A U.S. citizen or permanent resident uses Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, to obtain a Green Card for their family members to live and work in the U.S. There are several steps to follow when filing a Form I-130 petition for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and their family members. In this article, both the petitioner and beneficiary can find information on the proper filing procedures.
- Steps to follow to file an I-130 petition
- What’s next after I-130 approved
- How fast you will receive a green card based on your relationship and,
- How to use the visa bulletin to check the availability of the green card.
Filing The I-130 Immigrant Visa Petition
Step 1: Submit the I-130 Petition
Filing the I-130 petition is the first important step for US citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who wish to sponsor a family member for immigration to the United States. The US citizen or lawful permanent resident must gather the necessary forms and supporting documents and mail them to the USCIS, along with the required fee.
It’s important to note that a separate Form I-130 must be completed for each eligible relative. This petition can be done online or via mail. Along with Form I-130, the petitioner has to submit supporting documents to show the relationship with the beneficiary.
Related Article: Check our I-130 Form Guide to understand the requirements, cost, and processing time.
After completing the necessary form, gathering the supporting documents, and paying the filing fee, the petition package should be sent to the appropriate “Lockbox” in Chicago. It’s important to note that petitions are no longer sent directly to a service center. Instead, they are routed to the service center through the lockbox.
Step 2: Receiving Receipt Notice
After the successful submission of your I-130 petition, in a few days, you will receive a receipt notice Form I-797. This notice confirms that USCIS has received the I-130 application and provides information on the service center that will handle the petition. If the petitioner does not receive a receipt notice within one to two weeks of filing the petition, they should contact USCIS to follow up.
If the petition package is incomplete or the service center requires further clarification or additional documents, a “Request for Evidence” will be issued. This request will outline the specific additional documents or information needed for the case to move forward.
Step 3: I-130 Petition Approval
After the USCIS service center approves the I-130 immigrant visa petition, they will send the approval notice in the form of another I-797 Notice of Action letter. Once approved, the petition will be forwarded to the National Visa Center, unless it was filed for an immediate relative already in the U.S. and concurrently with an adjustment of status application.
Step 4: Apply Adjustment of Status (If The Beneficiary is Inside The U.S.)
If the beneficiary of the I-130 immigrant visa petition is inside the U.S. when the I-130 petition is approved and a visa number (check visa bulletin) is available, they may be eligible to apply for adjustment of status by submitting Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status.
To apply for adjustment of status within the U.S., the beneficiary must satisfy certain conditions. Specifically, they must have entered the U.S. legally and maintained their status throughout their stay in the country. There are a few limited exceptions for immediate relatives on these conditions.
Step 4.1: Medical Examination and Vaccination – Form I-693
A medical examination and vaccination are necessary for all individuals seeking permanent resident status via Form I-485. These examinations are commonly known as immigration exams or I-693 exams. It is completely beneficiary responsible to find a USCIS-certified doctor and undergo an immigration medical examination. Medical exam fees are not regulated by USCIS and may differ based on doctor and location.
Step 4.2: The USCIS Interview
Next, USCIS will schedule an green card interview for adjustment of status applicants. In case USCIS schedules an interview, they will provide you with a list of items to bring to the interview. In some cases, the interview will be waived by the USCIS officer.
Step 4.3: Notice of Approval (Green Card Approved)
Receiving a notice of approval for your I-485 application indicates that you have become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. It’s important to note that while waiting for your physical green card to arrive in the mail, USCIS may stamp your passport to reflect your new status.
Step 5: Apply Consular Processing (If The Beneficiary is Outside The U.S.)
If the beneficiary of the I-130 immigrant visa petition is outside the U.S. or has opted for consular processing when the petition is approved and a visa number is available, they must undergo consular processing and obtain their immigrant visa from a U.S. Consulate abroad before they can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident.
To apply for a green card through consular processing, you will need to complete Form DS-260, also known as the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, and submit it to the National Visa Center (NVC) using the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) online. In the majority of cases, Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) must also be filed.
Form I-864 is also known as the “Affidavit of Support”. It is a form that shows that the beneficiary has adequate means of financial support from the sponsor and will not become a public charge in the U.S. The beneficiary of the I-130 petition is not permitted to enter the U.S. unless they possess an immigrant visa or have acquired another category of non-immigrant visa.
Step 5.1: U.S. Embassy or Consulate Interview
The U.S. Embassy or Consulate interview is a crucial step in the process of obtaining an immigration visa. After completing and submitting all the required forms and supporting documents, you will be scheduled for an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
During the interview, a consular officer will ask you a series of questions to determine your eligibility for an immigration visa. They will review your application and supporting documents to ensure that you meet all the requirements for the visa category you are applying for.
The consular officer may ask questions about your personal and professional background, your reasons for immigrating to the United States, your family relationships, and any other relevant information. They may also request additional documentation or evidence to support your application.
Step 5.2: Notice of Approval (Green Card Approved)
If your visa application is approved, you will receive instructions on when and how to retrieve your passport. Once you receive your passport, you will find that your immigration visa has been stamped on one of its pages.
How Fast You Will Get a Green Card?
Immediate relatives and family preference categories are the two most significant categories for family-based immigration in the U.S. immigration system. Based on their relationship with the family members (U.S. citizens or PR) in the U.S. they fall into immediate relatives and family preference. The priority for issuing Green Cards is also determined by the category in which they fall.
Immediate relatives are spouses, parents, and unmarried children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens. There are no limits on the number of Green Cards for immediate relatives each year. So they don’t need to wait for a visa to become available. They can receive their Green Cards and become permanent residents of the United States as soon as the application process is completed and approved.
On the other hand, family preference categories are for relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are not immediate relatives. These categories have a limited number of visas available each year, which means that there can be a waiting period before the applicant can receive a Green Card. Family preference categories include:
- F1 – Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children.
- F2A – Spouses and unmarried children under 21 of permanent residents.
- F2B – Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of permanent residents.
- F3 – Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
- F4 – Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
The waiting time for family preference categories can vary depending on the category and the applicant’s country of origin. Some categories have a shorter waiting time, while others can take several years to receive a visa. The priority date is used to determine when a visa becomes available, and it is based on the date that the application was filed.
Related Article: Check How Long Does It Take To Process the Form I-130.
Use Visa Bulletin to Check the Wait Time For Your Green Card
The Visa Bulletin is a web-based publication by U.S. State Department and it is an important tool for checking the wait time for your Green Card. It is a monthly publication and provides an updated waiting list (also known as Priority Date) for immigrants. By knowing your priority date you can check the wait time for the green card. You can find your priority date on the USCIS approval notice or the I-130 petition.
The Bulletin lists the priority dates for each category and country, and if your priority date is earlier than the date listed in the Bulletin, it means that a visa is available for that category and country. It is important to note that the waiting time for a Green Card can vary significantly based on the category and country of origin.
By regularly checking the Bulletin and staying informed about visa availability, you can plan accordingly and ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to obtain your Green Card as quickly as possible.