Question: I am a lawful permanent resident (a green card holder). I am preparing to apply for U.S. citizenship. My wife and our young child are foreign citizens who live outside the U.S. I am preparing to apply for immigrant visas to allow them to immigrate to the U.S. Do I need to submit one visa application or two?
Answer: As a lawful permanent resident, you may submit visa applications for the following family members: (1) your spouse, (2) your unmarried children under the age of 21, and (3) your unmarried children over the age of 21. When immigrating to the U.S., the spouse of a permanent resident may bring his or her unmarried child under the age of 21 years old as a “derivative beneficiary.”
Therefore, as a permanent resident with a wife and an unmarried child under the age of 21 who live outside the U.S., you have the following two options:
Option 1: You may file a single immigrant visa application for your spouse. Your child may immigrate to the U.S. with your spouse as a “derivative beneficiary.”
Option 2: You may file two immigrant visa applications: one for your spouse and one for your child.
There are two scenarios in which you should strongly consider submitting two separate immigrant visa applications for your wife and child.
Scenario 1: I am applying for U.S. citizenship
First, if you might become a U.S. citizen before your spouse and child immigrate to the U.S., then it is safer to submit two separate immigrant visa applications. Although the spouse of a permanent resident is permitted to bring an unmarried child under the age of 21 to the U.S. as a derivative beneficiary, the spouse of a U.S. citizen does not have this option. Therefore, if you submit a single application for your spouse, and you become a U.S. citizen before she and your child immigrate to the U.S., then your wife—but not your child—will be able to immigrate to the U.S. In order for your child to legally immigrate to the U.S., you would have to submit a new visa application for your child.
Scenario 2: My child is almost 21
Second, you should consider submitting separate applications if your child is close to the age of 21. As noted above, the spouse of a permanent resident can bring her unmarried child under the age of 21 to the U.S. as a derivative beneficiary. Therefore, if your child turns 21 while his or her immigrant visa application is processing, then he or she will “age out” and no longer be eligible to immigrate to the U.S. as a derivative beneficiary with your wife. You would then have to submit a new application for your child and go through the entire application process again.
Before you submit your visa application, you should consider the above information and decide whether you will need one application or two.
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ImmiFree.Law is The Harrison Law Firm P.C.’s online platform to make the family immigration and naturalization process more efficient, accurate, and affordable. Baya Harrison, Esq. is an attorney licensed in New York, Florida, and California. Attorney Harrison has helped numerous individuals and families navigate the U.S. immigration process, specifically family-based petitions and naturalization.