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Five Reasons your family-based Green Card can be denied


Backs of an elder couple walking away on the street

If you are a United States citizen age 21 or older and you want your parents to move to the U.S. from another country, you could sponsor their Green Card application. This is a common way of obtaining permanent residency in the United States, but it’s important to be ready for any problems that could arise. Reviewing the list below is a good place to start.

1. Failing To Pass the Public Charge Test 

Your parents’ adjustment of status application could be denied if they are a public charge. A public charge is someone who needs government benefits to survive. This is a problem when it comes to parent Green Cards because parents are often near the age of retirement and are unable to show that they work or have future employment opportunities.

Recent rule changes have made things more difficult by placing greater scrutiny on the applicant’s finances. Your parents will need to fill out an I-944 form. This form is also known as a Declaration of Self-Sufficiency and it basically asks about your parents’ finances and credit score.

Financial records your parents will need to support their I-944 include such things as: 

  • tax returns, 
  • property deeds, and 
  • bank statements. 
Screenshot of the form i-944 declaration of self-sufficiency first page

Generally, anything listed on the form must be supported by documents. At the family Green Card interview, the adjudications officer will apply a totality of circumstances test to evaluate the likelihood that your parents could become a public charge.

In addition to the 1-944 and its supporting documents, the adjudications officer will consider such things as your parents’: 

  • age,
  • health,  
  • education, and 
  • skills. 

Depending on the situation, other family members might need to provide an affidavit of support proving that they can provide financially for your parents if necessary.

The public charge regulation has been challenged in court numerous times. https://www.nilc.org/issues/economic-support/pubcharge/.  

There will be constant challenges to the regulations where the courts have on numerous occasions ruled against USCIS to stop implementing the I-944 form https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2020/07/29/sdny-judge-halts-enforcement-of-trump-administrations-public-charge-rule-amid-pandemic/?slreturn=20200630190706

Immigration legal resource center has detailed information about the public charge rule and how it’s been interpreted by US CIS https://www.ilrc.org/public-charge.

2. If You Cannot Prove Your Biological Relationship

Your failure to prove that you are biologically related to your parents is a basis for the denial of your parents’ application. In any family-based Green Card application, a family member must sponsor the relative and this requires objective proof that there is a familial relationship. 

The documents you will need to establish a parent-child relationship could vary depending on your specific situation, but they generally include such things as: 

  • a copy of your birth certificate with the names of your parents,
  • a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization if you were born outside the U.S., 
  • your U.S. Passport, and 
  • a copy of your parents’ civil marriage certificate. 

In some cases, the adjudication officer may require you and your parents to take a DNA test.

3. If Your Family Member Has a Criminal Record

A criminal record could be a major roadblock to your parents’ family Green Card application. Although any type of crime could cause problems, crimes that will prevent your parents from obtaining a Green Card include those involving:

  • moral turpitude, 
  • illegal drugs, and 
  • aggravated felonies. 

Make sure you are aware of your parents’ criminal history before filing for the Green Card and bring all documents relating to the charges to your interview. The U.S. CIS adjudication officer will want to see the final disposition of any criminal case involving your parents.

Policeman putting handcuffs on a criminal suspect

4. If Your Family Member Tried to Cross the Border Illegally

Your parents could be deemed inadmissible if they entered the United States illegally. For example, there is a good chance your parents’ application will be denied if they unlawfully crossed the border and were never caught by ICE. It could also be a problem if they entered on a valid visa but violated their status along the way, such as remaining in the country after a valid visa expired. 

There are exceptions, however, to these rules so you should discuss your situation with an immigration attorney before filing the I-485 Green Card application with the USCIS. The sooner these issues are resolved, the better.

5. If There Are Any Pending Court Cases

If your parents already have a case in immigration court, the USCIS might not be permitted to evaluate your parents’ Green Card application. This could occur, for example, if one of your parents has a pending immigration court case. Before the family Green Card interview, you need to determine the status of any immigration court cases involving your parents.

Notebook with question mark about unresolved case and a wooden gavel on the wooden table

Any one of the problems discussed above could cause your family-based Green Card to be denied. However, none of these issues are insurmountable if they are addressed before your final Green Card interview. Have a discussion with your parents at the beginning of the process and help them keep track of the records they will need.

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