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Navigating the U.S. immigration system with your children can be difficult.
Whether you’re just getting started on your family's visa application or you’ve recently moved to the U.S. with your children, Boundless is here to help. Here’s a breakdown of common family questions during each stage of the immigration process.
In this guide:
Considerations Before Immigrating With Children
family visa types, explained
If you’re looking to immigrate to the U.S. with your children, or sponsor family members for immigrant benefits, let’s start with the basics: what visas can you apply for?
Many family-based or marriage-based applications allow the applicant (or beneficiary) to apply with their children. Below are two common scenarios where children can immigrate alongside their parents:
IR-2 Child Visas
If you’re a U.S. citizen and your child is living outside of the United States, it may be possible to sponsor them for a green card through the IR-2 child visa process. More information on the process and requirements can be found in Boundless’ IR-2 guide.
Boundless can help you include your children on your green card application for just $450 per child. Check your family’s eligibility here.
If you’re going the K-1 fiancé(e) visa route, the K-2 visa may be a good option for your family. The K-2 visa can be used by the children of a K-1 fiancé visa holder to enter the United States and immigrate with their parents at the same time.
Boundless can help you include any unmarried children under the age of 21 on your K-1 fiancé(e) visa application for no extra charge. Learn more about what we do to help.
Information on other immigration options can be found in Boundless’ child visa guide and our live chat with an immigration attorney on all child immigration questions. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also has a guide for bringing children to the U.S. on their official site.
Boundless can help your entire family complete their marriage-based green card application or K-1 visa application — including all required forms and supporting documents and an independent attorney review. Learn more, or start your application.
Costs when applying with children
All green card applications and other types of family-based visas have fees which are paid directly to the U.S. government at the time of filing. Applying with children adds additional costs which depend on where you’re applying from and whether your sponsor is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Boundless breaks down the costs for beneficiary spouses and accompanying children by visa type in our cost guide.
When you’re ready to apply, Boundless can guide you through every stage of the marriage-based green card or K-1 visa process, including how to pay your government filing fees. Learn more, or start your application.
If you’re a U.S. citizen, you may be wondering about your child’s citizenship status and how to obtain the proper documentation. If your child was born outside of the United States, it may be possible to apply for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). A CRBA proves your child’s U.S. citizenship and can be obtained at the U.S. Embassy or consulate in the country where your child was born. Boundless’ guide explains how to apply for a CRBA in more detail, including some frequently asked questions on the process.
Dual citizenship is another immigration topic that may affect children with parents of different nationalities. Obtaining dual citizenship can have its benefits, although not all countries allow dual citizenship and it is important to understand the implications it may have on your child’s rights and responsibilities for each respective country of nationality. More information on dual citizenship can be found in Boundless’ guide.
Have questions on U.S. citizenship? Learn more about what Boundless can do to help.
What age qualifies as a child according to immigration laws?
Under U.S. immigration law, a child is someone who is unmarried and under the age of 21. Once an individual turns 21, they are no longer considered a child for immigration purposes and have in turn “aged out” of their eligibility for specific types of family-based immigrant visas.
“Aging out” is a serious concern for older immigrant children and their families, as it requires children to refile their applications under different circumstances and potentially wait much longer to obtain green card status. To prevent this from happening as often, the U.S. government passed the Child Status Protection Act, or CSPA, to prevent children from aging out due to long processing backlogs by immigration agencies. Boundless provides a more detailed explanation of the CSPA provisions and who might be affected.
Do you have legal questions on CSPA and preventing your child from aging out? Boundless can help! Our Ask My Attorney (AMA) program gives you consultations with independent immigration attorneys in Boundless’ network for just $49. Learn more about AMA.
Adoption and Stepchildren
Navigating the immigration process with adoptive children or stepchildren can be complex. You may be wondering how to satisfy certain eligibility requirements, which supporting documents to provide on your visa applications, and more.
For international adoption questions, USCIS has a comprehensive guide on adopting a child from abroad. The State Department has a similar guide on intercountry adoptions here, where prospective parents can search for adoption providers and learn about the post-adoption immigration process.
