Guide to Sponsoring Parents for Permanent Residency

Ame Coats: Hi everyone.  My name is Ame Coats.  I’m an immigration attorney with Bashyam Shah .  We are a full service immigration law firm, and we serve clients throughout the United States.  I’m here today with our managing partner, Murali Bashyam.

Murali Bashyam: Hello Ame.

Ame Coats: And we’re gonna be talking about how a U.S. citizen can sponsor their parents for lawful permanent residence status in the United States.  This webinar is divided into three sections.  Okay, the third section of our webinar is about adjustment of status.  Now again, this is for parents who are in the United States.  I think it’s very important that you get an attorney and make sure that your parent is eligible to adjust status in the United States because as I mentioned here, this doesn’t work for everybody, and it is important to look at any potential fraud issue before you start filing applications with the immigration service.

But if you do seek council and find out that everything’s good to go, you’re able to file, then the first step is to file the I-130 petition that you file in the previous process for an immigrant visa that we just looked at.  So this time, we file concurrently with an I-485 application for adjustment of status.  There are other forms and other documents required.  It’s a big application packet.  But you file that while your parents are here in the United States.

Murali Bashyam: And you do it all together, right?

Ame Coats: Yes.  It’s all filed together.  And then the idea is that ultimately they’re going to be interviewed, and that at the interview if everything goes well, they’re going to get their green card at that time.

Murali Bashyam: And just to backtrack just a little bit, so what does a parent have to show in order to be eligible to file an adjustment of status in the United States?

Ame Coats: The parent has to show that they have the appropriate relationships.  So you’ve got to prove that the U.S. citizen is truly your son or daughter, and you have to show that you’re admissible to the United States, that you’re not inadmissible for any reason.  There’s a whole laundry list of reasons why somebody might not be inadmissible to the United States, such as a crime that’s been committed in the past.  And then generally people who are out of status are not admissible, but in this one particular case, you are forgiven for that.  However, if you cross the border illegally and you entered without inspection, then this process is not going to work for you unless you fall under some special law.

Murali Bashyam: So if a parent entered the United States as a B2 visitor, and they overstay their I-94 card, they’re not inadmissible in any other way, no criminal issues or what have you, but they’ve been here illegally for let’s say eight months, ten months, a year, and they have a U.S. citizen child here who wants to sponsor them for permanent residency, what do you think about that situation?

Ame Coats: I think that ultimately that’s probably going to work out just fine, but I would definitely recommend that they seek legal council before they file any paperwork.  But the government in that situation, the government will forgive the parent for violating their immigration status.  And so a couple of things while this case is pending.  The first issue that comes up is really that most U.S. citizens are asking about a social security number, because without a social security number here in the United States, you can’t do a lot.

You can’t get a driver’s license.  It’s hard to open bank accounts.  And of course along with that is the ability to work.  I don’t see a lot of parents who want to work, but yeah, some.  Sure.  So once you file an application packet that we’ve pointed out in step one, you also file a form I-765 with it.  There’s no extra filing fee for that.  But that is your employment authorization application, and everybody is eligible to file that application.

So while you’re waiting for the big green card interview to be scheduled, about three months after you filed your application packet, you’re going to get your employment authorization card for your parent.  Once they have that employment authorization card, then they can go to the social security office and apply for a social security number.  But that’s going be their first opportunity to apply for a social security number.

Murali Bashyam: Ame, I’ve got a question.  So let’s say that a child’s about to file for the parent, and in the past I believe you had to file the I-765 with a filing fee, and that’s changed, and the child says, “My parents are not going to work, why do I even bother with that,” what would be your response?

Ame Coats: I would say, well you should just file it now.  First of all, you don’t have to pay an extra filing fee.  It’s included.  And then that just makes it faster for your parent to be able to get a social security number.  And you may – the U.S. citizen child may not mind if they don’t have a social security number right away, but let’s say it’s time to file your taxes for the previous year and you’re able to claim your parent as a dependent, well you want to get that social security number so you can do that.

Also once you get a social security number and you have an employment authorization card to show that they’re here legally, then at least in North Carolina, they can go get a driver’s license.  Before you have those two items, the employment card and the social security number, you’re not going to be able to get a license.  The other issue is about travel, and the first thing you need to know is not everybody is qualified to use a travel document.  Even if you apply for one and you have a travel document in your hand, it does not mean that you’re eligible to use it.

You may cause a bunch of problems by using it, so you definitely need to seek legal counsel and make sure it’s okay to use that travel document.  The travel document also comes about the same time as the employment authorization card, about three months after you file the entire package for adjustment of status.  And if you’re eligible to use it, just keep in mind that you can’t actually leave the United States until you have a travel document in your hand.  Otherwise, the government will say that you’ve abandoned your residency – abandoned your application for residency.

There is no specific limit on – well, a lot of people ask me, “Well, how long can I stay out with a travel document?”  There’s no black and white limit if you look in the regulations.  I’d say probably no more than a few months.  But these days your green card interview is scheduled so quickly that there’s not gonna be a long period of time between the day you get the travel document in your hand, and the day you’re scheduled for an interview with a local immigration officer.

Murali Bashyam: So when you say these days the interview is scheduled so quickly, we’re located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Ame Coats: Right.

Murali Bashyam: Of course we handle cases everywhere, but just for the sake of discussion, how quickly are you talking about here?

Ame Coats: From the day you file the application packet in step one, I would expect your parent to have an interview within five months or so.  And if you’d asked me this question three years ago, it would have easily taken a year.

Murali Bashyam: If not more.

Ame Coats: If not more.  So they’ve really shortened up the processing time.

Murali Bashyam: So Ame, with these cases where a child’s sponsoring a parent, do they always have to go through that interview process?

Ame Coats: Well, that’s really interesting because actually the answer to that question is no.  The immigration service can waive the interview for this particular case if they want to, and what we notice, I’d say back in 2007 particularly, I saw a lot of parents who were getting waived for interviews, and would just get an approval through the mail.  But lately over the past year, I haven’t seen that at all.

Murali Bashyam: So they have more time on their hands now, right?


Ame Coats: That’s what I think the reason is, yes, is there’s no reason not to schedule an interview because they’re able to do it now, and maybe a few years ago, that wasn’t the case.

Murali Bashyam: So quickly, I mean at an interview, should these parents really be concerned about being grilled by the USCIS officer, generally speaking?

Ame Coats: Generally no.  I would say the number one thing the immigration officer has to figure out is, you know, is this petitioner and this beneficiary, are they truly child and parent?  Do they really have that relationship?  And then the second thing is, is the parent inadmissible for any reason?  Did they commit fraud when they entered?  Anything like that.  These interviews are usually pretty short and to the point.  And then so finally, if everything goes well on the day of the interview, they’re approved in the computer, and then the card comes in the mail within about four weeks or so after that.

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