Immigrant Visa Petitions (Form I-130)

Family-Based Immigration

Summary

Form I-130 or the Petition for Alien Relative is a form that proves your relationship to an eligible relative who needs a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) to immigrate to the United States. This form is the first step your relative needs to take in legally entering and living in the country.

What Is Form I-130?

Form I-130 or the Petition for Alien Relative is a form that proves your relationship to an eligible relative who needs a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) to immigrate to the United States. This form is the first step your relative needs to take in legally entering and living in the country.

Form I-130 is not a visa; it does not give your family member immigration status. This document only establishes that you are related to your family member who wants to come to and live in the U.S.

When filing a Petition for Alien Relative, you are the petitioner and your family member is the beneficiary. As the petitioner, you must be a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR or green card holder) yourself.

When the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves a Form I-130, your beneficiary may proceed with their Green Card application.

Who Can I File Form I-130 For?

As a U.S. citizen or a Green Card holder yourself, you may be able to file a Petition for Alien Relatives on behalf of your parents, your spouse, your children, or your siblings.

Spousal Petitions

You can file a spousal petition if you are a U.S. citizen or an LPR. If you are a U.S. citizen, your beneficiary does not have to wait longer than the standard USCIS approval process because they are immediately eligible for a Green Card.

There are no limits on the number of Green Cards that the USCIS issues to spouses of U.S. citizens. LPR petitioners may have to wait longer because of the limits the USCIS places on the number of Green Cards they issue to fellow Green Card holders.

If your spouse is not a Green Card holder but is living in the U.S., they may potentially apply for an adjustment of status. This process allows your beneficiary to apply for a Green Card in the U.S. without having to complete a visa process in their home country.

If your spouse needs a Green Card but is living outside the U.S., they may apply for an immigrant visa like CR-1 or IR-1 spousal visa at their local U.S. Consulate office. Remember, they may only proceed with their immigrant visa application once your Form I-130 is approved.

If you are an LPR, your spouse must wait for their priority date to become current. The priority date is the date you filed your petition for your spouse. When a priority date is current, your spouse will have the go signal to proceed with their Green Card application process.

Spouses of LPRs must wait a certain period before they are granted permanent resident status themselves. The U.S. government has imposed limits on the number of Green Cards that they issue each year per country.

These government-imposed limitations have caused backlogs among the people waiting for their Green Card issuance. There is no exact way to predict how long your spouse will wait, but please know that it could potentially take months or even years for a person to get their spousal Green Card. Be sure to review the Visa Bulletin every months for updates.

Spouses of LPRs are allowed to bring their children with them to the U.S. as “derivatives” without filling out a separate petition. Your spouse’s children must be unmarried and under 21 years old to qualify as their derivatives. This eligibility is an advantage that you can give your spouse as an LPR, despite the potentially long time they have to wait for their priority date to become current.

Parental Petitions

You can file a petition for your parents only if you are a U.S. citizen over 21 years old. LPRs cannot file a Form I-130 for their parents. You can apply for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen if you have been a lawful permanent resident in the country for at least three or five years.

When filing Form I-130 for your parents, you must provide proof of a valid parent-child relationship. You can submit your birth certificate as proof of your relationship to your parents. The document must contain the exact name of your parent as stated in your petition.

The USCIS may require further proof of a valid parent-child relationship on top of your birth certificate. Secondary evidence to verify your relationship to your beneficiaries includes the following documents or items:

  • Personal Affidavits from Other People: You can provide at least two written statements from other people who know about your relationship to your parents. Perhaps they were witnesses to your birth. These people are your “affiants.”
  • Baptismal Records: Church records would contain your name and your parents’ names. You may use these records to substitute for a birth certificate or provide them as secondary evidence.
  • Census Records: The Bureau of the Census contains demographic data that contains names of U.S. citizens and their relations.
  • Medical Records: You may provide medical history records that clearly state your parents’ names alongside yours. Some medical records may list your parents’ names to assess histories of illnesses in your family.
  • School Records: School records that establish your relationship with your parents may count as secondary evidence. Student profiles would have your name and your parents’ names listed together.
  • Photographs: You may provide photographic evidence along with your birth certificate to establish your relationship to your parents. The people in the pictures you provide must be recognizable. Consider providing multiple photographs for stronger evidence.

