor him as her husband. My law partner, Anita Koumriqian, who is an expert in family-based immigration, and I discussed getting green cards for parents and siblings in a recent podcast. Check it out for more details. To set clear expectations, this is a multistep process that will probably take a few years. So you may want to consider hiring a nanny if you need childcare sooner than that! 😉
Alternatively, to speed things up for your stepdad, if he has a daughter, son or sibling who is a U.S. citizen, any of them can sponsor him for a green card. If your mom ends up sponsoring him once she’s a permanent resident, that’s quicker than a U.S. citizen sibling sponsoring a brother, for example, but generally is not as quick as a U.S. citizen child sponsoring a parent.
Since your mom is abroad, she won’t be able to come to the U.S. until the U.S. embassy or consulate in her home country reopens and resumes processing routine visa and green card applications. However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is currently open.
It’s possible to get started sponsoring your mom for a green card now, and you can work with an attorney to streamline the process. You need to be at least 21 years of age and be a U.S. citizen. As her sponsor, you will also need to accept legal responsibility for financially supporting her.
You will need to initially submit to USCIS documents such as your birth certificate and proof of U.S. citizenship, and make sure that all foreign language documents have certified English translations. Currently, the USCIS California Service Center is taking about seven months to process green card applications for parents.
If USCIS approves your mom’s green card petition, her case will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC), which will gather additional documents and information from your mom. NVC will forward the additional documents and information to the embassy or consulate in your mom’s home country that will be reviewing your mom’s case and where your mom will be required to go for a green card interview.
Listen to my podcasts with Anita on Navigating the NVC and with Alcorn Immigration Law associate attorney Cori Farooqi on How to Prepare for a Visa or Green Card Interview for more information about best practices and what to expect.
Once your mom goes through her green card interview and is approved, she can come to the U.S., which means she and her husband will have to spend some time apart unless her husband comes to the U.S. on a B-1 Visa for Visitors for Pleasure or a work visa. If your mom and her husband decide to pursue this route or live apart and pursue a green card, I highly recommend they consult an experienced immigration attorney.
The B-1 visitor visa and most other work visas are nonimmigrant visas, which means your stepdad must convince U.S. immigration officials that he does not intend to stay permanently in the U.S. and does not intend to give up his residence in his home country. If he travels with your mom, he may have a difficult time making a convincing case since your mom will have a green card. What’s more, it could jeopardize his future prospects for a green card. Tread cautiously and work with an experienced attorney.
Once your mom receives a passport stamp when she arrives in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident, she is eligible to work; she does not need to apply for a work permit. And as a green card holder, she will be able to sponsor her husband for an F2A green card.
To sponsor her husband, she will need to submit similar documents to USCIS as you will have done for her green card, as well as specific documents for her situation such as your father’s death certificate and her marriage certificates. After your mom submits the green card application for your stepdad, he will need to go through a similar process as she did, assuming that he remains living abroad during the process.
If your mom and stepdad have been married for less than two years when he is approved, he will receive a conditional green card, valid for two years. Within 90 days of the two-year green card’s expiration, your mom and her husband must apply together to get the conditions removed by filing Form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence).
Remember, the sooner you get started, the sooner you all will be together!
All my best,
Have a question? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space. The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer here. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.
Also published on Medium.