Form I-130 Guide: Petition for Alien Relative
The first stage in applying for a US Green Card as a relative of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident is to file form I-130. Form I-130 must be completed by your sponsor.
In this guide for US Green Card applicants, we take a practical look at what the I-130 is, who can and cannot use it, and how to complete it.
What is form I-130?
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is the form that must be completed by the sponsor of an overseas relative looking to live in the United States on a permanent basis. This is essentially the first stage of the green card process for qualifying relatives.
There is also an additional form that must be completed where the sponsor is either an American or US-settled spouse. Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary, is designed to collect additional information for a spouse beneficiary of Form I-130. This form must be completed by the overseas spouse, rather than the US sponsor, and filed with the I-130 submitted by the sponsor. If a spouse beneficiary resides overseas, they must still complete an I-130A, although this form will not first need to be signed.
Who should use I-130?
A US citizen or lawful permanent resident may file an I-130 with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to establish the existence of a familial relationship with certain overseas relatives who wish to immigrate to the United States or adjust their status.
Non-citizen US nationals, as defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), have the same right to petition for family members as lawful permanent residents. This means that US nationals born in either American Samoa or Swains Island, or who otherwise qualify as a non-citizen US national under the INA, should describe themselves in the I-130 petition as a lawful permanent resident and will not be required to list an Alien Registration Number.
If the person filing the I-130 is a US citizen, they may file this petition on behalf of either:
- their spouse
- their unmarried children under 21 years of age
- their unmarried sons or daughters 21 years of age or older
- their married sons or daughters of any age
- their brothers or sisters (although the sponsor must be 21 years of age or older)
- their mother or father (where again the sponsor must be 21 years of age or older).
The US sponsor must file a separate Form I-130 for each eligible relative. However, separate petitions are not required for the spouse or unmarried children under 21 of any beneficiary who qualifies as an unmarried adult child, a married child of any age or a sibling. They will be considered derivative beneficiaries who should be listed in the same petition and can apply for a green card along with the beneficiary once the petition has been approved.
US lawful permanent residents
If the person filing the I-130 is a lawful permanent resident, they may file on behalf of:
- their spouse
- their unmarried children under 21 years of age
- their unmarried sons or daughters 21 years of age or older.
The US sponsor must again file a separate Form I-130 for each eligible relative. However, separate petitions are not required for the spouse or unmarried children under 21 of any beneficiary who qualifies as an unmarried child either under or over the age of 21 years of age. They will again be considered derivative beneficiaries who should be listed in the same petition and can apply for their green card once the petition has been approved.
Importantly, there is no visa category for married children of lawful permanent residents. This means that if a lawful permanent resident files Form I-130 for their unmarried son or daughter, but the beneficiary marries before immigrating to the USA, or adjusting their status to a lawful permanent resident, USCIS will deny or automatically revoke the petition.
Who cannot use I-130?
It is not permissible for either a US citizen or lawful permanent resident to file Form I-130 for a person in any one of the following categories:
- an adoptive parent or adopted child, where the adoption took place once the child turned 16, or if the child has not been in the legal custody and has not resided with the parents for at least 2 years prior to filing the petition
- a natural parent, if the petitioner gained lawful permanent resident status or US citizenship via adoption or when classed as a special immigrant juvenile
- a stepparent or stepchild, if the marriage creating the step-relationship took place once the child turned 18
- a spouse, if the petitioner and spouse were not both physically present at the wedding ceremony, unless that marriage was consummated
- a spouse, if the petitioner gained lawful permanent resident status via a prior marriage to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, unless they are now a naturalised US citizen; they have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years; the petitioner can establish that they did not enter the prior marriage to evade any US immigration laws; or the petitioner’s prior marriage ended because their spouse died
- a spouse, if the petitioner married their spouse while subject to exclusion, deportation, removal or rescission proceedings in relation to their right to be admitted into or to remain in the US, or while a decision in the context of any of these proceedings was before any court on judicial review. However, the petitioner may request in writing the bona fide marriage exemption under the INA when filing Form I-130, although they must prove that the marriage is legally valid, that they married in good faith and not to obtain permanent resident status for their spouse and that they were not paid for filing the petition ‘or’ that their spouse has lived outside the United States, after the marriage, for at least 2 years
- any person, if USCIS determines that they had entered into a marriage, or attempted or conspired to enter into a marriage, to evade US immigration laws, and
- a grandparent, grandchild, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, cousin or parent-in-law.
What are the I-130 questions?
