Form I-130 is Approved – What to Do Next?

Form I-130 is Approved – What to Do Next

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Congratulations! Your I-130 petition has been approved.

Now the question is, “What’s next?”

This article discusses the process for family-based immigration through Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residents or Adjust Status) and Form DS-260 (Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration) after an I-130 petition has been approved.

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

Form I-130 of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is used to prove your relationship with an eligible relative who wishes to enter the United States permanently.

Officially called “Petition for Alien Relative,” Form I-130 is the first step in a family member’s immigration process.

It is the first of many steps to obtaining a Permanent Residency Card (also known as a green card).

Form I-130 should only be filed by a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident.

I-130 Eligibility

Only certain close family members can be sponsored through Form I-130.

If you’re a U.S. citizen, you may sponsor:

If you’re a lawful permanent resident, you may sponsor:

How Long Does It Take for Approval?

How long it takes USCIS to approve an I-130 petition depends on the following factors:

  • Whether your sponsored relative fits into the Immediate Relative Category or Family Preference Category, as defined by the USCIS;
  • Whether your sponsored relative is currently living inside the United States or abroad; and
  • Which USCIS office is processing your application.

It usually takes about 12 months for approval of Form I-130 filed by US citizen petitioners and green card holder petitioners.

Form I-130 Processing Time

The processing time provided below is approximate. It can take less time for your petition to be approved.

Please check the most current USCIS Processing Times page. Choose Form I-130, choose your category and choose your USCIS Service Center. You can find the USCIS Service Center in the lower left corner of your USCIS I-130 receipt notice.

Form typeApplication centerProcessing time
U.S. citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child under 21Nebraska Service Center12.5 Months to 16 Months
Potomac Service Center7 Months to 9 Months
Texas Service Center5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center17.5 Months to 22.5 Months
Permanent resident filing for a spouse or child under 21California Service Center8.5 Months to 11 Months
Nebraska Service Center20.5 Months to 26.5 Months
Potomac Service Center1 Week to 7 Months
Texas Service Center5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center17 Months to 22.5 Months
U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21California Service Center56.5 Months to 73.5 Months
Nebraska Service Center12.5 Months to 16 Months
Potomac Service Center7 Months to 9 Months
Texas Service Center5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center58.5 Months to 76 Months
Permanent resident filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21California Service Center53.5 Months to 69.5 Months
Nebraska Service Center20.5 Months to 26.5 Months
Potomac Service Center1 Week to 7 Months
Texas Service Center5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center56.5 Months to 73.5 Months
U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter over 21California Service Center92.5 Months to 120 Months
Nebraska Service Center12.5 Months to 16 Months
Potomac Service Center7 Months to 9 Months
Texas Service Center5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center88 Months to 114 Months
U.S. citizen filing for a brother or sisterCalifornia Service Center104.5 Months to 136 Months
Nebraska Service Center12.5 Months to 16 Months
Potomac Service Center7 Months to 9 Months
Texas Service Center5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center99 Months to 129 Months

What Happens After I-130 is Approved?

Once USCIS approves your I-130 application, your application will be sent to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) for processing.

If your family member’s case is not subject to immediate processing, your I-130 application will remain with NVC until processing begins.

You and your sponsored family member will be sent a notice of how to check the status and manage your case through the NVC’s Consumer Electronics Application Center (CEAC).

How your case is processed depends upon:

  • Whether you fit within the Immediate Relative Category or Family Preference Category; and
  • Whether you are currently in the United States or abroad.

Immediate Relative or Family Preference Category

The U.S. immigration system divides persons seeking family-based immigration into two categories: Immediate Relative and Family Preference.

These categories define the relationship between you and your family member and sets the priority in issuing green cards.

Individuals in the Immediate Relative Category do not have to wait for a visa to become available, because there is an unlimited number of visas available to this group.

However, there are only a limited number of visas available for individuals in the Family Preference Category. Learn more: How to Read the Visa Bulletin for Family-Based Immigrants

You will be placed in the Immediate Relative Category if you are:

You will be placed in the Family Preference Category if you are:

Based on your category and location, your visa application will proceed by Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing.

