By Suzanne E. Vazquez | US Board Certified Immigration Attorney
Posted: September 1, 2021
Whether someone under the age of 18 can file a green card petition for their spouse depends on several issues.
The first barrier is that the underage U.S. citizen's marriage to their spouse must be lawful. Marriage laws vary widely from state to state, and not all states will recognize a marriage between a minor and an adult. A foreign marriage while usually recognized under the legal theory of comity can still come under scrutiny if it is against public policy. If it offends US legal principles, then the US Department of Homeland Security could refuse to recognize it. This happens with foreign divorces where one spouse is not present in the jurisdiction where the divorce occurred or where due process is absent in the foreign legal proceeding.
Assuming the marriage is legally recognized, the couple must think about the green card application process. An immigrant petition must be approved before a foreign spouse can immigrate.
The U.S. citizen spouse must first file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), which includes documentation of the petitioning spouse's citizenship as well as proof of lawful marriage. After the I-130 petition is approved, the US government evaluates the foreign national spouse may be admitted as a permanent resident. The minor US citizen spouse can file the immigrant petition.
However, prior to immigrating an affidavit of financial support, form I-864 must be executed, reviewed and accepted. This shows the US government that the foreign national spouse will have adequate financial support and is not likely to become a public charge. The I-864 requires the sponsor to be at least 18 years of age and it is this requirement that would most likely hinder a the foreign spouse of a minor U.S. citizen from immigrating.
A joint sponsor can also promise financial support to the foreign national spouse, but they cannot not replace the principal sponsor, who must be the U.S. citizen spouse and at least 18 years old.
It is important to note that the I-864 form is not necessary for all candidates. For example, Form I-864 is not necessary for foreign national spouses who have worked in the United States for 40 eligible quarters though this would not be likely for spouses of minors.
A minor U.S. citizen may file their immigrant petition, form I-130 before reaching the age of 18, then prepare Form I-864 to be filed once they reach the age of 18. This is most amenable to a consular process where the I-130 could take anywhere up to a year for approval and only after that approval trigger the requirement for the affidavit of support. Due to the complexity of the considerations and implications, it is recommended to seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney when dealing with unique and complex situations such as this one. Call us today at 407.674.6968 or fill out the online form provided on this page and we will contact you shortly.