The ability of immigrants to bring their children to the U.S. depends largely on their legal status, the type of visa they hold and various immigration laws and policies. Meaning, there isn’t a very straightforward answer to the question of when immigrants are lawfully allowed to bring their children to the U.S. with them.
Thankfully, there are some “rules of thumb” that simplify this concern. Additionally, anyone who has questions about this issue can seek personalized legal guidance at any time for useful feedback and support.
One of the primary ways immigrants can bring their children to the U.S. is through family-based immigration. This process is available to U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs, or green card holders). U.S. citizens can petition for their unmarried children under 21 years of age as ‘Immediate Relatives.’ They can also sponsor married children and those over 21, but these categories often have longer waiting periods. LPRs can sponsor their unmarried children of any age, but, like married children or those over 21 of U.S. citizens, these categories are subject to annual caps and potential backlogs.
In employment-based immigration scenarios, the principal visa holder (the employee) can often bring their dependents, including a spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, to the U.S. on derivative visas. These dependents are typically granted the same visa classification as the principal immigrant but cannot work unless they obtain the appropriate work authorization.
Refugee and Asylee Status
Individuals granted refugee or asylum status in the U.S. can apply for their spouse and unmarried children under 21 to join them. This process, known as ‘follow-to-join,’ allows families to be reunited after the primary applicant has been granted asylum or refugee status.
The process of bringing children to the U.S. involves navigating complex immigration laws and procedures. Seeking legal guidance can give interested individuals information that extends beyond this “rule of thumb” overview.