Irish families options for becoming legal in the United States following Obama's executive action announcement.Getty

The excitement over President Obama’s executive order on immigration a couple of weeks ago is still palpable among parents of U.S. citizen children who stand to benefit – many of whom were resigned to waiting until their child turned 21 years of age so the sponsorship process could begin.

That would have been a long, long time in many cases where parents have kids who are babies and toddlers. The Obama reprieve, while not conferring actual legal status, is certainly better than the years of waiting for comprehensive immigration reform, only to come away bitterly disappointed.

U.S. citizens 21 and older can sponsor a parent for permanent resident status as an immediate relative, an important distinction in immigration law because immediate relative green cards are not bound by annual quotas, and thus the processing time is significantly shorter than the other family-based immigration categories.

Another benefit that immediate relatives can avail of is the ability to adjust status while in the U.S. This is especially important for those who lawfully entered the U.S. by being inspected, and since overstayed the visa.

The adjustment process allows for visa processing here as opposed to having to return to a U.S. consular post abroad, which would trigger the mandatory 10-year bar to re-entering the U.S. that long-term (one year or more) overstays have to deal with.

The petitioning U.S. citizen child also must complete an affidavit of support for the parent(s), which certifies that the child is financially responsible in the event that the parent(s) become public charges.

Immediate relative visas are processed in a matter of months. That’s the way it’s been for years, and that’s the way it will likely stay in the future, for all of you planning that option as a long-term solution.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service revamped its website last month, and it’s far more user friendly. Visit for more detail on immediate relative visas and any other kind of immigration issue. The site will also update with news on the Obama executive order as it becomes available.