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Form I-130, Explained

Learn the purpose of Form I-130, “Petition for Alien Relative,” how much it costs, and how long it takes to be approved

What is USCIS Form I-130?


Form I-130 (officially called “Petition for Alien Relative”) is used by U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to start the process of sponsoring a spouse, parent, child, or sibling for a green card. It establishes a legal relationship between the petitioner (a U.S. citizen or green card holder) and the foreign national seeking a green card.

The filing fee for Form I-130 increased to $675 in 2024, and it currently takes about 12 months to be approved.

Note that filing and getting an I-130 approved doesn’t give you an immigration status. It is just the first step in the process of applying for a green card. In this article, we’ll outline the cost, approval time, and steps to follow after submitting Form I-130.

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Understanding I-130 processing times

The time it takes to get your I-130 petition approved in 2024 depends on two key factors:

  • Where you apply from: Are you applying from within the United States or from abroad?
  • Your relationship to the U.S. petitioner: Are you an immediate relative (spouse, unmarried child under 21, or parent of a U.S. citizen) or within another family preference category?

I-130 Processing Times for 2024 (Based on USCIS Data)

  • Living Abroad: Expect your Form I-130 processing to take between 13.5–15 months.
  • Living in the U.S: the processing time is currently 10–23.

Processing Times for Immediate relatives of a U.S. Green Card Holder

  • Living Abroad: Form I-130 processing typically takes between 29–40 months.
  • Living in the U.S.: If you’re already in the U.S., expect a processing time (for Form I-485 Adjustment of Status) of 13.5–20.5

Can I speed up the processing time for I-130?

There are a few ways to get approval quickly, but they aren’t guaranteed. The best way to avoid delays is to file a complete, error-free I-130 the first time.

Once you’ve ensured your I-130 petition is accurate and filed, there are a few other options to try:


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What is Form I-130 used for?

By filing Form I-130 and providing the supporting documentation, you clearly show you plan to sponsor an immigrant family member and signal your understanding of the financial commitment involved.

  • Submitting the I-130 petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS is the first step to getting a family-based green card.
  • It proves you have a real family relationship with the person you’re sponsoring for a green card and shows you’re willing to support them financially if they’re approved.
  • This is especially important when getting a marriage-based green card – it shows your marriage is real and not just a way to get a green card.

More than just signing a form

You have to include evidence along with your I-130 application, including proof of citizenship or green card status, documents that prove your relationship is real, and even financial documents like tax returns and bank statements.

In the context of a marriage visa or spousal visa, the I130 is filed to prove that your marriage is legally valid (based on a marriage certificate). This is also the time during the marriage-based green card process in which you submit documents (for example, joint bank account statements, joint insurance documents, and photos together) to prove that your marriage is “authentic” — that is, it isn’t based on fraud.

Filing the I-130 petition also establishes your place in line for an available green card. Unless you’re the spouse, parent, or unmarried child (under age 21) of a U.S. citizen (who gets to skip the line entirely), your place in line is determined by your “priority date,” which is the date that USCIS received your I-130 petition. Typically, petitions are processed in the order they are filed. Check out the Visa Bulletin to learn more about the current wait times for specific green card categories.


Form I-130 cost

How much does the I-130 cost?

The price to file Form I-130 is currently $675. The payment submitted to the government is not refundable, even if your petition is denied.

Additional Tips:

  • Be sure to submit the exact amount of the filing fee. You can pay this via check or credit card, using Form G-1450. Checks should be made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
  • Always check the USCIS website for Form I-130 to confirm the filing fee before you file. You can also call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to inquire about the current filing fee.
  • If you’re sponsoring more than one person, you’ll need to file separate Form I-130s for each family member.

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Form I-130 eligibility

What percent of I-130’s does the government approve?

The approval rate for Form I-130 has been high in recent years, above 99%! This is because most I-130 applications are filed by U.S. citizens or green card holders who are sponsoring their immediate relatives. Immediate relatives are not subject to numerical limits, so there is a good chance that their petitions will be approved.

Who can file Form I-130?

  • U.S. citizens can file I-130 petitions for their spouses, children, parents, and siblings. Current green card holders can file I-130 petitions for their spouses and unmarried children.

    The U.S. citizen or green card holder who files the I-130 petition is officially called the “petitioner” or “sponsor.” The person seeking a green card is officially known as the “beneficiary.”

Who cannot file Form I-130?

There are some eligibility exclusions that prevent the filing of an I-130 petition, even when the above family relationships exist. You cannot file an I-130 in order to sponsor any of the following relatives:

  • A grandparent, grandchild, nephew, niece, uncle, aunt, cousin, or parent-in-law
  • An adoptive parent or adopted child, if the child was adopted after he or she turned 16 years old
  • A biological parent, if you became a green card holder or obtained U.S. citizenship through adoption
  • A stepparent or stepchild, if the marriage that created the step relationship happened after the child turned 18 years old
  • A spouse, if you and your spouse were not both physically present at the marriage ceremony
  • A spouse, if you became a green card holder through a prior marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder — unless you are now a naturalized U.S. citizen or have been a green card holder for at least five years
  • A spouse, if you married your spouse while he or she was part of any immigration court proceedings (a hearing in an immigration court for someone facing deportation, or, more formally, “removal”)
  • Any relative, if USCIS has determined that this person married, or attempted to marry, purely for immigration purposes

It’s important to know that there are exceptions to some of the above exclusions and that you may be able to file an I-130 petition with additional supporting documentation in those situations.

