Can my step-child obtain a visa from me?
Immigration treats step-children and biological children for the most part identically. If you married your step-child’s biological parent before your step-child turned 18, and the marriage was not fraudulent, your step-child is entitled to most of the same immigration benefits that a biological child is entitled to. For example, if you qualify for a nonimmigrant visa like an E, L, O, or H-1B, your step-child will be able to receive a dependent visa through you. If you are a green card holder or a U.S. citizen, you will be able to submit a green card petition for your step-child.
The step-child relationship can continue to exist for Immigration purposes even if you eventually separate or divorce from the biological parent as long as you can prove that you have maintained a step-parent relationship to your step-child. Furthermore, legal permanent resident and U.S. citizen step-children can petition for their step-parents once they turn 21.
One important difference is that step-children cannot qualify for acquisition of citizenship after birth. If you have a biological child who is under 18, a legal permanent resident, and is living with you in the United States, your biological child will automatically become a U.S. citizen if you become a U.S. citizen. Step-children unfortunately do not qualify for this automatic acquisition of citizenship through their step-parents.
Can my adopted child obtain a visa from me?
Adopted children are treated completely the same as biological children for Immigration purposes. However, you must have adopted your child before he or she turned 16 (not 18) and you or your spouse must have had legal custody of your child for two years in order to confer any immigration benefits. The legal custody requirement must be evidenced through either a final adoption decree or an official document in the form of a custody award by a court or government authority.
If I am a child’s legal guardian, can the child obtain any immigration benefits through me?
As a legal guardian you have legal responsibilities for the child but legal guardianship by itself, without a qualifying family relationship, does not allow you to confer any immigration benefits. However, in certain cases the child may be able to self-petition for a green card as a Special Immigrant Juvenile. This green card may be available for children who have a legal guardian in the United States, such as extended family members, godparents, or others due to serious problems with one or both of the child’s biological parents as well as problems in the children’s home countries preventing them from returning. In these situations, you may seek guardianship of a child in a State Family Court. If guardianship is granted and if additional findings are made in that Court that the child cannot reunite with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and that it is in the child’s best interest to remain in the United States, the child can self-petition for a green card. Special Immigrant Juvenile cases involve State Court proceedings so you should consult with an attorney within your jurisdiction who can handle family and juvenile law matters.
In all situations, Immigration classifies a person as a “child” only if he or she is under the age of 21 and unmarried. For more information about children, please read about immigrant visas for children and nonimmigrant visas for children.
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