New York

Petition for stepchild’s immigration before they turn 18


Q. I plan to marry a Mexican woman who has a 15-year-old child. I am a U.S. citizen. My fiancée is here on a tourist visa. Her 15-year-old son is still in Mexico. His father won’t let him visit the United States. If I marry my fiancée and file for her green card, how can we get him to the U.S.? If we wait until he turns 18 to file for him, will he still be able to come here?

A. Your stepson will qualify to immigrate to the United States no matter his age.

That’s assuming you marry his mother before he turns 18. If you want to get him here as soon as possible, I suggest you petition for him about 18 months before his 18th birthday. Since you are a U.S. citizen, if you petition for him before he turns 21, he will qualify to immigrate in the favored “immediate relative of a U.S. citizen” category.

Immigration law defines “child” to include a stepchild where the marriage between the biological parent and the stepparent occurred before the child’s 18th birthday. Your stepson remains your child no matter what his age. The parent/child relationship may survive for immigration purposes even if you divorce his mother.

Q. I overstayed my temporary work visa. What are my options for staying in the United States? Can I change to another nonimmigrant status? Are there other options?

A. You will have a hard time getting another nonimmigrant (temporary) status. You may, however, qualify for permanent residence in one of many categories. For some categories, your having stayed longer than allowed will make getting a green card difficult.

Marriage to a U.S. citizen, assuming it is a bona fide or “real” marriage, is the easiest path for most out-of-status and undocumented immigrants to become permanent residents. Of course, finding a mate isn’t always easy. If USCIS learns that you married just to get a green card the law permanently bars you from getting legal permanent residence through family or employment.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website provides a good overview of the many ways you might qualify for permanent residence. After studying the possibilities, consult an immigration law expert about your options.

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