When completing the I-130, the petitioner will need to provide detailed information about themselves and the relative that they are sponsoring to satisfy USCIS that they are suitable to sponsor that individual. The questions asked on the I-130 are designed to cover:
- the petitioner’s relationship to the beneficiary
- the petitioner’s name, address history, marital information, details about their parents, information about their citizenship or permanent residence, and their employment history
- the petitioner’s biographic information, including their ethnicity and race, height, weight, as well as their eye and hair colour
information about the beneficiary, including their name, address, marital information, as well as details about any spouse and children
- the beneficiary’s entry information
- the beneficiary’s employment information
additional information about the beneficiary, including if they have ever been involved in immigration proceedings, plus their name and foreign address in their native language
other information, such as if the petitioner has previously filed a petition for the same beneficiary and the names of any other relatives for whom the petitioner is filing an I-130
- the petitioner’s statement, contact information, declaration and signature, selecting the appropriate box to indicate whether they read the petition themself or had an interpreter
- the contact information, certification and signature of any interpreter used
- the contact information, declaration and signature of any person preparing the petition on the petitioner’s behalf, where they have a representative to do this for them.
If a spouse beneficiary is required to complete Form I-130A, they will be asked to provide their personal information, including their full name and address history. They will also be asked to provide information about their parents and employment history, both inside and outside of the United States. They must then select the appropriate spouse beneficiary statement that either they have fully understood the form because they can read and understand English or they have used an interpreter. Finally, they must provide their contact information and, if they are already living in the United States, sign and date this.
If an interpreter has been used, their details, contact information and signature must be included. Equally, if someone other than the spouse beneficiary has prepared the I-130A, their details, contact information and signature must again be included on the form.
How to file form I-130
There are two different options for filing Form I-130 with USCIS, either online or via mail. The filing location will depend on where the petitioner lives and if they are concurrently filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
At the time of filing the I-130, the petitioner must submit all evidence and supporting documentation listed in the General Requirements section of the I-130 instructions which can be found on the USCIS website. This should include proof of their US citizenship or permanent resident status, as well as proof of their family relationship with the beneficiary.
As part of the petition process, USCIS may require the petitioner to appear for an interview or provide their fingerprints, photograph and/or signature to verify their identity. After USCIS receives the petition and ensures that this is complete, they will inform the petitioner in writing if they need to attend a biometric services appointment. If needed, the notice will provide the location of their local or designated USCIS Application Support Center and the date and time of the appointment or, if currently overseas, instruct them to contact a US Embassy, US Consulate or USCIS office outside the United States to set up an appointment.
If the petitioner is required to provide their biometrics, at their scheduled appointment they must sign an oath reaffirming that they provided or authorised all information contained in their petition, that they reviewed and understood that information, and this was complete, true and correct at the time of filing. If the petitioner is not able to make that attestation in good faith, USCIS will require them to return for another appointment. Equally, if the petitioner fails to attend their scheduled appointment, USCIS may deny the petition.
Prior to making any decision, USCIS may also need to obtain additional information or documentation from the petitioner, and to conduct various background and security checks.
How much does I-130 cost to file?
Each I-130 petition must be accompanied by the appropriate filing fee. The current fee to file Form I-130 is $535 – increasing to $675 from April 1, 2024 – where the filing fee for this petition cannot be waived. This fee is also final and non-refundable, regardless of any action that USCIS takes on the petition.
The petitioner does not usually need to include a biometric services fee at the time of filing, although if they are notified that they must submit their biometric information, they will receive an appointment notice with instructions on how to pay the additional fee.
How long does I-130 take to be approved?
Once the I-130 petition has been submitted and the fee paid, it can take several months, sometimes far longer, for this to be approved by USCIS.
Importantly, approval of the I-130 petition does not mean that the beneficiary of the petition (the sponsor’s relative) will automatically be classed as a lawful permanent resident or have permission to immediately immigrate to the USA. They will still need to apply for their immigrant visa or to adjust their status to that of a permanent resident.
In many cases, the beneficiary of an approved petition must wait until a visa becomes available before they can apply. When a petition is approved for the spouse, unmarried child under 21 years of age or a parent of a US citizen, these individuals are classed as immediate relatives, which means visas will be immediately available to them.
In contrast, when a petition is approved for any other category of I-130 beneficiary, it is assigned to the applicable visa preference category. Each year, a limited number of immigrant visas are made available for each category, where visas are processed in the order in which the petitions are accepted by USCIS as properly filed. To be considered properly filed, a petition must be fully completed and signed, and the filing fee paid.
NNU Immigration provide specialist support for US visa and Green Card applications. For expert advice, contact our attorneys.
Form I-130 FAQs
What is an I-130 visa?
An I-130 visa is the permission granted to the overseas relative of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident to permanently live in the United States following approval of an I-130 petition and a successful green card application.
Is I-130 approved without interview?
Most standalone I-130 petitions will be approved without the need for an interview, although the facts may indicate that a personal interview is appropriate. However, the beneficiary of an approved I-130 petition will usually be required to attend an interview.
What is the difference between I-130 and I-130 A?
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is the petition to be filed by the US sponsor of an eligible overseas relative, while Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary, is an additional form to be completed by the spouse beneficiary.
Does the I-130 give you a green card?
The I-130 is essentially the first stage of the green card process for eligible overseas relatives looking to immigrate to the United States. Once approved, they can then file their application for a lawful permanent resident card.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.