If you’re sponsoring a spouse or family member for a green card, you’ll need to file Form I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative) to prove that a valid family relationship exists. The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) — an independent body that investigates complaints against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — recently provided a helpful tip to avoid processing delays and extra costs when applying for a family-based green card.
What the instructions say
Form I-130 asks whether the person seeking the green card is applying from within the United States (via the adjustment status process) or from outside the U.S., using consular processing. But there’s a catch: the form allows you to choose both options, but you should only choose one option.
Here’s why: Your answer determines where USCIS will send your approved application. If you selected adjustment of status, then USCIS typically sends your Form I-130 to the National Record Center (NRC) to wait while you file Form I-485 (the adjustment of status form). If you chose consular processing, USCIS will send your form Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC).
So what’s the big deal?
Choosing only one option will help save you having to pay more and avoid processing delays. The CIS Ombudsman says it has received numerous complaints from applicants who chose both options on Form I-130 and USCIS sent their approved applications to the NRC. If the person seeking a green card is based outside the United States and they selected both options, USCIS requires they file Form I-824 (“Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition”) to reroute the application to the NVC for consular processing. The filing fee for Form I-825 is $465 and average processing times are 3.5-22.5 months. It’s therefore very important that you select only one option on Form I-130 to save time and money.
If you selected both options and USCIS hasn’t yet approved your form, you can contact the USCIS Contact Center to change your selection.