Can an 18-Year-Old U.S. Citizen Petition His Parents: Understanding Family Immigration Laws

Immigration policies in the United States are stringent and specific about eligibility requirements for different types of visas and petitions. For U.S. citizens eager to reunite with their family members, a common question is whether they can petition their parents to receive a Green Card or permanent residency. This question becomes particularly pressing for young citizens who have recently reached legal adulthood and are exploring their rights and responsibilities under immigration law.

However, under the current immigration laws, U.S. citizens must be at least 21 years old to petition for their parents’ permanent residency. Even though turning 18 grants certain privileges, such as the right to vote, it does not extend to sponsoring parents for immigration purposes.

Therefore, young adults seeking to assist their family members must be aware of these age-related restrictions and plan accordingly to US citizenship petition for parents.Understanding the legal framework and requirements can help prevent unnecessary complications and ensure a smoother process when the time comes to initiate family-based immigration petitions.

Eligibility Criteria

This section outlines the specific criteria an 18-year-old U.S. citizen must meet to petition their parents. These include age, citizenship, and the financial ability to support the family member immigrating to the United States.

Age Requirements

An 18-year-old U.S. citizen cannot petition for their parents to receive permanent residency. The minimum age requirement to petition for a parent is 21 years.

Citizenship Status

The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen. Permanent residents or those with other statuses cannot petition for their parents.

Financial Responsibility

The petitioner must demonstrate the ability to support their parents financially. They must meet 125% of the federal poverty line and submit an Affidavit of Support to prove sufficient income or assets.

Application Process

The application process for an 18-year-old U.S. citizen to petition for his parents involves meticulous documentation collection, form submission, and patience during USCIS review.

Gathering Necessary Documents

Petitioners must compile comprehensive documents to establish their relationship with their parents. They need to provide their birth certificate showing the names of their parents, proof of U.S. citizenship such as a passport or a certificate of naturalization, and evidence of any legal name changes for either party, if applicable.

Filing Form I-130

The petitioner must accurately complete Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for each parent they are sponsoring. The form requires details of the petitioner, the beneficiary, and the relationship proof. A submission fee is attached to the form, which must be paid when filing.

USCIS Review and Approval

Once Form I-130 is filed, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will review the application. The process includes verification of the relationship and checking for the admissibility of the parents in the United States. Approval of the petition allows the parents to apply for an immigrant visa or adjust their status, provided a visa number is available.

After Petition Approval

Upon approval of the petition to bring parents to the United States, a series of clear procedures must be followed to proceed with the visa application and eventual relocation.

National Visa Center Processing

After the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the I-130 petition, the National Visa Center (NVC) will take over the case. They will require an Affidavit of Support, payment of processing fees, and submission of necessary supporting documents. Applicants will receive instructions from the NVC regarding their case number and further steps to prepare for the visa interview.

Visa Interview and Medical Examination

Next is scheduling a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country. An essential requirement before the interview is completing a medical examination by an authorized physician. The applicants must bring their passport, photographs, interview appointment letter, and other requested documents to the interview.

Visa Issuance and Entry to the US

Once an applicant successfully passes the interview, the visa is typically issued within a week, depending on the embassy’s processing times. Upon visa issuance, the beneficiary has six months to enter the United States. The visa will come with a sealed packet of documents, known as the “immigrant packet,” which should not be opened and must be presented to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer upon arrival in the U.S.

Potential Challenges

When an 18-year-old U.S. citizen considers petitioning for their parents, they may encounter various challenges due to the stringent immigration laws and procedures.

Legal Hurdles

Under current U.S. immigration law, only citizens aged 21 and over can petition for their parents to obtain Green Cards. Consequently, an 18-year-old citizen cannot directly sponsor their parents. Furthermore, even if there were proposals to change these laws, they remain proposals without legal bearing until they are officially passed and implemented.

Extended Waiting Periods

Once U.S. citizens reach the age of 21 and are eligible to petition, they must contend with potentially lengthy waiting periods. The process for a parent to receive a Green Card involves numerous steps, including petition filing, priority date waiting, and consular processing, which can extend over several years.

