The Complete Guide to USCIS Form I-129

Created: Jun 28, 2024 | Updated: Jun 28, 2024

It’s no secret that the United States thrives on innovation, and sometimes the best minds come from abroad. If you're a U.S. employer seeking to hire skilled foreign workers, USCIS Form I-129 is one of the crucial documents you must file. This article will guide you through the entire process, providing a clear understanding of what you need to do. We’ll explain the form's purpose, eligibility for sponsorship, filing fees, and other essential details.

Table of Contents

What is Form I-129?

Form I-129 or the ‘Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker’ is a USCIS form that is filed by a U.S. employer who wants to bring a foreign employee to work temporarily in the U.S. Other reasons may be immigration for employee training purposes, or to request an extension or change in status for non-native employees already working legally in the U.S. You (the employer) file this form with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the prospective employee.

Form I-129 allows employers to petition USCIS for approval to bring nonimmigrant workers to the U.S. temporarily. It serves as a formal request for authorisation for workers to perform services, receive training, or seek a change of status or extension of stay while in the country.

Form I-129 is required for the following nonimmigrant work visa categories:

  • E-1: For traders involved in essential trade between the U.S. and their home country.
  • E-2 CNMI: For treaty investors specifically in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
  • E-2: For treaty investors not included in the E-2 CNMI category.
  • E-3: For Australians working in the U.S. under the Free Trade Agreement. 
  • H-1B: For workers in speciality occupations, workers on a U.S. Department of Defense project, or renowned fashion models.
  • H-2A: For temporary agricultural workers.
  • H-2B: For temporary non-agricultural workers.
  • H-3: For trainees.
  • L-1: For employees of multinational companies being transferred to a U.S. branch.
  • O-1: For non-citizens with exceptional skills in arts, sciences, athletics, education, or business.
  • O-2: For essential assistants to O-1 visa holders in arts or athletics.
  • P-1: For international athletes, entertainers, artists, and their support teams coming to the U.S. for specific events.
  • P-2: For artists or entertainers in exchange programs and their support teams.
  • P-3: For artists or entertainers in culturally unique programs and their support teams.
  • Q-1: For participants in international cultural exchange programs.
  • R-1: For religious workers employed by U.S. religious organisations.


Who is eligible to be sponsored with Form I-129?

Eligibility for sponsorship through an I-129 petition involves the following key factors:

  1. Nonimmigrant Worker Eligibility: The individual must fit into one of the eligible categories listed above.
  2. Job Offer Requirement: There must be proof of a genuine job offer from a U.S. employer, detailing the position, salary, benefits, and other terms.
  3. Visa-Specific Compliance: The employee must meet specific visa requirements, like specialised skills for H-1B or prior employment for L-1 applicants.
  4. Filing Fees: The sponsoring employer must pay the required fees based on the visa category and any additional services requested.
  5. Timely Filing: The employer must submit the form to USCIS within the specified timeframe for each visa category to avoid delays or denial.


How to file Form I-129 

Once you’re ready to file the form, here are the steps you need to follow: 

  1. Check Eligibility: Ensure the candidate and job meet the visa category requirements set by the USCIS.
  2. Obtain Form: Download Form I-129 and read the instructions thoroughly to understand the relevant details and required documentation. 
  3. Complete the Form: Fill out all sections accurately, ensuring to align details about your company and the prospective nonimmigrant worker with the visa category. Always double-check for consistency with your supporting documents.
  4. Gather Supporting Documents: These may include proof of qualifications, such as academic documents, a detailed job offer letter, your company’s financial statement, and any required licenses or certifications. 
  5. Prepare Fees: Determine filing fees for your petition, including base and additional fees.
  6. Package and Submit the Application: Combine the completed form, supporting documents, and filing fees into one package, then send it to the specified USCIS service centre using a trackable mailing method.
  7. Monitor Your Application: Track your petition's status using its case number and respond promptly to any USCIS requests.


Translation of supporting documents

If your required documents are in a language besides English, you must get a USCIS certified translation for them. This translation certification must meet USCIS translation requirements such as the translator’s signature, printed name, date, and contact information.

For reliable certified translation services, we recommend using Translayte. The process is quite simple: 

  1. Visit the Translayte website. 
  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.

Remember to include both the original document in the foreign language and the certified English translation when submitting your application. This helps USCIS accurately review and understand your documents.


What is the filing fee for Form I-129?

Form CategoryFiling Fee

For an E-1, E-2, E-2C, E-3, or TN petition.

Filing for the above form category as a small-sized business or nonprofit. 

$1,015 plus additional fees 

$510 plus additional fees, if applicable

For an H-3 petition. (not more than 25 beneficiaries per petition) 

Filing an H-3 petition as a small-sized business owner or nonprofit.

$1,015 plus additional fees

$510 plus additional fees, if applicable

Filing an O petition. (not more than one beneficiary per petition for O-1, and not more than 25 beneficiaries per petition for O-2) 

Filing for an O petition as a small business owner or nonprofit. 

$1,055 plus additional fees

$530 plus additional fees, if applicable

Filing a P petition. (limited to 25 beneficiaries per petition)

Filing a P petition as a small business owner or nonprofit. 

$1,015 plus additional fees

$510 plus additional fees, if applicable

Filing a Q petition. (limited to 25 beneficiaries per petition) 

Filing a Q petition as a small business owner or nonprofit. 

$1,015 plus additional fees

$510 plus additional fees, if applicable 

Filing an R petition.

