The Complete Guide to USCIS Form I-130

Created: Jun 24, 2024 | Updated: Jun 24, 2024

Are you a U.S. citizen or permanent resident hoping to bring your close relatives to the United States? If so, filing the USCIS Form I-130 (also called the Petition for Alien Relative), is the best place to start your process. 

This form establishes the qualifying relationship between you and your supposed family member, laying the foundation for them to apply for a Green Card. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know, from the factors that make you qualified to apply to the documents you will need to apply to, and what to expect after submitting the form.

Table of Contents

What is Form I-130?

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is a USCIS form filed by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to establish a qualifying relationship with relatives in another country who wish to immigrate to the United States. Filing this form kickstarts the family-based immigration process, helping the U.S. government verify the family connection and decide which visa category fits the foreign family member. 

What is Form I-130 used for?

Form I-130 is used to initiate the process of obtaining a U.S. Green Card for a family member who is a foreign national. It demonstrates to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you (the petitioner) have a valid, close family relationship with the person you’re sponsoring (the beneficiary). 

The USCIS will not just take your word for it though. You’ll need to prove the relationship with legal documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and financial statements

Essentially, when you submit Form I-130, you’re requesting the U.S. government to recognise your family connection and allow your family member to apply for an immigrant visa or adjust their status to become a lawful permanent resident. 

Sample of Form 1-130
Sample of USCIS Form I-130

Who is eligible to file an I-130 petition for Alien Relative?

Not just anyone can file Form I-130. You must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. As a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you can file a separate Form I-130 petition for each of your eligible immediate family members. 

U.S. Citizens 

Family members that you can file Form I-130 as a U.S. citizen include: 

  • Your spouse
  • Your children (regardless of their age and marital status)
  • Your siblings (this applies only if you are 21 years or older)
  • Your parents (also if you are 21 years or older).

Lawful Permanent Residents

If you are a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., you can also file a separate Form I-130 for each of your eligible relatives, including:

  • Your spouse
  • Your unmarried child under 21 years of age; and
  • Your unmarried son or daughter who is 21 years of age or older.

One important thing to note is that there is no visa category for married children of lawful permanent residents. That means if you file an I-130 for your unmarried son or daughter and they get married before immigrating or adjusting their status, your petition will be denied or automatically revoked.

Also, non-citizen U.S. nationals, such as those born in American Samoa or Swains Island, have the same rights as lawful permanent residents to petition for family members. In this case, you should indicate that you are a lawful permanent resident on the I-130 form, but you do not need to provide an Alien Registration Number.

Moreover, if the beneficiary of your petition qualifies under certain categories, you may not need to file separate petitions for their spouse or unmarried children under 21 years of age. These individuals are considered "derivative beneficiaries" and you can just list them on the beneficiary’s original form.

Eligibility exclusions for Form I-130

Some individuals and relationships are not eligible for filing Form I-130. These include:

  • An adoptive parent or adopted child:  If the child was adopted after they turned 16 or has not been in your custody for two years before filing. 
  • Natural parent: If you obtained your green card or citizenship via adoption or special immigrant juvenile status.
  • Step-parent or step-child: If the marriage which resulted in the relationship happened after the child turned 18.
  • Certain spouses, including those where:
    • You and your spouse were not physically present at the marriage ceremony (unless the union was consummated).
    • The filer received a green card through a previous marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder, unless the filer is now a naturalized U.S. citizen, has been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years, can prove the previous marriage was not to evade immigration laws, or the former spouse passed away.
    • The marriage occurred while the spouse was in exclusion, deportation, removal, or rescission proceedings unless you can prove a bona fide marriage exemption or your spouse lived outside the U.S. for at least two years after the marriage.
  • Anyone the USCIS discovers entered or tried to enter a marriage to evade U.S. immigration laws. 
  • Extended family members: These include grandparents, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, cousins, or in-laws.

Which documents must be submitted to file the I-130 Form?

When filing Form I-130, you must submit several supporting documents to prove your relationship with the beneficiary. Here are the key documents required:

1. Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Residence

  • For U.S. Citizens: A copy of your U.S. passport, birth certificate, naturalisation certificate, or certificate of citizenship.
  • For Lawful Permanent Residents: A copy of your green card (front and back).

2. Proof of Relationship

  • For a spouse:
    • A copy of your marriage certificate.
    • If either of you were previously married, you’ll need to submit divorce decrees, annulment certificates, or death certificates of the previous spouse(s).
    • Two identical colour passport photographs of you and your spouse, and other proof of your relationship (e.g., joint leases, bank statements, children’s birth certificates, etc).
  • For children:
    • A copy of the child's birth certificate showing your name as the parent.
    • If you’re the child’s father, the certificate must carry the child’s mother’s name and a copy of your marriage certificate to her or proof of legal termination of the marriage.
    • If the child was born out of wedlock, the father needs to provide proof of legitimation or evidence of a bona fide parent-child relationship before the child turned 21.
  • For parents:
    • A copy of your birth certificate showing your name and your parents' names.
    • If applicable, your parent's marriage certificate and evidence of termination of previous marriages.
  • For siblings:
    • A copy of your birth certificate and your sibling's birth certificate showing at least one common parent.
    • If applicable, your parent's marriage certificate and evidence of termination of previous marriages.
  • For a stepparent/stepchild:
    • Marriage certificate of the stepparent to the child’s natural parent (before the child turned 18).
    • The stepchild’s birth certificate.
    • Proof of termination of prior marriages if applicable.
  • For an adoptive parent/adopted child:
    • Adoption decree showing the adoption occurred before the child turned 16 (or 18 for siblings).
    • Legal proof that the child was in legal custody and lived with the adoptive parents for at least two years.

