Common Questions for Sponsoring Parents

Ame Coats: Hi everyone.  My name is Ame Coats.  I’m an immigration attorney with Bashyam Spiro.  We are a full service immigration law firm, and we serve clients throughout the United States.  I’m here today with our managing partner, Murali Bashyam.

Murali Bashyam: Hello Ame.

Ame Coats: And we’re gonna be talking about how a U.S. citizen can sponsor their parents for lawful permanent residence status in the United States.   Whether you do immigrant visa processing and your parent processes at the embassy, or your parent is here and does adjustment of status, here are some questions that I see on a daily basis.  And the first one is how long does it take.

Well, when your parent here does adjustment of status, I would say it takes about five months from the time that the case is actually filed.  But remember, you’re not going to file the case on the day after your parent gets here.  So I mean there’s going to be a period of time before you’ve made this decision and your parents made the decision that they want to stay and apply for adjustment of status.

Murali Bashyam: So you’re basically talking about from the date of filing.

Ame Coats: Correct.  Immigrant visa process takes considerably longer, but I would still stay that a general rule of thumb is probably maybe ten months, give or take a couple of months depending on what country it is.

Murali Bashyam: Yeah, and immigrant visa, by that you just mean filing the I-130 here first, and then consular processing at the embassy in the parent’s home country.

Ame Coats: Exactly.  Exactly.  A question that I get all the time is, what about health care?  And honestly Murali, I can’t answer this question 100 percent because I think that this really just varies on each family’s ability to find health care for their parents and pay for it.

Murali Bashyam: You’re talking about private health care.

Ame Coats: Yeah, I am.  I am.  But and as far as public health care goes, one thing that you need to know is during the five years that someone has permanent resident status, they are ineligible for getting public benefits.  That would include something like Medicare or Medicaid.  After that, the issue you have is whether or not the affidavit of support that you filed is still in effect, and affidavit of support if you remember is the document that the U.S. citizen petitioner signs pretty much promising the government that their parent is not going to go on public welfare.

And that document is in effect until your parent becomes a U.S. citizen, or until your parent gets up to 40 work quarters, social security work quarters which is approximately 10 years of work.  So for a lot of parents, they’re still going to be under that affidavit of support obligation when they’re in year six, seven and eight of their permanent resident status.  Your parents aren’t going to be eligible for five years to even get any kind of public benefits.

And then after that, you’ve got affidavit of support that you signed, wherein the government can ask that you repay them for any public benefits that your parents obtain before that affidavit of support ends.  So it’s definitely a problem.  It’s an issue.  It’s something that you need to look into and have that question resolved before your parents even get here.  The other thing that comes up pretty frequently are when the U.S. – the U.S. citizen has a sibling.  The sibling’s young.  The sibling is still living at home with the parent.

Murali Bashyam: In a foreign country for instance.

Ame Coats: Right.  Right.  So the U.S. citizen files for their parents, so of course they want their sibling, their 16 or 17 year old to come with them.  But the problem is the immigration law doesn’t allow this.  You have to file for your siblings separately.  Now once your parents get here and get a green card, they can file for your sibling, but there’s still going to be a period, a lengthy period of separation.

Murali Bashyam: So basically the parents should have to think about whether they want to leave their child behind, their home country to move to the United States as a permanent resident or not.

Ame Coats: Absolutely.

Murali Bashyam: The thing about the whole process between children sponsoring parents, and we see this coming up more in this type of situation, there’s a lot to think about that has nothing to do with the immigration process itself.

Ame Coats: For sure.

Murali Bashyam: Right.  It really is.  It comes up a lot.  Sometimes you have the children who want to sponsor their parents and they want them to come here and live with them, but the parents really don’t want to.  And then you have a number of different situations.  It could be in reverse as well, so.

Ame Coats: And Murali, this is a really good time to talk about a visitor visa, because actually a lot of U.S. citizens would just like for their parents to have a visitor visa to come here.  But that’s not an option because every time they go to apply for one, they get denied.  So they feel stuck that this is the only option they have for their parents to be able to come here, but really their parents aren’t ready.

