How to emigrate to your parents?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I answer a reader's question and explain how a U.S. citizen can immigrate his or her parents.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on the immigration history of each person. Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before beginning any process.

This is the column:

I am a U.S. citizen and my parents are living undocumented in the U.S. They have never been petitioned in the past. They have never been petitioned in the past, could I petition for them and fix their papers without them having to leave the country? Do they have to ask for a waiver? -Diana V.

Diana, a U.S. citizen may petition for his or her parents, spouse, children and siblings. The citizen must be 21 years old to petition for parents and siblings. There is no age limit to petition for a spouse or children.

You can petition for your parents if you are at least 21 years old. To apply, you must file a family petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and include evidence of your U.S. citizenship and your relationship to each other. When your petition is approved, you will have to decide whether your parents will apply for permanent residency inside or outside the U.S.

If your parents entered the U.S. on a visa, they may be eligible to apply for permanent residence within the U.S. through an application for adjustment of status. This type of application must be filed by your parents with the USCIS along with documentation showing their eligibility, including evidence that they entered the country legally.

If your parents entered the country illegally and have never been petitioned in the past, they will have to apply for permanent residency in their home country. If they have lived illegally in the U.S. for more than 180 consecutive days after April 1, 1997, upon leaving the country they would be subject to the penalty law, which would not allow them to return to the U.S. for a period of 3 to 10 years unless they are granted a waiver.

To obtain a waiver of the law of punishment abroad, your parents will have to meet several requirements including showing that they have a spouse or parent who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and who would suffer extreme hardship if your parents are not allowed to return to the country. If your parents cannot apply for a waiver of the punishment law, they should not travel abroad to apply for permanent residency.

It is of utmost importance that your parents' immigration cases be evaluated by an immigration attorney or a federally accredited representative before beginning any proceedings.

Do not visit notaries, immigration consultants, paper fillers or multi services because these people are not authorized to give legal advice.