The I-130 Family Petition is a form that can be used by U.S. citizens, as well as lawful permanent residents (LRPs) can use to establish a familial connection with petition visas for immediate, non-resident family members, and which can help them gain a visa. Essentially this involves providing proof of U.S. citizenship (for the petitioner), and the existence of a family connection (for the beneficiary). , a process that is primarily designed to reunite families together. While it sounds relatively straightforward, it’s important that individuals filing an I-130 do not rush the process. it’s easy to rush, Taking the time to understand the I-130’s nuts and bolts—especially in regards to correct filing—can, in the long run, greatly improve an applicant’s chance of approval and avoid unnecessary delays.
Below, are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about who, what, and how to file an I-130 family petition.
What is an I-130 Family Petition?
Simply stated, the I-130 is a document that establishes a close family tie between a U.S. citizen (the petitioner), and a non-resident relative (the beneficiary). In order to file, the petitioner and beneficiary must be in the same immediate family. According to the offices of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (or, the USCIS), immediate family members include spouses, children, and parents. And while U.S. citizens are also allowed to file on behalf of a sibling, LPRs are restricted to spouses and unmarried children only.
For other, non-immediate family members, Family Preference applications are available. These family members are broken down into categories and receive preferential treatment according to rank. Starting with unmarried children over 21 (classified as First Preference, or F1s), and ranging all the way to over 21 siblings of U.S. citizens in the Fourth Preference, F4, status. LPRs cannot file Family Preference applications.
It should also be noted addition, that each I-130 form can only be used once. So, for example, a petitioner who wishes to file on behalf of his spouse and three children will need four separate I-130 forms—one for each member of the family.
What Documents are Needed for an I-130 Application?
In addition to the completed I-130 forms, a petitioner should be prepared to offer evidence of their own U.S. citizenship and residency, as well as documents that can verify the beneficiary’s relationship to them.
Documents to prove U.S. citizenship might include:
- A U.S. birth certificate
- Certificate of naturalization
- Certificate of citizenship
- An FS-240 or Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA)
- A copy of a current U.S. passport
- An original statement from a U.S. consular officer, that verifies citizenship with a valid passport
Documents to prove residency might include:
- A Permanent Resident Card (an I-551 form)
- A passport biographic page, must include information showing the petitioner’s admission as a lawful permanent resident
- Other evidence issued by USCIS or the former, INS
Depending on what relationship exists between the petitioner and beneficiary, the documents needed to verify the relationship will obviously differ. However, some of them might include:
- A marriage certificate
- Documents showing joint ownership of property
- A lease showing residence at the same address
- Documents of combined financial resources
- Birth certificates of children
- Sworn affidavits from third parties
- Adoption decrees
This is by no means an exhaustive list! There are many ways to satisfy a petitioner’s burden of proof, and an immigration attorney can help determine which options will be best for individual situations. all of which can be found on the USCIS’s website. The point, however, is to be thoroughly prepared for this part of the application and to investigate all available options of proof prior to filing. Providing ample, detailed information up front will go a long way to ensuring the petition is resolved in the timeliest manner possible. And for families waiting to be united, every one of those seconds saved is precious.
What Happens After Filing, and How Long Does it Take to Process an I-130?
Speaking of timely… approval of an I-130 is done on a first come first serve basis—which again serves to emphasize how important it is to have everything squared away before proceeding.
Within 2-3 weeks of filing, an applicant will be sent a notice of receipt. If there is something wrong with an application, the USCIS will follow up by either rejecting a petition outright or issuing a request for more evidence. They might also choose to send a Notice of Intent to Deny, which basically informs a petitioner that their application is likely to be denied, and gives the individual a limited amount of time in which to remedy the issues stated. Often One example of when the USCIS might issue a Notice of Intent to Deny is if they believe occurs if the USCIS believes marriage fraud has occurred.
I-130 processing times vary, depending on location. For the USCIS’s Potomac Service Center, the estimated processing time for a resident filing on behalf of a spouse or child is approximately 35.5-46 months. If filing for other family members (such as children over 21, or a sibling), the process
Generally speaking, as long as nothing is wrong, most applications are processed within 5-9 months of filing, though, it can take much longer.
Is an I-130 a Visa?
While an I-130 is not, itself, a visa, it is the first step in helping a close relative gain a green card.
For spouses and unmarried children of U.S. citizens, as soon as an I-130 application is approved, a visa will be available.
For siblings, as well as married or adult children, Family Preference applications are available, and the path can take a bit longer. In these instances, approved I-130 applications are not automatically given visas, but instead, assigned to a corresponding visa category (F1, F2, etc.), based on rank, which is determined by how close the relationship is between the U.S. citizen and the beneficiary. These categories have a limited number of visas available each year, which are given out in order of correct filing and acceptance. So again, making sure all information is in order before filing is crucial to avoid any unnecessary delays.
Why Was My I-130 Family Petition Denied?
One of the most common reasons for denial is a lack of information. Whether the documentation was incomplete, or because of a failure to respond to evidence requests, either outcome may result in denial. A petitioner may have also forgotten to pay the filing fee ($535), or might possibly have been ineligible to file in the first place. Of course, USCIS also makes mistakes, so if a petitioner believes the denial was issued in error, one can always file again. Though, keep in mind that will mean major delays and more waiting, which could mean a loss of priority date.
In the end, the waiting game is—undeniably—excruciating, the stress of application only compounded by separation from loved ones. But while there isn’t anything that can be done to make time pass faster, the best way to maintain sanity during the wait is to make sure it’s done right the first time. If you believe that you or a family member might qualify for an I-130 Family Petition, then call us at (757) 464-9224, or reach us online to schedule a consultation. A well-prepared packet can not only increase an applicant’s chance of acceptance but will also give family members peace of mind, knowing they’ve done everything they can to be reunited as quickly as possible.