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Form I-130 required documents

The I-130 petition must be filed with supporting documents to prove that the sponsor is allowed to file an I-130 and that they have a valid family relationship with the person seeking a green card.

The required supporting documents for an I-130 petition typically include:

  • Proof that the sponsor is a U.S. citizen or green card holder
  • Proof that a legally valid relationship exists
  • Proof that the relationship is not fraudulent
  • Proof of name changes for the sponsor and/or the person seeking a green card, if any
  • Proof of nationality of the person seeking a green card
I-130 Checklist for required documents 2024 Update

What if I’m missing some documents for my I-130?

If you don’t have one of the primary documents required, such as a birth certificate, you must submit a letter from the relevant authorities to confirm that this document does not exist. Learn about secondary evidence that you can submit along with your letter.

If you submit your petition and are missing any of the documents in your application in your I-130, then USCIS might send you a Request for Evidence (or RFE), which can add a lot of time to the overall process. There is also a chance that officials may deny an I-130 petition if some supporting documents are missing, so it’s important to get it right the first time you apply.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to have all your documents organized to get started: Boundless will help you compile everything you need before submitting your application. Learn more about what Boundless can do to help.


Alternative documents

If a required document is not available, you must submit alternative documents (officially called “secondary evidence”) so that USCIS can make a decision on your I-130 petition. (Boundless has a detailed guide to obtaining hard-to-find documents and providing secondary evidence.)

For example, if your birth certificate is not available, you can first obtain a statement from the issuing government agency in your home country certifying that your birth certificate is not available from that agency. Otherwise, you’ll need to obtain other records (for example, a baptismal certificate or school records) showing the facts of your birth or written statements from relatives who can attest to those facts.


What happens after the I-130 is approved?

Once the I-130 has been approved, your relative can apply for a green card. If they are an immediate relative, such as a parent, spouse, or unmarried child under the age of 21, they may be able to apply straight away.

Otherwise, they may have to wait. If they can apply immediately and they are in the United States, they may be able to adjust their status using Form I-485.

After your I-130 is approved …

You’ll likely need to provide additional documentation to USCIS. This includes birth certificates, marriage certificates, and police clearances. You may also need to attend an interview with USCIS. And you may need to pay additional fees – such as application fees for I-485 and the biometrics fee. Plan ahead by keeping a copy of all your supporting documents, preparing for your interview, and reviewing your finances so you’re ready!

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I-130 Frequently Asked Questions

Form I-130 is the first step to helping a relative apply for a green card if you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and you want to prove that you are related to someone who is eligible for permanent residency.

If your relative is already in the United States, they may be able to use Form I-485 (Application for Adjustment of Status) to apply for permanent residency at the same time. In some cases, you may be able to file these forms together.

You can file Form I-130 either online or via mail. To file online, you need to create an online account with USCIS. This will also make it easier to receive case alerts, check your status, upload supporting evidence, and see all case correspondence. You can submit Form I-130 online even if your relative is already in the United States and they plan to submit their Form I-485 by mail.

You can also file Form I-130 by mail. If you live in the United States, you will need to confirm to which address to send your petition. Depending on which state you live in and whether or not your relative is filing Form I-485 as well, USCIS will require you to send to either the Dallas, Chicago, or Phoenix Lockbox. From here, it will be processed at any of USCIS’ five service centers.

If you live outside the United States, you may file at the USCIS Dallas Lockbox or online. If there are special circumstances, you can request to file at the closest U.S. Embassy.

Make sure you fill out all sections of the form and sign it, otherwise, USCIS may reject it.

An I-130 petition currently costs $675, paid using a check or credit card, using Form G-1450. However, that price could go up in 2023.

Check out our USCIS fees guide for a full breakdown of the expected costs as well as updates on USCIS’ proposed fee increase.

An I-130 petition currently costs $675, paid using a check or credit card, using Form G-1450. However, that price will go up on April 1, 2024.

Check out our USCIS fees guide for a full breakdown of the new costs as well as updates on USCIS’ upcoming fee increases.

USCIS may request biometrics information from any applicant, sponsor, or petitioner. After your file your I-130, you will receive Form I-797C from USCIS, which will let you know if your petition has been approved, rejected, or if you need to provide more information. If your I-130 has been approved, this form will also include an appointment notice with a date, time, and location for an appointment to provide biometrics information at your closest application support center.

There are many reasons why an application may be denied. If USCIS denies your I-130 petition, you will receive Form I-797 (“Notice of Action”) in the mail.

If you believe your I-130 was unfairly denied, you may be able to appeal to a separate body, the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), within 30 days from when the notice was sent (not from when the notice was received).

For most people petitioning with I-130, USCIS will invite the sponsor and the relative seeking a green card to attend an interview. During the interview, USCIS will confirm the information you have provided.

Sometimes, USCIS might be able to approve your I-130 without the need for an interview. If you are a U.S. citizen and you are filing for your parents, or unmarried children under the age of 21 who are in the United States and have filed Form I-485, then you might not need an interview. You also may not need an interview if you are a permanent resident and you are petitioning for any of your children who are younger than 14 years old.


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