How Do I File a 'Follow to Join' Application, Form I-824?

Father and daughter at the airport
arabianEYE/Getty Images

How do you file a Follow-to-Join application, Form I-824? The United States allows the spouses and children of U.S. green card holders also to get green cards and permanent residency in the United States.

It is popularly known as the “Follow to Join” process, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says it is a more expedited way of coming to the country than processes that were in place years ago.

Follow to Join allows families who may not be able to travel together to be reunited in the United States.

Since the early days of the republic, Americans have demonstrated a willingness to keep immigrant families together, as much as possible. Technically, Form I-824 is called an Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition.

Form I-824 can be a powerful tool for promoting family reunification.

Key Things to Keep in Mind

  • It is extremely important that you submit all required initial evidence with all the supporting documentation with your application at the time of filing. USCIS has strict requirements about what evidence you will need to provide.
  • Follow to Join is only valid if the principal applicant has established permanent residency in the United States through employment, family-preference, the Green Card lottery or through a K or V visa.
  • Follow to Join does not require a separate immigrant petition and does not require the applicant to wait for a visa to become available.
  • You don't need to file Form I-130 to take advantage of the Follow to Join process.
  • The principal applicant must not be a U.S. citizen. That's a different process. If the principal applicant has become a naturalized citizen, then he or she can file a separate visa petition to bring family members here.
  • The Follow to Join process is only available to children who are under the age of 21 and unmarried. Children over the age of 21 or married children can immigrate to the United States if a parent becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen. There are provisions in U.S. immigration law for allowing stepchildren and adopted children to participate in Follow to Join.
  • People who have gotten permanent residency through the Immediate Relative R category are not eligible for Follow to Join but can petition for visas for their spouses or children by filing Form I-130.

Some Documents You Are Likely to Need

Some examples of the evidence (documentation) that is typically required includes certified copies of the children's birth certificates, a copy of the marriage certificate and passport information.

All documents have to be verifiable. Once the petition is approved by USCIS, the petitioner's children or spouse must appear at a U.S. consulate for an interview. There is a filing fee for the Follow to Join application. The check or money order must be drawn on a bank or financial institution located in the United States. According to USCIS, “Once Form I-824 has been accepted, it will be checked for completeness, including submission of the required initial evidence.

If you do not completely fill out the form or file it without required initial evidence, you will not establish a basis for eligibility, and we may deny your Form I-824.” Further, USCIS says: “If you are in the United States and have not yet filed to adjust your status to permanent resident, you can file Form I-824 for your child overseas with your Form I-485. When concurrently filing Form I-824, it does not require any supporting documentation.” As you can see, this can get complicated.

You may want to consult with a qualified immigration attorney to make sure your petition is approved without excessive delays. Government immigration officials warn immigrants to be careful of scammers and disreputable service providers. Beware of promises that seem too good to be true – because they almost always are.

Applicants can call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 and ask for information. For TDD (deaf or hard of hearing) call 1-800-767-1833.