Dear Atty. Gurfinkel:
My husband has a 25-year old U.S. citizen child from a previous marriage. At the time we married, my stepson was only 17 years old. My husband and I would both like to get green cards, and want to know the best way to go about doing it. I know that my U.S. citizen stepson can petition his father as an “immediate relative,” enabling my husband to get a green card right away. But what about me? Does my husband have to first get his green card through his son’s petition and then my husband can petition me as a spouse of an immigrant (Category F-2A), which takes at least 4 to 5 years to process? Is there a faster way for both my husband and me to get our green cards?
Very truly yours,
In certain circumstances, a stepchild could directly petition the stepparent as an “immediate relative,” just as though the stepparent was a biological parent. The stepparent does not have to adopt the U.S. citizen child. Therefore, if the legal requirements are met, it could be possible for your stepchild to petition not only his father, but you as his stepmother at the same time, such that you both get green cards together. The basic requirements for a stepchild to petition the stepparent are:
1. The stepparent/child relationship must be formed before the child reaches the age of 18. Therefore, if someone marries the parent of a U.S. citizen child before the child’s 18th birthday (i.e. when the stepchild is 17 years of age or younger), then the step-relationship has been formed for immigration and petitioning purposes. If the marriage takes place when the U.S. citizen child is 18 years of age or older, then the child cannot petition the stepparent any more.
2. It is not necessary for the stepparent to adopt the child. All that is needed to form the petitionable relationship is that a valid marriage takes place while the child is below 18 years of age.
3. The child must be at least 21 in order to petition a parent or stepparent. NOTE: Many people think that a child can petition parents or stepparents when the child is only 18 years of age. That is not true.
For immigration purposes, a stepparent is also considered an “immediate relative” of the U.S. citizen child, and is, effectively, on equal footing with the biological parent for purposes of the petition.
Accordingly, in your case, since you married your husband when his U.S. citizen child was only 17 years old, the step-relationship for immigration purposes was formed. Your U.S. citizen stepchild is now 25 years old, and, therefore, that child could petition both you and your husband for green cards. It is not necessary for your husband to first get his green card and then petition you.
Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 24 years, and is an active member of the State Bar of California and New York, as well as the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Immigration Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. He has always excelled in school: Valedictorian in High School; Cum Laude at UCLA; and Law Degree Honors and academic scholar at Loyola Law School, which is one of the top law schools in California.