Question: Last year I applied for an immigrant visa for my wife and her child from a previous marriage. I was a permanent resident when I filed the application, but recently I became a U.S. citizen. Will this affect the pending petition for my wife and her child?
Answer: Becoming a U.S. citizen will not affect your application for your wife. The processing times are currently the same for the spouse of a U.S. citizen and the spouse of a green card holder. Becoming a U.S. citizen might affect your application for your wife’s child.
A green card holder can apply for an immigrant visa for his wife, and his wife’s children may accompany his wife to the U.S. as “derivative beneficiaries.” The green card holder needs to submit only one Form I-130.
The wife of a U.S. citizen cannot bring her children with her to the U.S. as derivative beneficiaries. Instead, the U.S. citizen must submit one immigrant visa application for his spouse and one visa application for each child.
Therefore, if you submitted one immigrant visa for your wife while you were a green card holder, you will have to submit a new visa application for your children after becoming a U.S. citizen.
You can avoid this problem by: (1) waiting until your children enter the U.S. before you become a U.S. citizen, or (2) filing immigrant visa applications for your spouse and each child.
What if my oldest son is 21 years old; will he have to wait longer for a visa to become available or will it remain the same?
If you filed a petition for your unmarried adult children when you were a green card holder, the NVC will change his visa category from family second preference (F2B) to family first preference (F1). However, under a federal law called the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), visa applicants can “opt out” of conversion to the F1 visa category and remain in F2B.
This may be beneficial because sometimes the wait time for an F2B visa is shorter than the wait time for an F1 and applicants are able to keep the priority date of their F2B petition when it converts to an F1. You should check the Visa Bulletin to see if it would be helpful for your adult unmarried child to remain in F2B category.
Applicants who want to opt-out of conversion to the F1 category must submit a request using these guidelines:
- Applicants whose case is at NVC should submit requests using the NVC Public Inquiry Form. NVC will forward the request to USCIS and change the visa category back to F2B upon receipt of USCIS’s approval.
- Applicants whose case is at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas should ask the embassy to submit a request on their behalf. The consular officer will forward the request and adjudicate the visa application in the F2B category only upon receipt of USCIS’s approval.
My petition is still pending with USCIS? What do I do now?
If you became a U.S. citizen while your petition is still pending with USCIS, you need to notify the USCIS office that is processing your petition. On your I-130 Receipt Notice, there is an address located on the bottom left side. This is the USCIS office that is processing your application. You should submit the following documents to make sure USCIS knows you are now a U.S. citizen:
- A letter explaining that you are now a U.S. citizen;
- A copy of your I-130 Receipt Notice; and
- A copy of your Naturalization Certificate.
What if my petition was already approved and transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC)?
If USCIS transferred your application to the NVC, then you must notify the NVC by submitting a Public Inquiry Form online.
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.