As international travel becomes more commonplace, so do international marriages. Earlier this decade the U.S. Census Bureau estimated about 21% of all married-couple households had at least one spouse who was born in a different country. That’s 11.4 million married couples.

In some cases, that foreign-born spouse may be interested in bringing a parent, or both parents, from their home country to live in the U.S. There is a pathway to do just that, and can result in those parents becoming lawful permanent residents of the United States.

Sponsoring a parent for immigration

If you are a U.S. citizen and at least 21 years old, you can petition to bring certain family members to the United States. Depending on how they are related to you, they may be eligible to obtain a green card without enduring a long waiting list.

Parents, as immediate relatives, are among those that can obtain permanent residence this way.

To file one of these petitions you need a few documents:

  • Form I-130
  • A copy of your birth certificate showing your name and the name of your mother/father
  • A copy of your Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. passport, if you were also born outside the U.S.

You will also have to provide a copy of your parents’ civil marriage certificate if they are wed, or, if petitioning to bring your father over, other evidence you were legitimated before the age of 18, or that “an emotional or financial bond existed between you and your father.” It’s also possible to petition for adoptive parents or step-parents to immigrate to the U.S.

Form I-130 is used to establish the relationship, and at 12 pages long includes a spot where an attorney or accredited representative must sign.

What else you should know

As immediate relatives, parents receive special consideration under U.S. law. Because of this, there is no waiting list for mothers or fathers a petitioner wants to bring here. Once the U.S. Department of State approves the Form I-130, one or both parents will be able to apply for an immigrant visa.

Bringing your parents to the U.S. is a big decision. While the law allows for a relatively straightforward path to pursue such a move, it doesn’t come without complications. You must be capable of being their financial sponsor, for example. And one small mistake on the pages of documents that make up the petition can lead to delays or even a rejection.

While none of this is a reason to be discouraged, you may want to consider hiring an attorney to help guide you through the process. As long as everything goes smoothly and you meet all the requirements, things have a good chance of ending exactly as you’d hoped: with your parents living here in the U.S. as permanent residents.