In rare cases, you may have to undergo a DNA test at the USCIS’ order. DNA tests establish a biological relationship between parents and children. These are the only acceptable methods of proving your biological relationship to your parents, per Bureau of Consular Affairs regulations.

You may also file a petition for a step-parent, to whom you have no biological relationship. You must provide evidence that the marriage that formed your step-relationship is valid. Furthermore, you must also prove that your beneficiary became your stepparent before you turned 18 years old.

Parental beneficiaries count as immediate relatives. So, your parents do not have to wait for an available visa number and are immediately eligible for a Green Card. If they live with you in the U.S., they may potentially apply for an adjustment of status. Once again, parental petitions are only available to U.S. citizens.

Sibling Petitions

You may file a petition for your siblings if you are a U.S. citizen over 21 years old. You may not file a Form I-130 for your sibling’s immigration if you are an LPR. You can apply for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen, granted that you have been an LPR in the U.S. for at least three or five years.

You must prove your valid sibling relationship by providing evidence that you and your sibling share at least one of the same parents. Your birth certificate and your sibling’s birth certificate are usually enough to support your claim as related siblings.

The USCIS can order a Blood Group Antigen Test or a Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA) test if they deem your evidence insufficient proof of your sibling hood. These tests establish your biological relationship with your sibling. You may submit a DNA test instead of the other two tests for availability reasons. However, unlike parent-child relationships, there currently are no regulations requiring DNA tests to establish sibling relationships.

You may have to provide the following additional evidence as proof of your relationship as siblings through adoption, step-parenthood, or paternal half-siblinghood:

  • Adoption: You must submit a copy of the adoption decrees or documents that prove your relationship to your sibling happened before either of you turned 16 years old if you are applying for an adopted sibling.
  • Step-Parenthood: You must submit copies of documents showing the marriage termination of your natural parent or stepparent. You must also submit a copy of your natural parent’s or stepparent’s marriage contract to establish your relationship as step-siblings.
  • Half-Siblinghood: If you and your sibling have a common biological father but different mothers, you must submit copies of your father’s marriage certificates to each of your mothers. You must also submit copies of any legal marriage termination documents between your father and either mother.

Note that you must also submit any proof of legal name change if your sibling’s name has changed. You may provide copies of a marriage certificate, adoption decree, divorce decree, or a court judgment of name change.

Be sure to file a sibling petition as soon as you are eligible (21 years old). Consider filing a Form I-130 for your sibling at the earliest possible time to avoid severe backlogs. Immigrant visas for siblings are limited and prone to extreme waiting periods. The average waiting period is ten years, but some cases have beneficiaries waiting 25 years before they get a Green Card.

For beneficiaries of sibling petitions, their spouses and unmarried children under 21 are eligible to apply for permanent resident status as well. This eligibility is a benefit that your siblings have when they apply for permanent resident status themselves.

Note that a sibling beneficiary’s child may “age out” or turn 21 before they are eligible to apply for permanent resident status. In such a case, your sibling must file a new petition for their child once they get their Green Card.

Child Petitions

You may file an immigrant petition for your children to live in the U.S. as lawful permanent residents. The USCIS considers a “child” an unmarried person under 21 years old while a “son” or “daughter” is a person over 21 who may or may not be married.

If you are a U.S. citizen, you may petition for the following persons:

  • Unmarried children under 21.
  • Unmarried sons and daughters aged 21 and over. Your son or daughter may include their children (your grandchildren) on the petition.
  • Married sons and daughters of any age. Your son or daughter may include their spouse and/or children (your grandchildren) on the petition.

If you are a Green Card holder, you may petition for the following persons:

  • Unmarried children under 21. Your child may include their children (your grandchildren) on the petition.
  • Unmarried sons and daughters aged 21 and over. Your son or daughter may include their children (your grandchildren) on this petition.

You must provide the standard identification documents that prove your U.S. citizenship or your LPR status. You must also submit documents that establish your relationship to your child, son, and/or daughter.

Proof of your relationship may require additional documents for the following cases:

  • Genetic Mother: You must submit a copy of your child’s civil birth certificate if you are their genetic mother or legal surrogate mother.
  • Genetic Father: You must submit a copy of your child’s civil birth certificate if you are their genetic father. You must also submit a copy of your marriage certificate proving your relationship to your child’s genetic mother or legal surrogate mother.

Further evidence might include legal termination, annulment, death, or divorce papers if they apply. If you never married the child’s mother before the child turned 18 years old, you must confirm whether the child is legitimate or illegitimate according to the laws of the country they live in.

