Immigration can involve a complex set of regulations and paperwork at any age, which also applies to minors. Because the requirements are stringent and the process complicated, it’s best to work with an experienced immigration attorney. Here are some of the factors involved.
What Is a Green Card?
A green card (also known as a permanent resident card) is a piece of identification that indicates the holder is a legal resident of the U.S. and can live, travel, and work anywhere within the country. A green card holder is protected by U.S. laws, just as a natural-born citizen is. Essentially, a green card demonstrates that the U.S. has given permission to an immigrant to reside here.
A green card isn’t a guarantee that the holder will not be deported, but it does protect someone from being deported if the deportation is due to a change in immigration laws that happens after the person receives their green card.
A green card is not a U.S. passport, nor does having one entitle someone to have a U.S. passport. The person awarded the green card does not have full U.S. citizenship.
Can a Minor Get a Green Card?
Yes, under specific circumstances. These are the conditions under which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says a minor may be granted a green card.
- Someone under 21 and unmarried and is the child of a U.S. citizen may apply for a green card.
- Someone under 21 who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen who’s at least 21 years old.
- An unmarried person under 21 who is the child of a lawful permanent resident.
- Minor admitted to the U.S. as the child of a fiance(e) of a U.S. citizen.
- Abused child (under 21 and unmarried) of a U.S. citizen.
- An abandoned, neglected, or abused minor who needs protection through U.S. juvenile court.
- As part of a family that was granted refugee or asylum status at least one year before applying for a green card.
There may be other circumstances where a minor can apply for a green card. Because each situation is unique and the laws are so extensive and complex, it’s highly advised that someone contact an experienced immigration attorney to determine eligibility and how to apply.
What’s Required to Apply for a Green Card?
The requirements vary depending on the circumstances under which the immigrant is trying to get the green card, whether through a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or through refugee or asylum programs, to name a few. In general, these are steps that may be required.
- Usually, the person who wants a green card must be sponsored by someone else, including an immediate family member. The sponsor must file an initial petition.
- Once the USCIS receives and approves the sponsor’s petition, the immigrant can file their application for a green card.
- Once the immigrant’s application is received, either USCIS or a local U.S. embassy (if applying from another country) will schedule what’s called a biometrics appointment. This is an in-person appointment to collect fingerprints and photographs and, if applicable, a signature. These will be used to conduct background checks to ensure the applicant has no criminal background, which could be grounds for refusal.
- If the background check doesn’t turn up criminal activity, the applicant will likely need to undergo an in-person interview with the USCIS or a local U.S. embassy. This is usually the final step, and the green card may be awarded at the interview or shortly afterward if there are no outstanding problems or concerns.
What Is DACA?
DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It was meant to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children from being deported. It does not create a path to citizenship or eligibility for various federal benefits. Still, on a two-year renewable basis, it could allow the minor to remain in the country and eventually be legally employed.
To be eligible to remain in the U.S. under DACA, the immigrants must have arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16 and before June 15, 2007; be under the age of 41 as of June 15, 2022; be either currently enrolled in school or completed high school or its equivalent or be a veteran; and had no lawful status as of June 15, 2012. This is not legal residency or citizenship but allows immigrants who arrived as minors to receive education and potentially employment.
Does a Green Card Allow Permanent Residency in the U.S.?
No. A green card usually lasts ten years. It must be renewed within six months of expiration, or the person would have to begin the green card process all over again. The green card can be renewed with the USCIS form I-90. The renewal can take from six to 15 months, so the sooner someone applies, the better.
What Should I Do if I Want to Help a Minor Get a Green Card?
Call Toland Law, LLC, at 857-347-3701 to request a free consultation. Green card applications can be complicated and bureaucratic. They can also take time, and a great deal of time can be lost if part of the original application is done incorrectly or the person doesn’t meet eligibility requirements right away. Working with our experienced, knowledgeable immigration attorneys can help you avoid missteps that could lead to delays or rejections.