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Immediate Relative Petition From Adult Child to Parent


Immediate Relative Petition From Adult Child to Parent

In my experience as an immigration attorney, I've often seen the emotional journey families undergo when navigating the U.S. immigration system. One of the more poignant aspects involves U.S. citizens petitioning for their parents, particularly when those parents have entered the country with a visa but overstayed. This situation is not just a legal matter; it's a deeply personal one, often filled with hope, concern, and the longing for staying together as a family. Especially when the beneficiary is a parent who sacrificed so much for their children. Today, I want to discuss the nuances between immediate relative petitions and preference categories in family-based immigration, offering an example to illustrate these differences and the emotional stakes involved.

The Case of Maria and Rosa

Eligibility for Adjustment of Status within the United States: To petition for a parent, the U.S. citizen child must be at least 21 years old. The parent must have entered the United States legally. Because it is an immediate relative petition, even if the applicant has overstayed, they would still be eligible to apply to adjust status.

Understanding Immediate Relative Petitions vs. Preference Categories

The U.S. immigration system categorizes family-based immigration into two primary types: Immediate Relative Petitions and Preference Categories.

  1. Immediate Relative Petitions: These are for close family relations of U.S. citizens. This category includes spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of U.S. citizens who are 21 years or older. The key advantage here is that there are no annual limits on the number of visas issued in this category. This means that once the petition is approved, the family member can proceed with the next steps of the immigration process without waiting for a visa to become available.
  2. Preference Categories: These apply to more distant relatives and have annual caps on the number of visas issued. They include adult children (married and unmarried) and siblings of U.S. citizens, as well as spouses and children of Green Card holders. The waiting period for a visa in these categories can be significantly longer, sometimes lasting many years.

An Empathetic Example

Consider Maria, a U.S. citizen, who wishes to petition for her mother, Rosa. Rosa entered the U.S. with a tourist visa several years ago but overstayed due to unforeseen circumstances. Now, Maria is eager to regularize her mother's status and ensure she can stay in the U.S. legally and safely.

In this scenario, Maria's petition for her mother falls under the Immediate Relative category because Rosa is an immediate family member – her mother. This category allows for a more straightforward and quicker process, recognizing the importance of keeping close families together. Maria's journey is not just about filling out forms and navigating legal complexities; it's about providing her mother with stability, and ensuring her safety and well-being in the country they call home.

Processing Times and Employment Authorization

Here's what they can expect in terms of processing times and employment authorization:

  1. Adjustment of Status Processing Time: The time frame for processing an Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) can vary significantly based on several factors, including the workload of the service center handling the case and the specific details of the individual case. On average, this process can take anywhere from 8 to 14 months, but it's important to consult with an attorney for the most current processing times.
  2. Employment Authorization: When Rosa applies for an Adjustment of Status, she can also file Form I-765 for Employment Authorization. Typically, applicants can expect to receive their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) within 5 to 7 months from the date of filing. This EAD allows Rosa to work legally in the U.S. while her Adjustment of Status application is being processed.


In family-based immigration, the distinction between Immediate Relative Petitions and Preference Categories can significantly affect the timeline and process. For Maria and Rosa, being in the Immediate Relative category presents a more expedited path for family reunification. The ability to work while waiting for the Adjustment of Status is also a critical aspect, providing stability and self-sufficiency during the transition period. As an immigration attorney, guiding clients through these processes involves not just legal expertise, but also an understanding of the practical implications on their daily lives and future plans.

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