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

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

The USCIS will approve your I-130 petition if you can show a valid relationship with your sponsored relative.

Once approved, your family member can apply for a permanent residency that allows you to live and work in the U.S.

The filing and approval of your I-130 petition does not automatically offer immigration status or benefits.

Your sponsored family member must complete the immigration process to become a lawful permanent resident.

Who Files Form I-130?

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

And you must file a separate form for each eligible family member you seek to sponsor.

Who Qualifies as an Eligible Family Member?

If you are a U.S. citizen, you can sponsor:

  • Spouse;
  • Unmarried children under 21 years of age;
  • Unmarried children over 21;
  • Married children of any age;
  • Brothers or sisters (if the sponsoring citizen is over 21); and
  • Parent (if the sponsoring citizen over 21).

If you are a lawful permanent resident, you can sponsor:

  • Spouse;
  • Unmarried children under 21; and
  • Unmarried sons or daughters of any age.

No other relatives may be included in an I-130 petition.

Applications with grandparents, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, etc. will be denied.

Filing Form I-130 in the U.S. and Abroad

Regardless of where one is living – in the United States or abroad – Form I-130 can always be filed online with the help of SelfLawyer.

Get help with Form I-130 from SelfLawyer here.

I-130 Application Fee

For each I-130 form submitted, a $535 filing fee is charged (as of February 2020).

This fee is nonrefundable regardless of the outcome of your petition.

This fee is subject to change.

 

How USCIS Processes I-130 Applications

The USCIS processes all I-130 petitions in the order they are filed.

Once an I-130 application is filed, USCIS will mail you Form I-797C (Notice of Action).

Keep this I-797C notice in a safe place because it will:

  • Contain your case number;
  • State if your application was approved or rejected; and
  • Advise if other information needs to be provided.

Form I-130 Processing Time

Now long it takes USCIS to approve an I-130 petition depends on many factors:

  • How close or distinct your family relationship is under USCIS’s classification;
  • Whether the relative is currently inside the United States or abroad; and
  • Which USCIS office is processing the application.

For applications from U.S. citizens sponsoring an immediate relative currently living in the United States, it usually takes between 7 and 13 months for approval.

For applications sponsoring other family relatives living outside the United States, the U.S. limits the number of visas available.

When the allotted number of visas are depleted, visa applicants are placed on a list until a visa becomes available.

This, for family relatives living abroad, it may take months to several years for approval.

Form I-130 Processing Time

Form type Application center Processing time
U.S. citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child under 21 Nebraska Service Center 12.5 Months to 16 Months
Potomac Service Center 7 Months to 9 Months
Texas Service Center 5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center 17.5 Months to 22.5 Months
Permanent resident filing for a spouse or child under 21 California Service Center 8.5 Months to 11 Months
Nebraska Service Center 20.5 Months to 26.5 Months
Potomac Service Center 1 Week to 7 Months
Texas Service Center 5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center 17 Months to 22.5 Months
U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 California Service Center 56.5 Months to 73.5 Months
Nebraska Service Center 12.5 Months to 16 Months
Potomac Service Center 7 Months to 9 Months
Texas Service Center 5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center 58.5 Months to 76 Months
Permanent resident filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 California Service Center 53.5 Months to 69.5 Months
Nebraska Service Center 20.5 Months to 26.5 Months
Potomac Service Center 1 Week to 7 Months
Texas Service Center 5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center 56.5 Months to 73.5 Months
U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter over 21 California Service Center 92.5 Months to 120 Months
Nebraska Service Center 12.5 Months to 16 Months
Potomac Service Center 7 Months to 9 Months
Texas Service Center 5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center 88 Months to 114 Months
U.S. citizen filing for a brother or sister California Service Center 104.5 Months to 136 Months
Nebraska Service Center 12.5 Months to 16 Months
Potomac Service Center 7 Months to 9 Months
Texas Service Center 5 Months to 7 Months
Vermont Service Center 99 Months to 129 Months

Checklist of Required Documents

Be sure to give USCIS the following documents.

Evidence of the sponsor’s U.S. citizenship, lawful permanent residence, or U.S. national status:

  • A copy of a birth certificate showing birth in the United States;
  • A copy of naturalization citizenship certification issued by the USCIS or the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS);
  • A copy of Form FS-240 (Consular Report of Birth Abroad) issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate;
  • A copy of an unexpired U.S. passport;
  • An original statement from a U.S. consular official stating U.S. citizen with a valid passport; or
  • A copy of the front and back of a Permanent Residence Card (also known as a green card or a Form I-551).

