What Is Form I-130? Instructions, Filing Fee, and Petition for Alien Relative

What Is Form I-130? Instructions, Filing Fee, and Petition for Alien Relative

The processes for (1) an individual to enter the U.S and (2) one of their relatives to enter the U.S. require different forms. Even if an individual successfully performs an adjustment of status for lawful permanent residence, they will still need to file a petition for their relatives to enter the country on legal terms.

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

Before the relative can begin seeking a green card, the U.S. citizen must fill out a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative to establish that a valid family relationship exists between the two parties. This form is typically referred to as an I-130 form or I-130 petition.

Form I-130 Instructions

There are currently two ways to file a Form I-130—online or by traditional mail. If you’d like to file the petition electronically, you will be required to sign up for a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) account. Along with increasing the ease of filing, this account will also streamline your ability to receive alerts about your case, upload supporting documents, see case correspondence, and check your current status. You are eligible to submit the I-130 form online if your relative is in the U.S. and has plans to physically mail in their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

If you’re filing the I-130 by mail and live in the U.S., you will need to confirm your I-130 filing address. The list of offices you can have your petition mailed to can be found here on the USCIS website. The location it’s sent to will depend on which state you currently live in and the status of your relative’s I-485 form. The petition will then be sent from a lockbox in Phoenix, AZ; Dallas, TX; or Chicago, IL to a USCIS service center for processing.

If you do not live in the U.S. and wish to file an I-130 petition, you can file online or at the USCIS Lockbox in Dallas. Depending on your circumstances, you may also be able to file at the nearest U.S. Embassy. USCIS will reject your petition if all sections are not properly completed.

What Documents Should I Include in My Form I-130 Petition?

When filing a Form I-130 petition with USCIS, you must also include a variety of supporting documents as evidence. These documents should prove both (1) that you and the family member have a valid relationship and (2) that you are allowed to file an I-130 form in the first place. The documents that must be submitted with an I-130 petition include the following:

  • Proof that a legally valid family relationship exists
  • Proof that the relationship is not false or fake in any way
  • Proof that the sponsor is already a green card holder or U.S. citizen
  • Proof of the nationality of the individual seeking a green card
  • Proof of any name changes that may occur or have occurred for both the sponsor and the individual seeking the green card

For example, those filing for a family-based green card must include a copy of the sponsor’s birth certificate as proof that they are a U.S. citizen.

In the event that a required document is unavailable, you will be required to submit some form of alternative documentation. Typically called “secondary evidence,” these documents are necessary for USCIS to make a decision about your I-130 petition.

If you do not have access to your birth certificate, you can get a statement from the government agency in your original country stating that your birth certificate is unavailable. If you cannot do this, you must get different records—such as a religious certificate or school record—that show facts about your birth. USCIS will also accept written statements from relatives who are able to confirm the facts of your birth. An immigration lawyer may also be able to assist you in obtaining applicable documents that can be substituted for the required information.

Form I-130 Eligibility

Individuals who are currently U.S. citizens are able to file I-130 petitions for their children, parents, spouses, and siblings. Individuals who are currently green card holders may only file I-130 petitions for their unmarried children or spouses. When a U.S. citizen or green card holder files the Form I-130, they become the “sponsor” or “petitioner.” The individual who is seeking the green card then becomes the “beneficiary.”

Who Cannot File an I-130 Petition?

Even when valid family relationships are present, there are certain circumstances that may exclude a sponsor from filing a Form I-130. You may not file an I-130 petition for the following:

  • Your spouse, if both you and your spouse weren’t physically present at the marriage ceremony
  • Your spouse, if you are only a green card holder because of a prior marriage to a U.S. citizen; you can file for your spouse if you are a naturalized citizen or have had a green card for at least five years
  • Your spouse, if you married them while they were involved in any immigration court proceedings, such as a removal from the country.
  • An adopted child or adoptive parent, if the adoption occurred after the child turned sixteen
  • A stepparent or stepchild, if the marriage which caused the relationship occurred after the child turned eighteen
  • A biological parent, if you became a U.S. citizen or obtained a green card through adoption
  • Any grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, cousin, niece, nephew, or parent-in-law
  • Any relative, if USCIS decides that the beneficiary only married or tried to marry for immigration purposes

Some of these cases have exceptions in which you may still be able to file an I-130 petition if you have the proper supporting documentation.

I-130 Filing Fee

Although an I-130 is a necessary prerequisite application for the lawful permanent residence of a relative, there is still a cost associated with it. This cost is called a “filing fee” and is paid to USCIS by sending a check in the mail or using a credit card (see Form G-1450). The Form I-130 filing fee is currently $535. 

What Happens After Your I-130 Is Approved?

An I-130 petition alone does not grant lawful permanent residence, rather, it opens the gates for an individual to apply. What happens after you file will depend on the context of your relationship with the beneficiary. If they are an “Immediate Relative” (a U.S. citizen’s spouse, unmarried children, adopted orphan, or parent), they will typically be allowed to move forward in adjusting their status. If they are in the “Family Preference” category (unmarried children over 21, a permanent resident’s spouse and unmarried children, unmarried adult children of permanent residents, married sons and daughters, and siblings of U.S. citizens), they might pursue a green card or separate route because the waiting period for status adjustment is longer. 

I-130 Processing Time for Spouse and Other Immediate Relatives

The amount of time it takes for your I-130 petition to process depends heavily on the context of your family relationship. If you are a green card holder petitioning for an immediate relative—which includes a spouse, parent, or child—to enter the country, the processing time will likely fall between 13 and 19 months. If you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for an immediate relative, I-130 processing times will likely range from 15 to 20 months. If you are filing for a family preference category I-130 petition, it can take any amount of time between 13 months and several years before getting approved.

The quicker you file an I-130 form, the higher your chances are of it being processed in a timely manner. The longer you wait, the more potential holdups you will encounter. The USCIS field office which receives your petition also plays a role in the speed of your I-130 processing time. Additionally, remember that USCIS can deny any application without sufficient evidence, so make sure to research an I-130 checklist for parents or other relatives and submit all necessary information.

How Can Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. Help You File an I-130 Petition?

There are many stages in the I-130 process that may require additional clarification. Especially if it is your first time dealing with USCIS or English is not your first language, it can be extremely difficult to navigate the agency’s regulations.

Hiring an experienced immigration attorney can make it significantly easier to understand what is expected of you, and how to obtain the required documents. We will assist you as much as possible in collecting and presenting evidence to USCIS to increase your chances of successfully bringing your relatives to the U.S.

Contact Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. by filling out our online form or call us at (312) 444-1940 to get started. The longer you wait, the longer it will take before your loved ones can enter the country.

We're looking forward to hearing from you!