Adjustment of Status

Adjustment of status is reserved for persons currently in the United States.

Thus, you would not have to return to your home country to complete the visa process.

Form I-485

To adjust your status, you must file USCIS Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residents or Adjust Status).

Each beneficiary of an I-130 petition must submit their own I-485 form.

I-485 Fees

The government fees required under Form I-485 are dependent upon your age, whether you are required to undergo biometric identification, and the basis of your application:

  • If under 14 years old and filing with at least one parent, the total fee is $750;
  • If under 14 and not filing with at least one parent, the total fee is $1,140;
  • If between 14 and 78, the total fee is $1,225; and
  • If over 78, the total fee is $1,140.

These fees are nonrefundable regardless of the outcome of your I-485 application and are subject to change.

After I-130 is Approved, How Long Does it Take?

After your sponsor’s I-130 application is approved, the time it takes to approve your I-485 application is influenced by several factors:

  • Whether your application is based on the Immediate Relative or Family Preference Category;
  • Whether your sponsored relative lives in the U.S. or abroad; and
  • Whether there are errors in the application itself – learn more about What is a Request for Evidence (RFE).

Usually, an I-485 application gets approved or denied within 8 to 14 months.

Steps of an I-485 Application

The steps and timeframe for an I-485 application generally occur as the following order:

  • Notice that an I-485 application was received (2 to 3 weeks);
  • Notice of biometrics appointment (3 to 5 weeks);
  • Biometrics appointment (5 to 8 weeks);
  • Notice that USCIS interview has been scheduled (4 to 10 months) – for some applicants the interview can be waived;
  • USCIS interview (6 to 12 months);
  • Notice of final decision (8 to 14 months).

When to File I-485 Application

In most cases, you must wait until I-130 approval before filing an I-485 application. However, there are two exceptions to this rule:

  • Concurrent filing is allowed for all immediate relatives of U.S. citizens because there is an unlimited number of visas for this group; and
  • Concurrent filing is allowed if a visa number is available for an I-485 applicant during the filing time of the sponsored I-130 petition.

Medical Examination and Vaccination – Form I-693

Medical examination and vaccination are required for everyone who seeks permanent resident status through Form I-485. These exams are referred to as immigration exams or I-693 exams.

It is your (applicant’s) responsibility to find a USCIS certified doctor (called a “civil surgeon” by USCIS).

The USCIS does not regulate fees for medical exams and fees vary depending on your location. Typically, medical exam can cost anywhere from $200 to $600. 

You can find a USCIS doctor in your area through the USCIS website here: https://my.uscis.gov/findadoctor

Be sure to allow enough time for the completion of all lab work or additional testing ordered by the doctor.

The purpose of an I-693 exam is to verify your mental and physical health to determine if you are cleared to immigrate to the U.S.

During this examination, the doctor will take a detailed history from you, perform a physical examination, draw blood, or order other tests.

You will need to provide ALL your vaccination records since the time you were born until present. If vaccination records are in foreign language, bring English translation to your medical appointment. COVID-19 vaccination card is also required.

Form I-693 and instructions can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-693

You will receive a completed medical form in a sealed envelope from the doctor’s office. Do not open it. You will submit the sealed medical form with the rest of your Form I-485 application.

Learn more:

How to Fill Out Form I-485

Form I-485 Checklist of Required Documents

The USCIS Interview

Under federal regulation, all adjustment of status applicants must be interviewed unless waived by a USCIS officer.

This waiver is made on a case-by-case basis. An interview may (but not necessarily) be waived if:

  • An applicant us clearly ineligible;
  • Unmarried children (under 21) if they filed their application on their own;
  • Parents of U.S. citizens;
  • Asylees and refugees if they underwent a precious USCIS interview; and
  • Unmarried children (under 14) if they filed their application of their own.

