I-130 Form, Petition for Alien Relative Guide

I-130 Form Petition for Alien Relative

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Last updated: April 15, 2024.

  • Form I-130 is a U.S. immigration form used to prove a relationship with an eligible family member who wants to obtain permanent residency (“green card”)
  • Form I-130 is officially called “Petition for Alien Relative”
  • The filing of Form I-130 with USCIS is usually the first step in a family member’s immigration process
  • U.S. citizens and permanent residents can file Form I-130 for eligible family members
  • In Form I-130 applications, the U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsor is called “Petitioner” and the family member being sponsored is called “Beneficiary
  • USCIS will approve your I-130 petition if you can prove a valid relationship with your sponsored relative
  • Once Form I-130 is approved, a family member can apply for a permanent residency that allows them to live and work in the U.S.
  • The filing and approval of Form I-130 petition does not automatically offer immigration status or benefits
  • Some family members are subject to quotas which means they will need to wait until their priority date becomes current before they can actually apply for permanent residency:
  • A sponsored family member must complete the immigration process to become a lawful permanent resident:

Who Can File Form I-130?

Form I-130 can only be filed by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder).

You must file a separate form for each eligible family member you seek to sponsor. 

Exception: if you are a permanent resident and filing Form I-130 for your spouse, you are not required to file a separate Form I-130 for your spouse’s unmarried children under 21 years of age.

Who Qualifies as an Eligible Family Member for Form I-130?

If you are a U.S. citizen, you can sponsor:

  • Spouse (IR-1/CR-1, CR-6);
  • Unmarried children under 21 years of age (IR-2);
  • Unmarried children over 21 (F1);
  • Married children of any age (F3);
  • Brothers or sisters (F4, if the sponsoring citizen is over 21); and
  • Parent (IR-5, if the sponsoring citizen over 21)

If you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), you can sponsor:

  • Spouse;
  • Unmarried children under 21 (F2A); and
  • Unmarried sons or daughters of any age (F2B)

No other relatives can be sponsored on Form I-130 petition.

Grandparents, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, etc. cannot be sponsored.

I-130 Application Fee

Form I-130 filing fee depends on whether you file it online or submit by mail:

  • $625 (online filing), or
  • $675 (paper filing)

For each I-130 form submitted, a separate filing fee is required.

Form I-130 government fee is nonrefundable regardless of the outcome of your petition.

This fee is subject to change. 

You can check the most current Form I-130 fee on the USCIS website.

How USCIS Processes Form I-130 Applications

The USCIS reviews all Form I-130 petitions in the order they are filed.

Once Form I-130 is properly filed, you will receive an official notice called Form I-797C (Notice of Action) from USCIS by mail.

If you submitted Form I-130 online, the receipt notice will be available in your online USCIS account.

Keep this I-797C receipt notice in a safe place because it contains an important information:

  • Your receipt number (which can be used to track the status of your Form I-130 online)
  • Your priority date

Can I file Forms I-130 and I-485 together?

  • Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (spouses, unmarried children and parents) who entered the US on a valid visa and are physically present in the U.S. are eligible to file Forms I-130 and I-485 together (“concurrent filing”). Applicants must first check if they are subject to the 90-Day Rule
  • Spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents (F2A category) might be eligible to file Forms I-130 and I-485 together only if the F2A visa number is current. Applicants in F2A category are subject to the 90-Day rule too

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

Form I-130 processing time depends on several factors:

  • How close your family relationship is under USCIS’s classification (for example, immediate relatives’ applications are processed faster than preference categories);
  • Which USCIS office is processing the application;
  • Whether you provided all the required documents. If any documents are missing, the processing of Form I-130 can be delayed

Beneficiaries in the immediate relative category are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa (if outside the U.S.) or a green card (if in the US) immediately after Form I-130 is approved.

Keep in mind that for preference categories, Form I-130 approval by itself does not guarantee that beneficiaries can apply for permanent residence (immigrant visa or green card).

