I am a 48-year old US citizen that lived in the US only for a few years of my early childhood. My parents are Argentinian and also left the US with me about 40 years ago.

My wife and 3 kids are Spanish, and we live in France. We would like to spend 6-12 months in the US and have our girls attend school there during that time.

What would my wife and kids need to live in the US during a year? Can my wife and/or kids also apply for the US citizenship?

Thanks in advance, Bryan

2 Answers 2


You probably did not meet the conditions for transmitting US citizenship to a child born abroad, which, for a child born abroad to one US citizen parent and one alien parent after 1986, requires that you (the US citizen parent) have been physically present in the US before the child's birth for a cumulative total of 5 years, including 2 years after you turned 14.

So you would petition your wife and kids to immigrate to the US (i.e. to become US permanent residents, also called "green card holders"). You would file four I-130 petitions, one each for your wife and 3 kids. At a later stage in the process, you will need to file an I-864 Affidavit of Support for your wife, which requires you to be domiciled in the US, or plan to establish domicile no later than when your wife immigrates. If your household income is insufficient, you may need to find a joint sponsor who will fill out a second I-864.

When your wife and kids enter the US with their immigrant visas, they will immediately become US permanent residents (i.e. green card holders). Assuming your kids are under 18 at that time, they will also immediately become US citizens under INA 320 as permanent residents under 18 living in the US with a US citizen parent (you). As the spouse of a US citizen, your wife can apply for naturalization to become a US citizen after 3 years of being a permanent resident. As a permanent resident, your wife will need to maintain residence in the US. Prolonged absences may interrupt the period of continuous residence she needs for naturalization, and in the worst case can cause her to lose her green card.

  • 1
    Since the I-130 has a fee of $535 and the immigrant visa $325, this costs $860 per person for a total of $3440. This might be a worthwhile cost for some people, especially if they're interested in obtaining US citizenship for their children, but others might want to avoid applying for permanent residence in order to visit the US for 6 to 12 months. Are there other options?
    – phoog
    May 1, 2020 at 20:08

Since filing for immigration seems a bit much for a visit of no more than a year, you might consider some temporary options.

Your wife and children could seek a 1-year admission in B-2 status ("visitor for pleasure"). The usual period of admission is six months, but the regulations permit admission for up to a year. If I recall correctly, one case in which this is done is long-term family visits. You would probably need to show good evidence that you plan to leave at the end of the year, because the visa officer and the immigration officer are required to presume that your wife and children intend to immigrate, and the applicant must overcome that presumption to qualify for B-2 status.

If you limit the visit to six months, it will probably be that much easier to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent.

It seems that there may be some trouble for your children attending school while they're in B-2 status. Officially, they are not supposed to do that if the primary purpose of the trip is to attend school in the US, but they can do it if the study is incidental to another purpose (such as accompanying you). Your children who are in high school or above may therefore want to apply for an F-1 student visa instead (younger students cannot qualify for an F-1 visa).

If obtaining US citizenship for your children is valuable to you, but you definitely won't be staying for longer than six months or a year, you could apply for your children to immigrate while pursuing the nonimmigrant route for your wife. Your children would becme US citizens on arrival as explained in user102008's answer. This approach, however, might make it more difficult for your wife to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent: why are the children applying for immigration when she is not?

In any event, it is probably worthwhile to look for a good US immigration lawyer. The simplest route here is to apply for immigration for everyone, and many people prefer to hire a lawyer even for uncomplicated immigration cases.

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