“My husband and I would like to know if we can become permanent residents. Our daughter is a U.S. citizen. She is three years old right now. Can we get green cards through her? Both of us came to the United States on student visas. We met in college. We fell in love. Our visas have not expired.”
(Submitted by Paula G., Corona, CA)
Maybe. But not at this time.
Let me briefly explain.
A child born in the United States can file to immigrate their parents, but only after the child turns 21. At that point in time, the parents will need to meet all the other requirements for earning a green card.
Unfortunately, until your daughter gets to this age, she is not able to help your and your spouse become lawful permanent residents by filing an immigrant visa petition.
Some people get confused about this issue because there have been several stories in the news about undocumented immigrants who become legal residents through their children born in the United States.
In these reports, some journalists use the term “anchor babies.”
Normally, these stories talk about parents, who enter the U.S. without permission, before a child is born, in order to give birth here. Then 21 years later, the child sponsors their parents to legalize their status.
These stories are almost always used in a negative way by those who oppose immigrant-friendly changes to immigration law.
These stories are generally exaggerated.
As I talked about in The Attack On The Fourteenth Amendment And The Myth Of Anchor Babies, under the laws of today, it would take these parents over 25 years in most situations to become permanent residents.
They would also have to go back to their home countries for their interviews – and that raises other legalities which would prevent such parents from ever becoming permanent residents.
But this is not your situation. You entered lawfully and you were not pregnant when you arrived.
Now, there are situations where having a young child born here can possibly help you earn legal immigration status.
Let’s say that you and your husband decide to stay in the United States after your temporary visas expire. Several years later, you are picked up by immigration agents for not leaving when you were required to depart. The government seeks to deport you.
At that time, if you meet certain requirements, your child’s citizenship may help you win a green card under a process known as cancellation of removal. This type of case happens at immigration court.
You will be given the right to a trial held before a judge. Your relationship with your daughter is a critically important issue.
On the other hand, even if you and your spouse return to your home countries when your visas expire, your daughter could still help you gain legal status in the U.S. When she turns 21 years old, she can petition for your permanent residency although you live abroad.
Lastly, there is a possibility that you might be able to qualify for immigration benefits in ways besides waiting for your child to become the requisite age. To assess if there are any viable options, I recommend you speak to a permanent residence lawyer versed in the family visa petition system and green card laws.
(Filed Under Q&As: Family-Based Visas And Immigrant Petitions)