Appeals and Motions

If a petition faces denial or other legal complications, the citizen may need to engage in a series of appeals or motions. This process requires a solid understanding of immigration laws and often necessitates the involvement of a skilled immigration attorney to navigate successfully.

Supporting Your Parents

In navigating the complexities of immigration law, an 18-year-old U.S. citizen cannot sponsor their parents for permanent residency. However, understanding the necessary financial support, status adjustment, and public charge considerations is pivotal for when they become eligible to do so at the age of 21.

Affidavit of Support Requirements

A U.S. citizen must be at least 21 to submit an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) when petitioning for their parents’ Green Card. This document legally obligates the petitioner to financially support the sponsored family member(s) financially, ensuring they have sufficient income or assets to maintain the minimum level of income required by law, which is currently at 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This obligation generally lasts until the sponsored family member becomes a U.S. citizen or can be credited with 40 quarters of work.

Adjustment of Status Possibilities

Once the child turns 21 and files a petition for their parents, the parents may have the opportunity to apply for an Adjustment of Status to lawful permanent resident if they are already in the United States. This process involves submitting Form I-485 and potentially attending an interview, during which they must prove their eligibility. Eligibility criteria include lawful entry into the United States and a valid immigrant visa number immediately available.

Understanding Public Charge Inadmissibility

When applying for a Green Card, the parents must not be inadmissible on public charge grounds. The public charge rule stipulates that individuals likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence through public cash assistance or long-term care at the government’s expense are inadmissible. The evaluation involves the examination of the totality of their circumstances, including age, health, income, resources, education, and skills.

Alternative Paths and Considerations

While an 18-year-old U.S. citizen cannot petition for their parents to obtain permanent residency, there are specific visa categories and humanitarian programs that may provide legal means for parents to enter or remain in the United States. Individuals must seek specialized guidance due to the complexity of immigration laws.

Non-Immigrant Visas

Parents of U.S. citizens may be eligible for non-immigrant visas that allow temporary stay. The B-2 tourist visa is one option, permitting short visits for pleasure or medical treatment. Another possibility is the H or L visa categories if the parent is professionally qualified and a U.S. employer extends an offer of employment.

  • B-2 Visa:
    • Purpose: Tourism, family visits, medical treatment
    • Duration: Typically 6 months, with possible extensions
  • H Visa:
    • H-1B: Specialized occupation
    • H-2A/B: Temporary agricultural or non-agricultural work
    • Duration: Depends on the employment period, and may lead to dual intent
  • L Visa:
    • L-1A/B: Intracompany transferees
    • Duration: Up to 7 years for L-1A, five years for L-1B

Humanitarian Programs

In extraordinary circumstances, humanitarian programs provide alternative avenues for parents to stay in the United States. Programs like Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Asylum are options for individuals fleeing conflict or extreme hardship in their home countries.

  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS):
    • Criteria: Individuals from designated countries experiencing conditions preventing the safe return
    • Stay: Temporary; duration varies by country and conditions
  • Asylum:
    • Criteria: Fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion
    • Stay: Can lead to lawful permanent residence

Legal Advice and Consultation

Navigating immigration pathways is complex, and the laws are subject to change. U.S. citizens and their parents must consult a qualified immigration attorney for personalized legal advice.

  • Consulting Services:
    • Immigration Attorneys: Expertise in family-based immigration, non-immigrant visas, and humanitarian relief
    • Legal Aid Societies: Sometimes offer free or low-cost advice for eligible individuals

Engaging with licensed professionals ensures compliance with current laws and helps explore all possible legal options.


Under current U.S. immigration law, individuals must be at least 21 years old to sponsor a petition for their parents to become permanent residents. Therefore, an 18-year-old U.S. citizen cannot legally file a petition for his or her parents.

U.S. citizens must understand this regulation to set realistic expectations regarding family-based immigration. Legislative proposals, such as those mentioned or anticipated by the Biden administration, might suggest changes, but the age requirement remains in place until any are signed into law.

For those seeking to reunite with family members or explore their immigration options, keeping informed about changes to immigration policy is crucial. Professional legal counsel is also advisable to navigate the complexities of the immigration system.

Citizens interested in petitioning for their parents should plan accordingly and be prepared to apply once they reach the lawful age of eligibility, which, as of the current date, is 21 years old.