Murali Bashyam: They’re not ready.

Ame Coats:  There’s nothing for them to do here.  And so – and they miss their friends.

Murali Bashyam: Every time we get one of these consultations, one of the first questions I ask after going through the process and the law is, are you sure that the parents really want to live here?

Ame Coats: Right.

Murali Bashyam: Is this something that’s being forced on them in some way, ‘cause there are consequences of that of course, which you’ll go into in a little bit.  But there’s a lot to think about with a visitor visa of course.  They don’t all get denied, but it’s very tricky because when the consular officer knows that they have a U.S. citizen son or daughter in the U.S., they immediately think that the parents are going to want to go there so that the child can sponsor them for permanent residency, and file for the adjustment of status in the U.S. because it’s a little bit easier to do, and faster than going to the consular processing way of going through the process.

Ame Coats: If you want your parents just to be able to come visit, then you have to try.  In my opinion, if you’re going to have your parents apply for visitor visa, you have to file the best application you can at the very first try.  Don’t think that you’re just going to – just file the application and not worry so much about the documentation.  If it doesn’t work out well then you’ll try again later, because they’re not going to seriously entertain a second visitor visa application.

So for the first application, you’ve got to put lots of evidence with it to prove that your parents are gonna get back home - property taxes, if either of your parents still work, proof that they’re going to return to a job, other relatives at home, finances at home.  And you can also include a letter of invitation and even a statement from your parents themselves saying, “We know we can immigrate.  We know that our U.S. citizen child can sponsor us, but we’re not ready.  We don’t want to do that.  We just want to be able to come visit.”  Just do the best that you can, and so then if it doesn’t work, you can be able to say to yourself, “Well we tried.  We did the very best we could.”

Murali Bashyam: Absolutely.  And unfortunately the reality is a number of consulate offices around the world, it might be that you could put all this together, which you should as Ame has just discussed, but the officer might not even look at it.  They might not even listen to you, but worth trying, and always disclose what you have, and be truthful with any question they may ask, if they ask it.

Ame Coats: Right.  Right.  So I want to skip who can my parent sponsor.  I’m going to come back to that.  So let’s talk about, what if you decide that okay, I’m gonna go ahead and sponsor my parents for permanent resident status, even if they don’t want to live here 100 percent of the time, and let’s just see how it goes.  So the scenario that I get are parents who come here, they get their green cards but really they want to go back home and live.

And so this is a problem.  There is a way for your parents to spend like probably half their time at home and half their time here.  It really needs to be planned out.  There’s a lot of legal strategy that’s involved in making this plan for them to keep their green cards, but it’s doable if they’re willing to spend like half their time here and half their time there.

Murali Bashyam: Even then it’s an imperfect situation.

Ame Coats: Right.

Murali Bashyam: But you never know the consular officer you’re gonna run into and what kind of issues you’re going to get.

Ame Coats: You can’t.  Yeah.  But the worst thing that can happen is that your parents lose their green card.  And so what happens if your parents were to lose their green card?  You just file again.  It takes them the same amount of time that it took the first time.  They’re not barred from getting another green card.

Murali Bashyam: It’s just more money to the U.S. government.

Ame Coats: That’s right.

Murali Bashyam: And they certainly need it today.  [Laughter]

Ame Coats: So that’s kind of the situation there.  It gets a little complicated.  If you want to protect them from ever losing their residency, then they’ve got to get their U.S. citizenship.  And to get U.S. citizenship, the resident requirements in the U.S. are even more strict than just to keep your residency.  And again, that strategy, you need to talk to an attorney, get that all planned out so you really understand the rules.  There’s a common perception among people that if their parents come back once a year, then they’re gonna be able to keep their green card, and that’s just not the case.

Murali Bashyam: No.  And that goes back to what I mentioned earlier, which is when you’re going through this process, just the number one question is, do the parents want to reside in the U.S. or not.  Very fundamental question, and they’ve got to work through that.

Ame Coats: Right.

Murali Bashyam: For more information, call us today or visit BashyamSpiro.com to view our full presentation.

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