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If you’re a recently naturalized U.S. citizen, chances are you still have family members who stayed behind in your home country. Particularly, if your parents are getting older, there may be many cases in which you may prefer to have them near you, or near the medical care they need.

Reuniting U.S. citizens with their direct family members is a priority for the USCIS, and although the process to get your parents a residence permit (IR-5 visa) may be long in terms of processing time, it is a lot less complex than some of the other Green Card paths out there.

One thing to keep in mind is that you can only petition for an IR-5 Parent Visa if you are a U.S. citizen.

Find Out if Your Parents Qualify for the IR-5 Visa

A parent visa can be granted to a biological parent, an adoptive parent or a stepparent, if certain conditions are met. Your biological parents are eligible unless you have been adopted after the age of 16 and received U.S. citizenship that way. Stepparents are able to apply only if they married into the family before you turned 18 years of age, and lived with you for at least 2 years.

Adoptive parents can be sponsored only if they adopted you before your 16th birthday.

Make Sure You Are Eligible as a Sponsor

In order to bring your parents over to the United States as legal residents, you need to have obtained U.S. citizenship first - it is not possible to sponsor your parents for an IR-5 visa as a Legal Permanent Resident.

In addition, it will be necessary to demonstrate that you have sufficient financial means to sustain yourself, and your parents as they settle into their new lives. The exact amount of money you need to hold as assets or receive as income varies according to your geographical location in the U.S.

Understand the Application Process

Once you’ve established that both you and your parents are eligible to go through the IR-5 process, you can get ready to file your application. This is done by filing Form I-130 with the USCIS, and by having a lot of patience!

For a period that can take up to a year to complete, the USCIS will review your application and assess the supporting evidence of your relationship with your parent(s). The process, as with all family-based immigration, comes in two steps: first, your petition is reviewed and needs to be approved, after which your parent(s) may apply for their IR-5 visa. An important note is that you need to file a separate petition for each of your parents if both are planning to immigrate to the U.S.

Once your petition is approved, your parents will have to submit the necessary forms and documentation to their local Embassy or Consular Office, attend a consular interview, and wait until they receive their visa. They are permitted to enter the U.S. on a visitor visa to visit you while their IR-5 visa is being processed.

If your parents are already in the U.S. on another visa, they may apply for adjustment of status from within the U.S. using form I-485. If this is the path you choose, make sure they apply for adjustment of status before their current visa expires!

Once their visa is approved, your parents may legally enter the U.S. and apply for a Green Card - this will allow them to live and work in the U.S. in a lawful manner, without the need for a separate work permit.

Although family-based immigration is, at first glance, one of the most straightforward paths toward obtaining a Green Card, remember that every case is unique, and certain circumstances may end up making things easier, or more difficult for your particular situation. Make sure you have the right support by your side as you start your journey in order to avoid unnecessary delays and complications.