3. Proof of Name Changes

  • Documents reflecting any name changes, such as marriage certificates, adoption decrees, or court orders.

What if I don’t have the required supporting documents for Form I-130?

If you can't provide an official document, don't worry. You can still prove your family relationship with secondary evidence. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Get a statement from the Civil Authority: First, obtain a statement from the appropriate civil authority certifying that the document is unavailable.
  2. Submit secondary evidence: Provide one or more of the following records:
  • Religious record: A document from a religious organisation showing the baptism, dedication, or similar rite that occurred within two months of birth. It should include the date and place of birth, the date of the religious ceremony, and the parents' names.
  • School record: A letter from the first school attended, showing the date of admission, the child's date of birth or age at the time, place of birth, and parents' names.
  • Census record: State or Federal census records showing the names, place of birth, date of birth, or the age of the person listed.
  • Written Statements: If the above records are unavailable, you can submit two or more written statements from individuals with personal knowledge of the event you are proving, such as birth, marriage, or death. Each statement must include:
    • Full name, address, date, and place of birth of the individual.
    • Detailed information about how the individual knows about the event and a declaration of truth under the laws of the U.S.
  • DNA testing (for parent-child relationships only): If other evidence is inconclusive, you can submit DNA test results from a laboratory accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB).

Translation of supporting documents

If your supporting documents are in a language other than English, you must provide a complete and certified translation. This rule applies to all supporting documents, no matter their origin. This is essential because USCIS needs to thoroughly review and understand all evidence submitted with your I-130 petition. As such, they will not accept translations without proper certification.

To get an English translation of your documents for form I-130, follow these steps: 

  1. Visit the Translayte website.
  2. Click on “Order Certified Translation”.
  3. Choose "Certified Translation," then select the target and source languages and your preferred turnover time.
  4. Upload the document you want to translate, ensuring the file is named correctly.
  5. Select Standard, Specialist, or Professional translation services based on your needs and budget.
  6. Specify any other preferences for your document.
  7. Place your order and wait for your translation, which will be delivered by email or post by the stipulated time.

USCIS filing fees for I-130

When filing Form I-130, you must be aware of the associated fees. As of 2024, the fee for paper filing is $675, while online filing costs $625. This fee is payable to USCIS at the time of submission and is non-refundable, even if your petition is denied. Ensure you check the latest fee structure on the USCIS website, as fees are subject to change. Being prepared and knowing the correct amount to pay helps avoid delays in processing your petition.

Where do I submit Form I-130?

You have two options for filing your Form I-130 petition with USCIS: online or by mail.

Filing your form I-130 online

To file online, start by creating a USCIS account. Detailed instructions are available on the "How to Create a USCIS Online Account" page. You can file Form I-130 online even if your relative is in the United States and will file Form I-485 by mail. 

After submission, you will receive a receipt notice in your online account. Provide this receipt to your relative to include in their Form I-485 packet. Note that you cannot file Form I-130 online if you are applying for a fee waiver, and Form I-485 or Form I-129F cannot be filed online for now.

Filing your Form I-130 by mail

For mail filing, the location depends on your residence and whether you are concurrently filing Form I-485. U.S. residents should file at the Chicago, Dallas, Elgin, or Phoenix Lockbox, based on specific conditions outlined on the "Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-130" page.

If you live outside the U.S., you can file at the USCIS Elgin Lockbox, file online, or request to file at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate under certain conditions. You’ll find more details and addresses on the USCIS Policy Manual and the Department of State’s website.


What happens after I file Form I-130?

After you file Form I-130, USCIS will send you a receipt notice confirming they received your petition. This notice includes your case number, which you can use to track the status of your application online.

Next, USCIS will review your petition to ensure you submitted all the required documents and evidence. They may request additional information or evidence if anything is missing or incomplete. If requests like these come, always respond promptly to avoid delays.

Once USCIS has all the necessary information, they decide on your petition. If approved, they will notify you and send your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing if your relative is outside the United States. The NVC will contact your relative to complete the visa application process.

If your relative is in the United States and eligible to adjust status, they can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If concurrent filing was allowed, they may already have filed this form alongside your I-130.

Throughout this process, you can check the status of your case online using the receipt number provided in your notice. Keep in mind that processing times can vary, so it's important to stay informed and follow any instructions from USCIS or the NVC.


How long does it take for Form I-130 to be approved?