Illegitimate children would have you submit evidence that you have a true father-child relationship before the child turned 21 or got married. You may submit financial documents as evidence of your involvement in their life as their father.

  • Stepparent: You must submit a copy of your step-child’s civil birth certificate. You must also submit a copy of your civil marriage certificate to your stepchild’s genetic or legal surrogate parent.

Further documents you might have to submit include proof of legal terminations of previous marriages, whether they are yours or the genetic parent’s or legal surrogate mother’s documents.

  • Adoptive Parent: You must submit a copy of your child’s original birth certificate if you are their adoptive parent. You must also submit a copy of the final adoption decree as evidence of your adoption.

Further evidence you must submit include documents that prove you had two years of legal custody and physical custody of your adopted child. The court awards legal custody to an adoptive relationship before the final adoption decree. Physical custody means the child was living with you, and you were their primary source of parental support.

What Do I Need to File Form I-130?

You would need to provide any of the following identification to prove your U.S. citizenship when filing a Form I-130 for your immediate relatives:

  • A copy of your U.S. birth certificate
  • A copy of your valid U.S. passport
  • A copy of your naturalization certificate
  • A copy of your certificate of citizenship
  • A copy of the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA)

You must provide further documents depending on who you are filing an Immigrant Visa Petition for. In general, you must submit evidence that establishes your relationship to your spouse, child, parents, or siblings. You may provide marriage contracts or birth certificates that clearly state your name, your beneficiary’s name, and how you are related.

How Do I Fill Out Form I-130?

The Petition for Alien Relative has nine parts you must complete. Be sure to sign every signature line. The USCIS rejects any unsigned form.

Part 1: Relationship (You Are the Petitioner. Your Relative Is the Beneficiary)

This section establishes who you are filing the petition for, whether your beneficiary is your spouse, parent, sibling, or child.

Part 2: Information About You (Petitioner)

This section has 49 questions, most with sub-questions. You must provide personal details including your full name, other names you have used, mailing addresses, parental or marital information, and employment history.

Part 3: Biographic Information

This is a self-explanatory section where you provide further information about your physical appearance.

Part 4: Information About Beneficiary

This comprehensive section has 62 questions, some with sub-questions. You must provide detailed information about your beneficiary from their name, relations to you, and employment history.

Part 5: Other Information

This section has nine questions where you detail whether you have petitioned for other beneficiaries before. The USCIS uses this data to investigate potential fraud cases.

Part 6: Petitioner’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature

You must affix your signature in this section to affirm that you understand the terms in this petition and swear all information is correct. You must provide contact information in this section.

Part 7: Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification, and Signature

This section is for your interpreter if you got help from one. You may need a professional interpreter to translate the form’s instructions into your language. In such a case, your interpreter must sign this section to affirm their assistance in filling out your petition.

Part 8: Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of Person Preparing This Petition if Other Than the Petitioner

You only need to complete this section if lawyers or other immigration agency officials helped fill out your Form I-130. Leave this section blank if you filled out the form alone.

Part 9: Additional Information

This section is a free space where you can provide more information in case some sections lack space. Be sure to indicate the correct page number, part number, and item number for which you are providing additional information.

Where Do I File Form I-130?

You may file your Form I-130 either online or by mail. When filing online, you must create an account at the USCIS website to fill out the form. When filing by mail, you will have to send your printed forms to either the Chicago, Dallas, or Phoenix Lockbox, depending on your residence. The USCIS has a directory of filing addresses for Form I-130.

How Much Are Form I-130 Filing Fees?

Form I-130 filing fees are $535. You can expect other fees for supporting documents and biometric screening tests (usually $85) when necessary.

How Long Is the Processing Time for Form I-130?

It usually takes anywhere between 7 and 15 months to complete an immigrant petition process if you are petitioning as a U.S. citizen. This time may extend due to backlogs or further requests for additional evidence.

Next Steps

Form I-130 or the Petition for Alien Relative is the first step for your family member to become a legal U.S. resident. This document establishes your relationship to your immediate relative, whether they are your spouse, parent, sibling, or child.

This form is comprehensive and may require the assistance of a professional immigration lawyer to ensure everything is correct and accounted for. Reeves Immigration Law Group’s attorneys are skilled in making sure your petition has all the necessary elements to secure your relative’s U.S. citizenship.

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