Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative explained

If you are a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident (Green Card holder) of the U.S. and you want to sponsor an eligible relative for a Green Card, you need to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

This petition establishes your relationship to the eligible relative who’s intending to become a permanent resident of the U.S.

Who can file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative?

If you are a U.S. citizen, you can file the I-130 petition for your spouse, children, parents, and siblings. If you are a Green Card holder, you can file the I-130 petition for your spouse and unmarried children.

If you are filing the I-130 petition as a U.S. citizen or a Green Card holder, you are known as the sponsor or the petitioner. Your eligible relative for whom you are sponsoring the Green Card is called the beneficiary. 

Note: Form I-130 has 12 pages along with 12 more pages of instructions. Mistakes in the form may lead to rejections or even denials. Immigration Direct provides online form preparation services for such immigration forms. So consider using our online service to prepare your Form I-130 and send it to the USCIS with confidence.

Form I-130 Process

Step 1: Filing the I-130 petition  

The first step in sponsoring your eligible relative for a U.S. Green Card is to file Form I-130 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, just the filing or the subsequent approval of the form does not bestow lawful permanent resident status on your relative. 

Step 2: After I-130 petition is approved

On approval of Form I-130, your relative will have to apply to become a permanent resident. If your relative is physically present in the U.S. they may apply for a Green Card by filing USCIS Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. They can apply when a visa number becomes available to them. 

If your relative lives abroad, the process after the petition is approved is different. They will have to undergo Consular Processing. 

When you file the I-130 petition, the date on which the USCIS receives your petition is known as the priority date. This date holds your place in line for a Green Card. When the priority date becomes current, your relative can apply for a Green Card. You can track the movement of the priority date online using the Department of State’s visa bulletin that they update monthly. 

If you are a U.S. citizen and you are sponsoring an immediate relative – a spouse, an unmarried child below the age of 21 or a parent, then you don’t need to worry about the line. There will be a Green Card ready for your relative immediately. If you are sponsoring a relative who doesn’t fall under the category of ‘immediate relative,’ then they will have to wait in line until a visa becomes available. This is also the case if you are a Green Card holder and are sponsoring any of your eligible relatives. 

What supporting documents do I need to submit with the I-130 petition?

The following is a list of documents that you need to include in your application package:

  • Proof that you, the sponsor, are a U.S. citizen or a Green Card holder.   
  • Proof of your legally valid relationship with the beneficiary, one of the following whichever is applicable:
    • Spouse – copy of your marriage certificate, and evidence that prior marriage 
    • (yours and your spouse’s), if any, has been terminated
    • Child – a copy of the birth certificate
    • Parent – a copy of your birth certificate
    • Sibling – copies of both your birth certificates
  • Proof of any name change for yourself and the beneficiary, if applicable.
  • Proof of the nationality of the beneficiary.
  • Proof of a bona fide marriage
    • A mortgage in both your names
    • Joint bank account statements
    • Birth certificates of children with both your names on it as the parents
    • Documents showing joint ownership of property
    • Documents showing you live at the same address, such as a lease agreement
    • Sworn affidavits by friends or third parties who know about your relationship
  • If you are a U.S. citizen sponsoring an adopted child you need to submit
    • Proof of your U.S. citizenship
    • Proof of your relationship with the adopted child – like the final adoption decree
    • Proof that you had legal custody of the adopted child for two years
    • Proof that you had a joint residence with the adopted child for two years

Form I-130 fees

The filing fee that you need to pay when you file Form I-130 is $535. You can make your payment using a money order, cashier’s check or personal check. 

If you are filing at a USCIS Lockbox facility, you can make your payment using a credit card. You will have to also submit Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. 

Payments by check should be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Where to file the I-130 petition?

The address to which you mail your I-130 petition depends on where you are filing from and also whether you are filing a stand-alone I-130 petition or you are filing it concurrently with the I-485. Concurrent filing is possible in certain cases where the beneficiary of your petition can file the I-485 to adjust status concurrently when you file the I-130 petition. 

You can refer to the USCIS page to find the appropriate address to which you need to mail your application package. 

How long will it take to process the I-130 petition?

The processing time for the I-130 petition depends on the USCIS office that you send your petition to, the family relationship between you and the beneficiary and also if you are sponsoring your spouse, on whether your spouse is physically present in the U.S. or abroad.

Form I-130 processing time differs drastically for each person since there are so many factors influencing it. As of this writing the processing time is as low as a week and high as about 12 years.

This might discourage you from moving forward with the application but please understand that the applications are processed based on a first come first serve basis so having an application in the processing stage is better than nothing. There are so many changes in the immigration system and who knows, some event could happen in the future and fast track your application.

If you were looking to file form I-130 we suggest you to go ahead with the application. Also, consider using our service to prepare Form I-130.

For more accurate processing times based on your unique immigration status you can check the processing times at the USCIS website.

What happens after I file the I-130 petition?

Once you file the I-130 petition and the USCIS receives it, you will receive an application receipt notice. USCIS may reject your petition if it is incomplete or they may request additional evidence or information. This will extend the processing time, so you should make sure you send all the required documents the first time itself. 

Once the USCIS decides on your petition, they will inform you. If your petition has been approved, the USCIS will send it to the DOS’ National Visa Center (NVC). When your relative’s priority date becomes current, the NVC will inform you and your relative and invite your relative, and any qualifying dependents, to apply for immigrant visas. 

What about my relative’s family?

If the relative you are sponsoring has a family, you cannot directly sponsor the family. However, when a visa number becomes available for your relative, their family can apply for immigrant visas at the same time. For example, you can file a petition for your married son. You cannot petition your son’s wife and children. When a visa number becomes available for your son, his wife and children can apply for immigrant visas along with him. 

As a U.S. citizen, you need to file individual petitions for each of your direct relatives. For example, you need to file separate petitions for your mother and father.

What if I became a U.S. citizen after I filed the I-130 petition?

If you become a U.S. citizen after filing the I-130 petition, you can upgrade the visa classification for your relative by notifying the appropriate agency about your naturalization. If you have petitioned your spouse, parent, or any unmarried children under the age of 21, they will no longer have to wait for a visa to become available. Your naturalization will make visas available for them immediately.