Form I-130 (officially called the “Petition for Alien Relative”) establishes that a valid family relationship exists between a U.S. citizen or green card holder and a person seeking a green card. This form is often simply referred to as the “I-130 petition.”
Filing the I-130 petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is the first step in the family-based green card process.
In the context of a marriage visa, the I-130 petition is filed to prove that your marriage is legally valid (based on a marriage certificate). This is also the phase of 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 get to skip the line entirely), your place in line is determined by your “priority date,” which is simply 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.
In this guide, you will learn about:
How long does the I-130 petition process take?
The processing time for your I-130 petition will depend on the family relationship and the USCIS field office that receives your form. For immediate relatives (spouse, parent, or child) of a U.S. green card holder (legal permanent resident), processing times for Form I-130 currently vary between 13.5 and 19 months. For immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, I-130 processing times currently average 15 to 20 months (as of June 7, 2021). For family preference visas (for example, siblings), processing times can range anywhere from 13.5 months to 20 or more years.
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How much does the I-130 cost?
The government filing fee for an I-130 petition is currently $535. You can pay this via check or credit card, using Form G-1450.
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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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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
Supporting documents required for a family-based green card include, for instance, a copy of the sponsor’s U.S. birth certificate to prove that they’re a U.S. citizen.
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 on 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.
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- What is the difference between Form I-130 and Form I-485?
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.
2. How do I file Form I-130?
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.
3. What are the fees for the I-130?
An I-130 petition currently costs $535, paid using a check or credit card, using Form G-1450.
4. Can I expedite processing for Form I-130?
Premium Processing isn’t available for I-130 petitions, but you can send a special request to USCIS if you want to expedite processing for Form I-130. USCIS will usually only consider the request if there are urgent humanitarian or U.S. government interests.
5. Who can file Form I-130?
If you are a U.S. citizen, you can file Form I-130 for each of your eligible relatives. This includes your spouse, your children, your siblings, and your parents. If you are a permanent resident, you can petition for your spouse and any children under the age of 21.
You can also petition for your stepchild if the marriage that created the relationship took place when the child was younger than 18.
6. What documents will I need to file Form I-130?
When filing Form I-130, you will need to show evidence of your relationship to the relative you are petitioning for.
Some of the documents you may use to prove this include:
- Evidence of U.S. citizenship or permanent residence, such as a birth certificate, naturalization or citizenship certificate, passport, or green card.
- Evidence of family relationship, for example through a marriage certificate or birth certificate.
- If you are petitioning for your spouse, you will need to provide additional evidence of your relationship and prove you have a bona fide marriage. Some ways you can do this include documentation that shows you own or rent property together, joint bank account statements, and affidavits from people who can confirm your relationship is authentic.
- Proof of legal name change, if applicable.
7. My Form I-130 has been approved. What happens next?
Once the I-130 has been approved, your relative can apply for their 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.
8. Will I need to go to a biometrics appointment for Form I-130?
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.
9. What happens if my Form I-130 is denied?
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).
10. How can I check my I-130 case status?
You can track the processing of your case online using your 13-digit case receipt number, which can be found on any notification letter sent by USCIS.
11. Will I need an interview for my I-130?
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.
12. What if I am missing some of the documents for my I-130?
If you do not have one of the primary documents required, such as a birth certificate, then you will need to submit a letter from the relevant authorities to confirm that this document does not exist.
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).
However, there is also a chance that officials may deny an I-130 petition if some supporting documents are missing.
13. Will my relative be able to work after Form I-130 is filed?
The I-130 is a petition to help a relative apply for a green card, and does not give the right to work. The good news is that it’s the first step towards gaining permanent residency and the right to work in the United States, and that further down the process, your relative may be able to submit Form I-765 and apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
14. Can I file I-130 and I-485 together?
If you file Form I-130 and your relative is in the United States already, you may be able to file Form I-485 together. This process is called concurrent filing.
If your relative isn’t an immediate relative, such as your spouse, your child or your parent, you may also need to confirm that there is a visa available for them before filing concurrently.
For Form I-130 and Form I-485 to be considered together, you’ll need to file them at the same time, by mailing them with the required filing fees and supporting documents to the same location. They will also be considered as filed concurrently if you have filed Form I-130 either online or via mail, and it is still pending when your relative files Form I-485 to adjust their status.
Since both of these forms are processed by USCIS, they are eligible for concurrent filing. Generally, if your relative is not already in the United States, you will not be able to file to adjust status at the same time, since immigrant visas are dealt with by the Department of State.
15. Can I use Form I-130 for my spouse or fiancée?
If you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for a green card for your non-U.S. citizen spouse, then Form I-130 is the first step to applying for a K-3 visa (“Nonimmigrant Visa for a Spouse”).
16. Will my relative be able to travel on an I-130?
While the sponsor is waiting for the I-130 petition to be approved, the relative may be able to travel to the United States on a tourist visa, such as a visa waiver or a B-1/B-2 visitor visa. However, it’s important they make it clear to immigration when they enter that they will leave before this visa expires. If they cannot prove this, they may be denied entry.
17. Will Form I-130 still be approved if either myself or my relative has a criminal record?
When you file a I-130 for your relative, USCIS may request an interview or biometric information, such as fingerprints or photograph, from both you and the applicant. This is so they can run background and security checks.
If the sponsor has a criminal record, there’s a good chance they will still be able to sponsor a relative coming to the United States. If the relative has a criminal record, they may also still be able to apply for a green card. It’s important to be honest about your criminal history, and to let USCIS know of any interactions with law enforcement (except for minor traffic violations). Having a police record can make things more complicated, but does not necessarily lead to a green card denial.
18. Where should I send my I-130 form?
Where you must send your I-130 petition depends on where you live and whether you’re filing just an I-130 (officially called a “standalone” I-130) or filing an I-130 with an I-485 green card application, or “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status,” at the same time (officially called a “concurrent filing”). (See this USCIS chart for the appropriate mailing address to send your I-130 petition.)