Regarding stepchildren, in general U.S. citizens can sponsor their stepchild/stepchildren on a family-based green card application. More information on the IR-2 child visa and requirements for sponsoring stepchildren can be found here.
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a policy which protects immigrants who entered the U.S. unlawfully as children. The DACA program does not grant eligible recipients official legal status or a pathway to citizenship, but it does allow them to obtain certain U.S. benefits, such as driver’s licenses, social security numbers, and work permits.
It is important to note that first-time DACA applicants are currently barred from applying to the program, based on a July 2021 ruling by a Federal judge. If you and your family need more information on the current state of DACA, how to renew your DACA status, and more, Boundless created a comprehensive DACA guide to help with these questions.
Visa Bulletin Information
If you and your family are being sponsored for green cards by an employer or family member, you may have heard about the Visa Bulletin.
The visa bulletin is issued every month by the Department of State. It shows which green card applications can move forward, based on when the sponsorship petition that starts the green card process was originally filed. It also lets you estimate how long it will take before you will be able to get your green card, based on how quickly the “line” is moving now.
The visa bulletin has separate columns for certain categories and specific countries, notably China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines. The wait time for a green card is often longer—and sometimes much longer—for citizens of these four countries, because their annual demand for green cards exceeds the 7% “country cap” placed on the number of green cards issued per year. This means that practically speaking, there are separate backlogs and green card lines for each of these four countries, which also vary by green card category.Want to learn more about what’s happening with green card backlogs and wait times for specific categories? Every month, Boundless releases visa bulletin explainers that help breakdown the process for immigrant families and show visa bulletin trends over time.
Income Requirements with Children
In order to apply for specific family-based visas, families must be able to demonstrate that they meet a minimum annual income based on their household size. For families with children, the income requirement increases since the household size is larger. To determine your household size and how to prove you meet the income requirement for your family, check out Boundless’ guide.
Supporting Documents for your family
Applying as a family means you will need to provide supporting documents for not only yourself, but also any children you are including on your application. The required documents for you and your children may vary depending on your specific circumstances, however Boundless has put together a detailed guide on the most common immigration documents and how to obtain them. One notable and notoriously tricky document to obtain is the certified copy of your child’s birth certificate — you can read up on this document requirement here.
If you choose to work with Boundless, our team of immigration specialists takes the guesswork out of the process and provides you with a personalized document checklist for you and your children. Our team also reviews each document to make sure they meet government requirements and standards. Learn more, or get started now.
Preparing for the Medical Exam and Visa Interview
Undergoing a medical examination is an important step of the immigration process and is required for all family members seeking a family-based green card or other type of immigrant visa. Boundless put together a guide on the medical exam so you and your children can prepare for this requirement. The guide includes information on how to schedule an exam with an accredited physician, what to expect during the exam itself, and how to document your medical and immunization history.
Depending on the type of visa your family is applying for, children may also be required to attend a visa interview as part of the application process. Children may be asked to verify information about themselves and the details of their application. If this seems nerve-wracking, don’t worry! Boundless gathered the top child visa interview questions (video) we’ve heard from our customers so you and your child can enter the interview with confidence.
Traveling to the U.S. with Children
Once your family’s visas are approved, you may start to think about your travel plans to the United States. Many family-based visa types require applicants to enter the U.S. within six months of approval, so securing travel plans will become a top priority. International travel and crossing border checkpoints for immigration purposes can be stressful enough, let alone with children in tow! The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has an official guide to international travel. This New York Times article on how to travel with kids also contains some helpful tips and advice for parents.
Moving to a new country and navigating different education, healthcare, and financial systems can be a challenge. Boundless put together some helpful tips and resources below to help ease the transition for your family.
Navigating the U.S. School System
Every child in the U.S. has the legal right to attend public school, regardless of immigration status. Boundless put together a guide for immigrant parents on how to navigate the U.S. education system, including an explanation of how public school is structured in the U.S., how to enroll children in specific schools, and more. Boundless has also reported on the barriers immigrant parents may face in supporting their children’s education.