Beneficiaries in preference categories are eligible to apply for permanent residence only if their priority date is current. Learn more: How to Read the Visa Bulletin for Family-Based Immigrants

Average Form I-130 processing times are provided below. Source: USCIS Case Processing Times

Form I-130 Processing Times

Form type

Application center

Average Processing time

U.S. citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child under 21

Nebraska Service Center

12.5 Months to 16 Months

Potomac Service Center

7 Months to 9 Months

Texas Service Center

5 Months to 7 Months

Vermont Service Center

17.5 Months to 22.5 Months

Permanent resident filing for a spouse or child under 21 (F2A category)

California Service Center

8.5 Months to 11 Months

Nebraska Service Center

20.5 Months to 26.5 Months

Potomac Service Center

1 Week to 7 Months

Texas Service Center

5 Months to 7 Months

Vermont Service Center

17 Months to 22.5 Months

U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 (F1 category)

California Service Center

56.5 Months to 73.5 Months

Nebraska Service Center

12.5 Months to 16 Months

Potomac Service Center

7 Months to 9 Months

Texas Service Center

5 Months to 7 Months

Vermont Service Center

58.5 Months to 76 Months

Permanent resident filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 (F2B category)

California Service Center

53.5 Months to 69.5 Months

Nebraska Service Center

20.5 Months to 26.5 Months

Potomac Service Center

1 Week to 7 Months

Texas Service Center

5 Months to 7 Months

Vermont Service Center

56.5 Months to 73.5 Months

U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter over 21 (F3 category)

California Service Center

92.5 Months to 120 Months

Nebraska Service Center

12.5 Months to 16 Months

Potomac Service Center

7 Months to 9 Months

Texas Service Center

5 Months to 7 Months

Vermont Service Center

88 Months to 114 Months

U.S. citizen filing for a brother or sister (F4 category)

California Service Center

104.5 Months to 136 Months

Nebraska Service Center

12.5 Months to 16 Months

Potomac Service Center

7 Months to 9 Months

Texas Service Center

5 Months to 7 Months

Vermont Service Center

99 Months to 129 Months

To check the most current processing times for Form I-130:

  • Visit the USCIS website at https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times
  • Select “Form I-130” 
  • Select your category and service center (your USCIS service center is printed in the lower right corner of Form I-130 receipt notice)

Keep in mind that processing times are general estimates, and individual cases may take less or more time to complete.

Additionally, USCIS may issue Requests for Evidence (RFEs) during the processing of your application, which can add to the overall processing time. 

It’s crucial to respond promptly and thoroughly if you receive an RFE to avoid delays.

If your case is outside the normal processing time, you place an Outside Normal Processing Time e-Request or request assistance from your local congressman’s office.

Learn more: USCIS Expedite Request

Form I-130 Checklist of Documents

Submit photocopies of the following documents with your Form I-130 application:

Required documents

Description

Correct filing fee

  • $625 (online filing), or
  • $675 (paper filing)
  • Failure to submit the correct filing fee amount will result in rejection and delays
  • Check the most current Form I-130 filing fee on the USCIS website

Completed Form I-130

  • If filing by mail, use the most recent edition of Form I-130 available on the USCIS website
  • Sign and date Form I-130
  • Failure to use the most recent edition of Form I-130 (if filed by mail) will result in rejection and delays

Proof of US citizenship (if petitioner is a US citizen)

At least one the following documents:

  • U.S. birth certificate (if petitioner is born in the U.S.)
  • Naturalization citizenship certification issued by the USCIS or the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) – if petitioner is a naturalized U.S. citizen
  • Citizenship certificate (if petitioner obtained US citizenship through parents)
  • Form FS-240 (Consular Report of Birth Abroad) issued by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate – if petitioner was born abroad to U.S. citizen parent(s)
  • Unexpired U.S. passport (biographic page)

Proof of permanent resident status (if petitioner is a green card holder)

  • Permanent resident card (front and back), or
  • Stamped immigrant visa (temporary 1-year Form I-551)

Evidence of relationship

  • Spouse: 
    • Marriage certificate
    • Evidence that both spouses terminated any earlier marriage(s) (if applicable);
  • Child: A copy of the child’s birth certificate
  • Parent: A copy of your birth certificate confirming the identity of your parent
  • Brother or sister: A copy of your birth certificate and a copy of your sibling’s birth certificate

Proof of marriage (only if sponsoring a spouse)

Examples of acceptable documents:

  • Documents showing joint ownership of property
  • A lease showing joint residency
  • Joint utility bills
  • A document showing joint financial assets
  • Joint checking account statements
  • Joint savings account statements 
  • Joint health insurance
  • Joint car insurance
  • A birth certificate showing the birth of a child together
  • An affidavit from witnesses who have personal knowledge of the marriage
  • Annotated personal photographs
  • Other evidence establishing marriage (wedding photographs, gift receipts, vacation receipts, emails, text messages, phone calls, etc.)