If USCIS requires you to be interviewed, USCIS will instruct you on what to bring, be prepared to bring the following:

  • Government-issued photo ID (state drivers license, passport, etc.);
  • Notice of I-485 interview issued by USCIS on Form I-797C (Notice of Action);
  • Originals of the documents you submitted with your I-485 application (birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.)
  • Current, non-expired passport;
  • All travel documents (only if you have traveled abroad after filing your I-485 application);
  • Doctor’s report of medical examination on Form I-693 (if you haven’t submitted it earlier); and
  • Only if your application is based on marriage, originals and copies of documents showing a shared life (joint bank statements, joint lease or mortgage, joint credit card statements, child’s birth certificate, etc.) Learn more: How to Prove Bona Fide Marriage Relationship

A typical interview lasts about 30 minutes.

During the interview, the USCIS officer will look for information regarding any life-changing events (new child, new employer, new address, anything that would change any answer submitted in the I-485 application).

For the most part, the officer will ask questions about the application and ask for verification of certain answers.

Notice of Approval, What Now?

When you receive notice that your I-485 application has been approved, it means you are officially a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Congratulations!

The green card will be produced by a USCIS card production center and mailed to you. You will see the USPS tracking number in your Form I-485 online case status when the green card is shipped to you. 

With an original green card you can:

  • Apply for an unrestricted social security card;
  • Apply for a state drivers license; and
  • Travel abroad for short period of time.

Consular Processing

If you’re living outside the United States, once Form I-130 petition is approved, you can apply for an immigrant visa through the process called consular processing.

After you enter the US on an immigrant visa, a green card will be mailed to your US address.

Form DS-260

To obtain a green card through consular processing, you must file Form DS-260 (Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration) with the NVC through NVC’s online Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC).

Your sponsor will also must file Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support), along with supporting documents.

Form I-864 is a legal contract between you and your I-130 sponsor in which your sponsor promises to financially support you after you immigrate if it is necessary.

DS-260 Fees 

The fees associated with consular processing are:

  • Form DS-260, Immigration Visa Application Fee — $325;
  • Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Fee — $120; and
  • USCIS Immigration Fee- $220.

These fees are subject to change.

Consular Processing Steps

The steps associated with obtaining a visa through consular processing occur in the following order:

  • Pay government fees;
  • File Form DS-260 and Form I-864 with NVC for processing;
  • After your interview is scheduled, complete medical exam;
  • Be interviewed by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate officer; then
  • Be issued (or denied) an immigrant visa.

U.S. Embassy or Consulate Interview

On a scheduled date, you will be called to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an interview.

During this interview, a consular officer will determine whether or not an immigration visa will be issued to you.

Be prepared to bring the following:

  • The interview appointment received from NVC;
  • DS-260 confirmation page (1 page document with a barcode);
  • Passport valid for six months past the expected immigration date;
  • Two identical US visa type color photographs;
  • Original documents (birth certificate, police certificate, etc.)
  • You can find specific interview requirements for each US Embassy/Consulate here.

Notice of Approval, What Now

If your visa is approved, you will receive notice of when and how your passport will be returned to you.

Your immigration visa will be stamped on a page in your passport.

You will have six months to immigrate to the United States.

Family Preference Outside the United States

The two main categories of family-based immigration described above (Immediate Relative and Family Preference) define the type of relationship between you and your family sponsor and set the priority of all available green cards.

Family Preference Priorities

As opposed to Immediate Relative Category where visas are unlimited, federal law sets limits on visas awarded to individuals grouped in the Family Preference Category.

The Family Preference Category includes and is ranked in immigration priority as follows:

Checking Waiting Times Using Visa Bulletin

Visa Bulletin is a web-based publication that provides an updated waiting list (also known as Priority Date) for immigrants awaiting visas who are subject to the U.S. visas quota system. 

Visa Bulletin is published online by the U.S. Department of State and updated the second or third week of every month.

For Family Preference immigrants on a waiting list, a certain number of visas become available every month.

If the number of applicants in a given year exceeds the number of available visas, visa applicants are placed in a queue and receive a priority date.

Basically, this estimates when an applicant would receive a visa based on the number of previous applicants in the queue.

The Visa Bulletin is a monthly publication that provides updated monthly numbers of the list of applicants and the “current” priority date for those applicants.

Learn more: How to Read the Visa Bulletin for Family-Based Immigrants

Related Links:

Adjustment of Status Process

Form DS-260 Checklist of Civil Documents