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IR5 Visa: Parent of a U.S. Citizen Guide

The IR5 visa is an immigrant visa that allows the foreign-born parent or parents of a U.S. citizen to immigrate to the United States as a lawful permanent resident in order to be with their child in the United States.  Under the IR5 visa, the parent(s) are able to live and work in the United States.  

Who Qualifies for the IR5 Visa? 

In order to qualify for the IR5 visa, the parent(s) of a U.S. citizen and his or her sponsor (the U.S. citizen child) must meet the following criteria. 

Requirements for Parents 

In order for parents to be eligible for the IR5 visa, they must: 

  • Be the parents to their U.S. citizen child. 

Requirements for Sponsor (U.S. citizen child)

In order for a sponsor to be eligible to petition for the IR5 visa on behalf of their parent(s), he or she must: 

  • Be a U.S. citizen; 
  • Be 21 years of age or older; 
  • Have the financial means to support their parent(s) until they begin work in the U.S.; 
  • Live in the United States and maintain a valid address there; 
  • Be able to prove their relationship with the parent(s) by providing a copy of their birth certificate or other valid forms of verification.

What is the Process for Obtaining an IR5 Visa? 

Unlike other visas, the IR5 visa is not subject to any caps on the number of Green Cards issued per year.  Thus, the process to receive an IR5 visa is generally less lengthy than for other Green Card applicants.  Individuals who are applying for the IR5 visa from outside the United States must use the Consular Processing steps outlined below, while applicants who are already in the United States must use the Adjustment of Status steps outlined below.  

Consular Processing

Consular processing is available for applicants who are currently living outside of the United States.  Under consular processing, applicants must follow the steps outlined below:

Step One: File an Immigrant Visa Petition 

In order to begin the process for consular processing, the applicant’s U.S. citizen child will need to submit the applicant’s immigration petition Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to establish the parent-child relationship. 

Step Two: File Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application 

After filing an immigrant visa petition, the visa applicant must file Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application by providing information regarding the applicant’s background, biographical information, and reason for immigrating to the United States.  Included with Form DS-260, the parent’s sponsor must prove their eligibility for the IR5 visa.

When DS-260 is submitted, documentation must be included to prove the relationship between the sponsor and their parent(s), as well as identifying information for both the sponsor and their parent(s).  The documents required to be submitted include: 

  • A passport for the immigrating parent(s) that is valid for more than 6 months after their planned entry into the United States; 
  • A signed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support from the parent’s child/sponsor; 
  • Form DS-260 confirmation page; 
  • Proof of medical examination and vaccinations; 
  • Two photographs that conform to visa photo requirements

Step Three: Attend Medical Examination and Receive Vaccines

In order to be eligible to enter the United States, the IR5 visa applicant must receive a medical examination and all required vaccines.  After attending a medical examination and receiving required vaccines from an authorized physician, the IR5 visa applicant must present documentation signed by the physician that proves the applicant went through a medical exam and received required vaccines. 

Step Four: Attend Interview at Consulate or Embassy

After an applicant’s immigrant visa petition and electronic application are submitted, he or she will need to attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to them where a U.S. official will ask questions relevant to the individual’s desire to live in the United States permanently.  The consulate officer conducting the interview will likely inquire into the applicant’s relationship with the U.S. citizen and assess the legitimacy of the relationship.

Step Five: After Immigrant Visa is Granted

Once an applicant’s visa petition is approved and an immigrant visa is granted, he or she will receive a sealed Visa Packet that must be brought to a United States port of entry when the individual seeks entry into the United States, and must not be opened prior to arrival at the port of entry.  The Visa Packet may be given to the applicant at the interview with a U.S. consulate officer.  So long as the individual has paid all USCIS fees, the individual’s Green Card should arrive by mail to the individual’s United States address within 45 days of arrival in the United States.

Adjusting Status

Individuals already living inside the United States can seek to change their status as a parent of a United States citizen.  Parents may adjustment their status by following the steps below:

Step One: File an Immigrant Visa Petition and Change of Status Petition 

Much like consular processing, an applicant seeking to change his or her status must have their U.S. citizen child submit immigration petition Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative to the USCIS in order to stay permanently in the United States.  

Unlike consular processing, Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status must also be filed after the immigrant visa petition is approved or at the same time as the immigrant visa petition.  Only immediate relatives to U.S. citizens, including parents, are permitted to submit Form I-485 at the same time as the immigration petition.  

Step Two: Submit Supporting and Identifying Documentation 

When submitting Form I-130 and Form I-485 to adjust status, the parent(s) must submit other supporting identifying documentation, including: 

  • Two passport-style photographs that conform to Department of State photo requirements; 
  • Copy of the Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice (for the Form I-130 petition filed on the applicant’s behalf) 
    • Note: Form I-797 does not need to be filed if Form I-130 and Form I-485 is filed together
  • Copy of applicant’s birth certificate; 
  • Copy of valid marriage certificate; 
  • Copy of valid divorce from any prior marriages; 
  • Documentation evidencing the marriage’s legitimacy; 
  • Copy of applicant’s passport page with non-immigrant visa; 
  • Copy of applicant’s passport page with admission or parole stamp issued by a U.S. immigration officer; 
  • Copy of government-issued ID with applicant’s photograph; 
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record or copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document 

Step Three: Attend an Application Support Center Appointment 

After Form I-485 is filed, an applicant will have to attend an appointment to provide fingerprints, photograph, a signature, and an acknowledgement that the applicant has provided true and accurate information.  The applicant will receive a notice in the mail informing him or her of the appointment time, date, and location. 

Step Four: Attend an Interview 

Similar to consular processing, some applicants may have to attend an interview prior to receiving approval of their change of status application.  However, an interview is not required for all applicants.  Thus, an individual will receive a notice of the interview time, date, and location if one is necessary. 

Step Five: After Change of Status is Granted

After an applicant’s change of status is approved, he or she will first receive a notice of approval.  The applicant’s Green Card document will be sent soon thereafter.  


How Long is the IR5 Visa Process? 

Generally, the process for obtaining an IR5 visa can take as long as one year, but may be completed in as soon as three months, depending on the circumstances of the particular applicant and sponsor. 

Can IR5 Visa Holders Become U.S. Citizens? 

Yes.  After parents who hold an IR5 visa receive a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) in the mail,  they may then apply for a Certificate of Citizenship by filing Form N-600, Application for Certification of Citizenship online and paying the application fee. 

Can IR5 Visa Holders Work in the United States? 

Yes.  Because the IR5 visa is a green card, these visa holders may work while living in the United States without first receiving an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

What is the Cost to Apply for the IR5 Visa? 

Can Green Card Holders Use the IR5 Visa for their Parents? 

No. The IR5 visa is only available to the parents of U.S. citizens.  The parents of green card holders are not eligible for the IR5 visa. 

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.