Passport-style photographs (only if sponsoring a spouse)

  • If filing Form I-130 online:
    • Digital US passport-style photographs of both spouses
  • If filing Form I-130 by mail:
    • Two recent printed color US passport style photographs of petitioner
    • Two recent printed color US passport style photographs of beneficiary

Signed and dated Form I-130A (only if sponsoring a spouse)

  • Form I-130A filled out, signed and dated by the beneficiary
  • Form I-130A is completed by the foreign spouse being sponsored for permanent residency
  • Other categories of beneficiaries (parents, children, and siblings) are not required to file Form I-130A

Legal name change documents (only if applicable)

If any of the spouses has ever changed

their names:

  • Copy of any legal name-change documents for Petitioner and/or Beneficiary (for example, name change court order, marriage certificate, divorce decree)

Certified English translation

  • If any supporting documents are in a foreign language, provide certified English translations
  • Attach the photocopy of the original document in foreign language

What to do after Form I-130 is approved

After Form I-130 is approved, the next steps depend on following factors:

  • If beneficiary is in the immediate relative or preference category
  • If beneficiary is in the U.S. or outside the U.S.

U.S. immigration law places all family-based immigrants into two categories.

These categories directly impact the process a beneficiary must use, and how long it will take for the beneficiary to obtain an immigrant visa or a green card.

Category 1. Immediate Relative 

A sponsored family member will be placed in the “Immediate Relative Category” if they are:

  • A spouse of a U.S. citizen;
  • An unmarried child of a U.S. citizen under 21 years of age (IR-2); or
  • A parent of a U.S. citizen over 21 (IR-5)

Category 2. Family Preference 

Unlike the Immediate Relative Category, theFamily Preference Category” applicants do not have a visa available immediately upon I-130 approval.

Most of the family preference category applicants must wait until a visa number becomes available.

A visa number is available when the beneficiary’s priority date becomes current on the most recent U.S. Visa Bulletin.

The following family members are placed in the Family Preference Category:

  • An unmarried child of a U.S. citizen over 21 (F1 category);
  • A spouse of a lawful permanent resident (F2A category);
  • An unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident under 21 (F2A category);
  • An unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident over 21 (F2B category);
  • A married child of a U.S. citizen any age (F3 category); and
  • A brother or sister if a U.S. citizen (if the citizen is over 21, F4 category).

When you receive Form I-130 approval notice, the next step depends on:

  • The category your family member falls into (immediate relative vs preference category); 
  • If your family member is in the preference category, whether the priority date is current; and
  • Whether the sponsored family member is in the U.S. or outside the U.S.

Immediate relatives in the U.S.

Applicants falling into the Immediate Relative category who are physically present in the U.S. have the option to “adjust status” to a permanent resident by filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residents or Adjust Status).

For applicants in the Immediate Relative category, there is no need to wait for Form I-130 to be approved before filing Forms I-485, I-865, I-765 and I-131.

They can file Form I-485:

  • Together with Form I-130 (concurrently)
  • While Form I-130 is pending, or 
  • After Form I-130 is approved

For applicants in the Immediate Relative category, a visa is always immediately available.

Immediate relatives outside the U.S.

For a family member in the Immediate Relative category who is located outside the U.S., an approved Form I-130 application will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing. 

Typically 1-2 weeks after Form I-130 is approved, you will receive an email from the NVC.

After receiving an email from NVC that contains your  NVC Case Number and Invoice ID Number, you will need to do the following:

  • Pay Fees – Pay the Immigration Visa Application Fee ($325) and Affidavit of Support Fee ($120). You will need a U.S. checking or savings account to make these fees
  • Submit Form DS-260- Applicant will need to complete and submit Form DS-260 (Immigration Visa & Alien Registration Application) online; and
  • Submit civil documents – Applicant is required to upload various financial and supporting documents to the National Visa Center online

You can expect this NVC process to take anywhere from 1 week to 5 weeks to be completed.

Once NVC reviews all documents uploaded, an email will be sent to the petitioner and beneficiary saying that the application is “documentarily qualified”.

This means that the applicant will be scheduled for an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Family Preference Category in the U.S.

If a family member in the family preference category is currently located in the U.S., they might be eligible for Adjustment of Status if the following requirements are met:

Keep in mind that Adjustment of Status applicants might be subject to the 90-Day Rule.

Family Preference Category Outside the U.S.

In most cases, applicants in the Family Preference Category use consular processing to apply for their immigrant visas.

In consular processing, the immigrant visa application is processed through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate located outside the U.S.

Due to the limited number of visas available in this category, the wait for an immigrant visa can take several years or even longer.

Once the beneficiary’s priority date becomes current, NVC will send a “welcome letter” containing instructions on further application steps.

Learn More:

Form I-130 Instructions

How to fill out Form I-130

Form I-130 checklist of documents