Additional education resources for immigrant parents that may be helpful:
|Public School Resources for Immigrant Families||U.S. Department of Education’s immigrant, refugee, and asylee resources page |
|Financial Aid and Scholarship Opportunities for Immigrants||Scholarships for Hispanic and Latino students |
Applying to U.S. High Schools as an International Student
Attending high school in the United States can be a great educational opportunity for many international students. There are several different ways to apply to U.S. high schools and each has its own application and visa requirements. Prospective international students can read up on the process in Boundless’ guide.
Boundless + RapidVisa can complete your child’s F-1 student visa application, help your child prepare for their visa interview, and answer any student visa questions your family may have. Learn more about what we do to help.
English-language learning can be an important part of the immigration process for many families. There are many resources available to help children with their English-language skills in and outside of the classroom.
This ESL (English as a second language) site provides lesson plans, worksheets, and other materials to help children of all ages. ESL programs and courses are also available at most U.S. public schools, and specific guidelines and requirements may vary depending on the school district. Parents can generally reach out to their child’s school directly to inquire about ESL programs. To better understand what may be best for your child, a breakdown of common ESL programs in U.S. public schools can be found in this guide.
Navigating U.S. Finances with Children
Obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN)
In order to legally work in the U.S., all individuals (whether you’re a green card holder or work visa holder) must obtain a Social Security number (SSN). If your child is of legal working age in the U.S., Boundless’ guide gives an overview of the Social Security number and how to apply for you and your children once you’re in the United States.
Navigating the U.S. Banking System
Need information on how to set up a savings or checking account for your children in the U.S.? Boundless has you covered! Check out our guide on navigating the U.S. banking system as an immigrant, including how to open a bank account.
Building credit is an important step in establishing a financial footprint in the United States. For older children, Boundless’ guide covers the benefits of building credit, how to obtain debit and credit cards, and other general credit tips for new immigrants.
getting health insurance for your family
The U.S. healthcare system is complex and can be difficult to navigate for even native-born Americans, let alone new immigrants. Understanding your health insurance options and how to obtain affordable coverage for the entire family is often top of mind for new immigrants. Check out Boundless’ healthcare guide and the federal healthcare marketplace for more helpful information.
mental health assistance for immigrant families
If you are looking for mental health assistance for your children, many organizations and nonprofits have programs dedicated to the unique challenges and experiences immigrant families face. Here are a few mental health resources that may be helpful:
Coalition for Immigrant Mental Health: Advocacy organization dedicated to helping immigrant families gain access to comprehensive mental health care.
American Psychological Association (APA): APA’s immigrant-specific resources and list of psychologists that work with immigrant, undocumented, and refugee families.
Mental Health Resources for Immigrants: A comprehensive list of mental health organizations designed for immigrants and their families.
FEDERAL PROGRAMS AND COMMUNITY RESOURCES
There are often misconceptions around the use of public benefits and whether or not immigrants are eligible for certain federal programs. The U.S. government’s official benefits site has a section dedicated to immigrants and refugees, where families can search for different programs and check their eligibility.
Here are some additional government and community-focused resources to explore as you settle in the U.S.:
|The Administration for Children and Families||General government social services|
|Government Child Care Search||Government-vetted list of child care providers|
|U.S. Department of Labor FMLA||General information on Family and Medical Leave benefits|
|Housing Resources for Immigrants||Affordable housing placement and search for immigrant families|
|Immigrant Legal Resource Center||Community resources for immigrant families|
Resources for expecting parents
Welcoming a child into the family can be an exciting and joyous time, but not without its challenges. This is especially true for immigrant parents who are navigating a new country for the first time. We’ve put together a series of guides to help expecting parents ease into parenthood in the U.S.:
Navigating the U.S. Healthcare System: A Guide for Immigrant Couples Expecting their First Child
Financial Planning for Immigrant Couples Expecting a Baby
Preparing for Parenthood: Creating a Multicultural Home for Your Child
Immigrant Couple’s Guide to Birth Celebrations in the U.S.
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