What Is the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative?
If you’ve recently become a US citizen or green card holder and want to reunite with your family or bring your Spouse to the United States, the immigration law is in your favor. Because of your immigration status, you can sponsor your spouse and certain relatives who qualify and help them become lawful permanent residents in the US.
There are several procedures and documentation you would need to complete to fulfill your dream. The I-130 petition is arguably the most important of them all. This form/petition, issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is the gateway to obtaining a family-based green card. It is used to establish that a valid family relationship exists between you and the person you’d like to sponsor.
Unlike other immigration documents, it is not completed by the prospective immigrant. Instead, you (the sponsor) must complete and file the form on their behalf. Any errors at this stage could adversely affect the entire immigration process.
This guide can make things easier for you on this journey as it explains how the I-130 petition works and the details needed to complete and file the form. If you get stuck, consider consulting a skilled family immigration lawyer for help.
When to File the I-130 Petition
As a US citizen, you need this petition to support the immigration application of your foreign spouse or other relatives, such as your parents, unmarried children, and siblings. If you’re adopting a child from a foreign country, you may also need this form to bring them over after the adoption process.
If your relative is already in the US through a non-immigrant visa, you’ll also need to file this form to help them adjust their immigration status and become permanent residents.
If you’re a permanent resident, you can use this form to sponsor your spouse or unmarried children and help them obtain green cards.
Some prospective immigrants can file Form I-130 independently without sponsorship from a family member. Foreigners married to abusive US citizens or permanent residents belong to this category under the Violence Against Women Act VAWA. If you’re in such a situation, your spouse is unlikely to file the petition on your behalf. You can ask an immigration attorney for help with adjusting your immigration status and self-petitioning if you are unsure how to proceed.
How to Complete the I-130 Petition
Form I-130 is available online. You’ll need to download and complete it to begin the immigration process. You’ll be required to provide several details, including the following:
- Details of your family relationship with the applicant (beneficiary)
- Your Alien Registration Number and Social Security Number
- Full name and address (for you and the beneficiary)
- Your employment history (over the last five years)
- Details of your ethnicity, race, weight, and height.
Supporting Documents That You’ll Need
Once you’ve completed all the sections of the form, you’ll need to gather certain documents that could prove the facts you stated in the form. They include the following:
- Proof of your citizenship or permanent residence, such as your green card, birth certificate, or naturalization certificate
- Your marriage certificate, especially if you’re filing for your spouse
- Proof of dissolution or termination of any previous marriage(s).
How to File Your I-130 Petition
The USCIS offers two filing options for the I-130 petition – online or by mail.
You’ll need to create a USCIS account online and upload the form and other supporting documents there if that’s the option you choose.
Sending your petition by mail is a bit more tricky. The USCIS has different mailing addresses to mail your form, depending on your location in the US. You can find the USCIS mailing address for your state here. Remember sending your petition to the wrong address can delay the immigration process, so you need to exercise the utmost care at this stage.
How Much Does Form I-130 Cost?
The filing fee for Form I-130 is non-refundable and costs $535 as of January 2024. Confirm that the price has not changed before you make the payment.
If your petition fails and you want to try again, you’ll need to pay another fee for the subsequent petition. You can minimize the risk of repeated payments by carefully and accurately completing the form and attaching the correct documents during filing. Consider getting professional help from an experienced immigration attorney to minimize such errors that could cost you financially and otherwise.
How Long Does It Take to Process Form I-130?
The processing time for the I-130 petition depends on several factors, including the following:
- The immigration status of the sponsoring relative, whether they are a US citizen or lawful permanent resident.
- The nature of the relationship between the sponsor and the beneficiary. For example, petitions made on behalf of spouses or other immediate relatives of US citizens tend to move faster than those made for those in the other family preference categories.
- The specific USCIS service center where the petition is processed.
Generally, petitions made by US citizens progress faster than those made by permanent residents. Still, it could be difficult to properly estimate the processing time for each petition due to other factors involved. Thankfully the USCIS has a useful and easy estimation tool that could help guide your expectations.
What if I Become a Citizen After Filing Form I-130?
If you filed form I-130 as a permanent resident and became a citizen while the petition was pending, you can notify the USCIS of the upgrade in your immigration status. This could help your petition progress faster.
What Happens After the Approval of Form I-130 Petition?
The USCIS will generally approve your petition if it proves the relationship between you and the beneficiary. Once this happens, your relative may apply for legal permanent residency through the adjustment of status process or consular processing, depending on whether they are in or outside the US.
Some I-130 beneficiaries would need to wait until an immigrant visa is available in their category before applying for a green card. You can confirm whether this rule applies to your relative from experienced immigration attorneys.
What if the Petition Is Denied?
If the USCIS denies your I-130 Petition, you’ll receive a notice to that effect. At that point, you have several options if you’d like to continue with the immigration process:
- Appeal the decision
- File a motion to reopen or reconsider the decision
- File a new petition.
Each of these processes costs money that could have been channeled elsewhere. You can avoid such expenses by submitting an error-free petition with complete documentation.
A family immigration lawyer can save you time and money by helping you get things right the first time. If your application has already been denied, they can also represent you as you challenge the USCIS’ decision via an appeal of motion. Either way, they are there to make the immigration process easier for you.
Get Help With Your Family-Based Immigrant Visa Petitions at KC Immigration Lawyers
If you have further questions about the I-130 petition or related family immigration processes, such as adjustment of status through marriage, or you’d like to help your spouse obtain a spouse green card, we can help at KC Immigration Lawyers.
We are committed to helping families reunite without stress and are here to help improve your chances with the immigration authorities. Contact us today to get started. We are waiting to hear from you.