Evidence of family relationship with one or more of the following:

  • Spouse: A copy of the marriage certificate:
    • Evidence that spouse terminated any earlier marriage (if applicable);
  • Child: A copy of the child’s birth certificate;
  • Parent: A copy of your birth certificate confirming the identity of your parent; or
  • Brother or sister: A copy of your birth certificate and a copy of your sibling’s birth certificate.

If petitioning for a spouse, evidence of a lawful marriage:

  • Document showing dual ownership of property;
  • A lease showing joint residency;
  • A document showing joint financial assets;
  • A birth certificate showing the birth of a child together;
  • An affidavit from someone swearing to legal marriage;
  • Any other document showing a lawful marriage; or
  • Other evidence establishing marriage (wedding photographs, gift receipts, vacation receipts, emails, text messages, phone calls, etc.).

After I-130 Application Has Been Approved

Receiving news that your I-130 application has been approved is good news.

But it’s only the first of the many I-130 process steps.

U.S. immigration law places family-based immigrants into two categories.

These categories directly impact the process you use, and how long it will take for your family member to get a visa. 

Immediate Relative Category

Your sponsored family member will be placed in the “Immediate Relative Category” if they are:

  • A spouse of a U.S. citizen;
  • An unmarried child of a U.S. citizen under 21 years of age;
  • An orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen;
  • An orphan adopted in the United States by a U.S. citizen; or
  • A parent of a U.S. citizen over 21.

Family Preference Category

Unlike the Immediate Relative Category, the “Family Preference Category” is available for families seeking to reunite who have a more distinct relational link.

Applicants falling into this Category do not have a visa available immediately upon I-130 approval but must wait until a visa becomes available.

Your sponsored family member will be placed in the Family Preference Category if they are:

  • An unmarried child of a U.S. citizen over 21;
  • A spouse of a lawful permanent resident;
  • An unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident under 21;
  • An unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident over 21;
  • A married child of a U.S. citizen any age; or
  • A brother or sister if a U.S. citizen (if the citizen is over 21).

When you receive USCIS approval of your I-130 petition, the next step depends on:

  • The category your family member falls into; and
  • Whether the sponsored family member is inside or outside the United States.

Immediate Family Inside the United States

Generally, persons falling into the Immediate Relative Category living in the United States have the option to “adjust status” to a permanent resident by filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residents or Adjust Status).

The question that often arises is, “When to file I-485 after I-130?”

For persons in the Immediate Relative Category, there is no waiting for I-130 approval.

They can file Form I-485 with the sponsoring I-130 application (concurrently), while the application is pending, or after the application has been approved.

For persons in this Immediate Family Category, a visa is always immediately available to them so they don’t have to wait, once your I-130 application is approved, their visa is available.

Immediate Family Outside the United States

For a family member in the Immediate Relative Category who lives outside the United States, after USCIS approves the I-130 application, your I-130 file will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. 

Before the NVC, the steps you will follow are: 

  • Choose a Representative – The agent is the person that will receive information about your sponsored family member (it could be you, another family member, or a trusted friend);
  • Pay Fees – Your sponsored family member will be required to pay the Immigration Visa Application Fee and Affidavit in Support Fee;
  • Submit Immigration Visa Application – Your sponsored family member will be required to complete and send Form DS-260 (Immigration Visa & Alien Registration Application) to the National Visa Center; and
  • Send Documents to the NVC – Your sponsored family member will be required to send various financial and supporting documents to the National Visa Center.

You can expect this process to take six to ten weeks or more.

Once NVC is satisfied that all documents have been submitted and all fees have been paid, your sponsored family member will be scheduled for an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Family Preference Outside the United States

In most cases, individuals in the Family Preference Category use consular processing to apply for their green card. In consular processing, the visa applicant is processed and interviewed through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate instead of a USCIS office.

Due to the limited number of visas available in this category, the wait for a visa can take several years.

The approved I-130 file will stay with the NVC until your sponsored family member’s case begins the review process.

Start Your Family Member’s Immigration Now

Get immigration attorney review, online application with USCIS and same day filing with SelfLawyer. Start your Form I-130 application now.