Filing an R petition as a small business owner or nonprofit. 

$1,015 plus additional fees 

$510 plus additional fees, if applicable

Additional Fees: Asylum Program Fee

a. Filing as a regular petitioner 

b. Filing as a small business owner 

c. Filing as a nonprofit 





You can pay Form I-129 fees via money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or a credit/debit card, using Form G-1450. If you’re paying by check, ensure it is payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Sending payment confirms your agreement to cover government service costs. Note that fees are non-refundable, and card payments are undisputable. 


What is the processing time for Form I-129? 

The processing time for Form I-129 can vary significantly, depending on the visa category and the workload at the USCIS service centre managing your petition, with timelines ranging from a few weeks to several months. We recommend checking the USCIS website for the most accurate and current processing times when filing your application. 

What is premium processing for Form I-129?

Some visa categories offer premium processing, which expedites the processing time to 15 business days for most classifications. This service comes with an additional fee. If you request premium processing, USCIS guarantees they’ll decide on your application within the specified time frame, otherwise, you get a refund. 

However, you must be aware that with premium processing, factors such as your case’s complexity, and any requests for additional information can impact the overall timeline. So, always plan and allow enough time for your petition to be processed.

How to check Form I-129 processing status

When USCIS accepts your I-129 petition, they will send you a receipt notice (Form I-797C, like EAC, WAC, LIN, or SRC, followed by ten digits. You will need this number to check your case status.

Next, visit the USCIS Case Status Online page. Enter your receipt number without any dashes or spaces in the "Enter your receipt number" field, then select "Check Status."

The website will display the current status of your I-129 petition. It might show:

  • Received: USCIS has received and is processing your petition.
  • Request for Evidence (RFE): USCIS needs more information or documents to process your petition.
  • Approved: Your petition has been approved, and you will soon receive an I-797, Notice of Action (Approval Notice).
  • Denied: Your petition has been denied, and you will get a detailed explanation in the denial notice.

You can also sign up for automatic case status updates via email or text by creating a USCIS online account. To do this, go to the USCIS Case Status Online page and click "Sign up" or "Log in" and follow the instructions.


What happens after Form I-129 is approved?

After USCIS approves Form I-129, you (the employer) will receive a confirmation notification. If your employee is outside the U.S., they must undergo consular processing at a U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country to obtain a visa stamp. Once they receive the visa, they can enter the U.S. within the specified timeframe.

If your employee is already in the U.S., their status may be adjusted as per the approved petition. They can start working for your company once they arrive or their status changes, following the terms outlined in the I-129 petition.

The steps may vary based on the visa category and individual circumstances. So it’s best to stay informed about additional requirements for your employee’s visa type.


What is Form I-129 approval notice?

The I-129 approval notice (Form I-797 or Notice of Action), is a document issued by USCIS that confirms that your petition to hire a foreign worker under a specific nonimmigrant visa category (e.g, H-1B, L-1, or O-1) has been approved. 

Here's what you can expect to find in the form I-797 approval notice:

  1. Receipt Number: This is a unique identifier assigned to your case, allowing you to track its status online.
  2. Petitioner Information: Your company's name and address.
  3. Beneficiary Information: Details about the foreign worker for whom the petition was submitted, including their name and contact information.
  4. Visa Category: The specific type of nonimmigrant visa approved for the foreign worker (e.g., H-1B, L-1A, O-1, etc.).
  5. Validity Period: The start and end dates of the approved employment period, during which the foreign worker is authorised to work for your company.
  6. Consulate or Port of Entry: Details about the U.S. consulate or embassy for visa applications (if outside the U.S.) or the port of entry for admission (if in the U.S. with a change of status or extension of stay).


What happens if my I-129 petition is denied?

If USCIS denies your petition, it's usually because the foreign worker did not meet some specific qualifications or concerns about the job's legitimacy. If the worker is outside the U.S., you can file a new I-129 petition if issues can be easily fixed, considering visa limits. 

For workers in the U.S., the USCIS may consider changing their status or extending legal stay. If the petition is denied, you may need to file a new one or explore legal alternatives. However, appeals can be lengthy, so consult an immigration attorney for guidance if you decide to appeal.


FAQs about Form I-129

What is the difference between I-129 and I-765?

Form I-129 is for employers sponsoring foreign workers for temporary employment under nonimmigrant visas. On the other hand, Form I-765 is for individuals in the U.S. seeking authorisation to work legally, including adjustment of status applicants, refugees, asylees and certain nonimmigrants who are eligible to work in the U.S. temporarily or permanently.

Is Form I-129 required for an H4 visa?

Form I-129 is required for certain cases of the H-4 visa. Whether it's needed depends on whether the H-4 dependent needs a status change or extension. 

Is the Attorney’s signature required on Form I-129?

It depends. The attorney's signature is generally required on Form I-129 when it is prepared or submitted by an attorney.


Can I file Form I-129 online?

Yes, you can file Form I-129 online through the USCIS online filing portal, depending on your specific visa category and eligibility criteria. We recommend checking the USCIS website for the most current information and guidance on online filing options for Form I-129.

What is the difference between Form I-1291 and Form I-797?

Form I-129 is used by employers to petition for nonimmigrant workers' temporary employment in the U.S. On the other hand, Form I-797 or Notice of Action isn't an application but a USCIS notification document indicating actions taken on immigration cases, such as approval notices, requests for additional evidence, or transfer notifications.


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