The processing time for Form I-130 can vary significantly depending on various factors such as the USCIS workload, the type of relationship being petitioned, the petitioner's immigration status, and the location where the petition is being processed. Generally, USCIS aims to process Form I-130 within 13 to 20 months from the filing date. However, this timeline can be shorter or longer based on individual circumstances.

Factors that can affect processing times include:

  1. Type of Relationship: Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, such as spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21, typically have faster processing times compared to other family-based categories, due to visa availability limitations.
  2. USCIS Workload: High volumes of applications can lead to longer processing times.
  3. Completeness of Application: If your application is complete and includes all required documentation and evidence, it is more likely to be processed efficiently.

The USCIS also provides estimated processing times based on the type of application and the office handling it. If your case takes longer than the average processing time, you can inquire about the status or seek assistance from USCIS customer service.

How to check Form I-130 status

Checking the status of your Form I-130 is straightforward. Here's how you can keep track of your petition's progress:

Online Status Check

  1. Go to the USCIS Case Status Online page.
  2. Input the 13-character receipt number you received when your petition was filed. This number can be found on the receipt notice (Form I-797) that USCIS sent you.
  3. After entering the receipt number, click the "Check Status" button to see the current status of your petition.

Case Status Updates

  • When you create a USCIS online account, you can opt to receive email notifications about the status of your petition.
  • Similarly, you can sign up for text message updates by entering your phone number in your online account settings.

If you prefer, you can contact the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 for status updates. Be ready to provide your receipt number.

Or if you need more detailed information or have specific questions, you can schedule an appointment with a USCIS officer through the InfoPass system.

What happens after I-130 is approved?

Once your Form I-130 is approved, the next steps depend on whether your relative is inside or outside the United States.

If Your Relative is Outside the U.S.

After your petition is approved, it will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will then send you a welcome letter with further instructions. Your relative will need to complete the DS-260 form, which is the online immigrant visa application. You will also need to submit civil documents and an affidavit of support to the NVC.

Once the NVC processes these documents, they will schedule an interview for your relative at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. If the visa is approved during this interview, your relative will receive an immigrant visa, allowing them to travel to the U.S. Upon arrival, they will get a temporary Green Card stamp in their passport, and the actual Green Card will be mailed to them later.

If your Relative is in the U.S.

For relatives already in the U.S., the process involves adjusting their status. Your relative must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. They will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photos, and a signature. USCIS may also schedule an interview where original documents will be reviewed. If Form I-485 is approved, your relative will receive their Green Card by mail, granting them permanent resident status.

Depending on the visa category, your relative might need to wait for their priority date to be current. It's important to monitor this date closely. If your relative is adjusting status within the U.S., they should avoid travelling outside the country without advance parole, as it can affect their application.

Can I file an appeal if my I-130 is denied?

Yes, you can appeal if your Form I-130 is denied. To do so, submit Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, along with the required fee to the USCIS office that issued the denial within 30 days of receiving the notice. The USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) will review your appeal and reconsider the decision based on the information provided. Be sure to carefully review the reasons for the denial and gather any additional evidence or documentation that supports your case before filing the appeal.

Can I withdraw my I-130 Form?

Yes, you can withdraw your Form I-130 petition. To do so, you must submit a written request to the USCIS office that is currently processing your petition. Include your name, date of birth, alien registration number (if applicable), the receipt number of your Form I-130, and a statement clearly expressing your desire to withdraw the petition. It's important to note that once the withdrawal request is processed, USCIS will no longer consider your petition, and any associated benefits or applications may also be affected.


FAQs about Form I-130

Do I need a lawyer to file the I-130 Form?

No, you are not legally required to hire a lawyer to file Form I-130. However, it might be helpful to consult with an immigration lawyer or accredited representative to ensure that you understand the requirements and receive guidance throughout the process.

How long after I-130 approval to interview?

The timeline from I-130 approval to the interview varies, typically taking several months to over a year. Factors like applicant location, visa category, and USCIS processing times influence this. Stay proactive by regularly checking the USCIS website or contacting USCIS for updates on your case status.

Can my beneficiary travel to the U.S. with a pending I-130?

Yes, your beneficiary can travel to the U.S. with a pending I-130, but they need a valid visa or visa waiver. They must honour the authorised stay period, and have a return ticket and a clear travel plan, as the U.S. Customs will verify these to confirm the visit is temporary.

Can I file I-30 and I-485 concurrently?

Yes, you can file Form I-130 and Form I-485 concurrently, but only if the beneficiary is already in the U.S. and an immigrant visa is available. This process, known as concurrent filing, is commonly used by immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and can streamline the process and reduce the time to obtain a Green Card. Make sure to submit all necessary supporting documents and fees for both forms to avoid delays.

How do I file I-130 and I-485 together?

To file Forms I-130 and I-485 together, complete both forms and gather supporting documents like proof of citizenship and family relationships. Include additional forms, such as I-864 and I-693, and pay the required fees. Organise everything and mail the complete package to the correct USCIS address. 


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