Motherhood and the Complexities of U.S. Immigration Law

Mothers and Immigration6 Aspects of Mothers in U.S. Immigration Law and a Bit of the Fine Print.

A U.S. Citizen can sponsor their mother for a lawful permanent residence (a green card) as long as the U.S. Citizen is over the age of 21 and the mother is outside of the U.S. and in general, has no previous immigration violations or criminal history. If the mother is already inside the U.S. she must have been admitted or inspected upon entry but does not have to have maintained lawful status. Mothers who entered the U.S. illegally are not legally able to obtain green cards through sponsorship by  their children even if their children are U.S. Citizens. This is why the “anchor baby” claim is a myth.

Mother’s of Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders)

Lawful permanent residents of the United States are NOT permitted to sponsor their mothers for green cards. They must first naturalize and become U.S. Citizens themselves. In general, one must have  lawful permanent residence for five years before they will be eligible for U.S. Citizenship. The wait is only three years, if they are married to a U.S. Citizen during that time.

Adopted Mothers

A U.S. Citizen can sponsor their adopted mother for lawful permanent residence, if they were legally adopted before the age of 16 and lived with their mother for two years prior to their adoption, or if they were orphaned or abandoned and adopted prior to age 18. If the U.S. Citizen was legally adopted then they CANNOT sponsor their biological mother.


A U.S Citizen CANNOT sponsor their step mother for lawful permanent residence. However, a U.S. Citizen Step-Mother can sponsor their foreign step-child for lawful permanent residence if the marriage which created the step-mother relationship occurred before the step-child’s 18th birthday and the child is under the age of 21. If the child is over the age of 21, they may still be sponsored but the wait for a visa could be between 8-20 years depending on their national origin. In general, they must have also been admitted and inspected at entry and have no previous immigration violations or criminal history.

De Facto Mothers

Sometimes children are raised by grandparents, aunts and uncles, god mothers and friends of the family. The friend or relative raising the child may be the “mother” in every aspect but not legally. Unfortunately, a U.S. Citizen CANNOT sponsor a de facto mother regardless of the motherly bond.

Proof of Motherhood Required

In order for a U.S. Citizen to sponsor their mother for lawful permanent residence they must first prove the relationship. For biological mothers, a birth certificate is required. If no birth certificate is available, then affidavits of birth by individuals who were present at the birth or DNA testing could be provided. For step-mothers sponsoring their child, the marriage certificate of the step-mother and the birth certificate of the child listing the step-mother’s spouse as their parent will be required. For an adopted mother, a legal adoption decree is required.

These are just a few general requirements for mothers to immigrate to the U.S. The requirements are sometimes different for fathers. There are a variety of immigration regulations not discussed here which may prevent even those who meet these requirements and each case must be evaluated for eligibility individually. The Law Office of André Olivie, PLLC helps bring mothers and keep mothers in the U.S. For more information schedule a consultation with Seattle immigration attorney, André Olivie.