Your Complete Guide to Immigration Form I-130

Form I-130 is an immigration form used to petition certain family members to gain permanent resident status in the United States. Learn more here.

What Is Form I-130?

Over time, the United States has become one of the most desirable places to immigrate. This is due to various factors, including economic opportunity, political stability, and high quality of life.

Suppose you’re one of those who have successfully immigrated to the U.S. and have attained citizenship or lawful permanent resident status. In that case, you might consider supporting family members outside the country to do the same. In that case, you must know many immigrant visa petitions to kickstart the process, including filing Form I-130.

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is a document that, when completed correctly, can help you bring your family members from other countries into the U.S.

It is used to establish that a valid family relationship exists between you and your immigrant family member. As such, it is not completed by the person seeking immigration. Instead, you (the citizen or permanent resident) complete, sign, and file it on their behalf.

The approval of this petition is the gateway to the entire immigration process, so it is crucial that the form is completed and filed correctly. After all, a mistake or omitted detail could result in delays and even rejection.

The information provided here offers more helpful details on when and how to file form I-130, the general filing process, and how an experienced family immigration lawyer can help. Read on to learn more.

What Is I-130 Form Used For?

The primary purpose of this form is to prove the existence of a family relationship between two individuals, one who is already a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and the other who is not. It establishes the citizen spouse or permanent resident as the petitioner and the family member as a beneficiary.

The I-130 form is used to petition for a child, spouse, or parent who is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. This form also serves as the first step in a family immigration process.

When to File Form I-130

You can file Form I-130 for a family-based green card (lawful permanent residence) in several circumstances, including the following:

  • You’re a U.S. citizen married to a foreign national who intends to apply for citizenship.
  • You’re a U.S. citizen with an immediate relative applying for permanent residency. Close relatives here are limited to spouses, parents, and unmarried children below 21.
  • You’re filing an immigration application for an adopted child.
  • You’re a permanent resident or green card holder filing for a green card for your spouse or unmarried child.

In some cases, some immigration applicants are allowed to file Form I-130 on their own without sponsorship from a family member. For example, abused spouses or children of U.S. citizens or permanent residents may be allowed to file Form I-130 without sponsorship in a process known as a VAWA self-petition. VAWA stands for the Violence Against Women Act.

If you’re in such an abusive situation and unsure how to proceed, you can ask an immigration attorney to help you solidify your immigration status. Your immigration lawyer can advise on the best approach and help file your petition.

Form I-130: Instructions for Filing

Before filing Form I-130, you must complete the form by filling in the correct information. 

Some of the information you’ll be required to provide while completing the form include the following:

  • Details of your relationship with the immigrating individual (beneficiary)

  • Your alien registration number

  • Your Social Security number

  • Your full name and address

  • Your employment history in the last five years

  • Your biographical information, including details of your ethnicity, race, height, weight, and eye/hair color

  • The beneficiary’s name and mailing address

  • The beneficiary’s marital information.

You must also submit exact photocopies of any document you rely on to support your application. Such documents include:

  • Your birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or green card to establish your immigration status

  • Your marriage certificate

  • Evidence of termination of any prior marriage (s).

It is crucial to complete and sign the form accurately before filing. If there are mistakes in your form, the petition would likely be denied, further delaying the immigration process. If you’re having trouble understanding or completing the form, you can contact a skilled immigration lawyer for help.

Lawyers at The Diana L. Levy P.A. have extensive experience in family immigration cases and have helped numerous individuals navigate the U.S. immigration court proceedings successfully.

Our team of experienced attorneys can provide invaluable assistance in filing Form I-130 and other vital documents. We will ensure you understand your rights and assist with the immigration process.

How to File Form I-130

After completing your Form I-130, you must file it with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To make things easier for applicants, you can file online or mail the form to the USCIS.

You can file the form online by creating an online USCIS account and uploading the form and supporting documents. Once you’ve submitted the form, the USCIS will send you a receipt notice. You’ll need to provide a copy of the receipt notice to the beneficiary, who will need it for subsequent stages of the immigration process.

If you intend to mail your application to the USCIS, do not send it to a USCIS local office. There are four designated lockbox mailing addresses for applicants to send their forms, depending on their location. For instance, those in California can send it to the USCIS Phoenix Lockbox

You can find your state’s relevant USCIS mailing addresses here if you’re elsewhere in the U.S. You can also consult an attorney for help if you find the process challenging to ensure your form gets to the appropriate location. This can help you avoid processing delays.

How Much Does the I-130 Form Cost?

Before filing your form, you’ll need to pay a filing fee. As of 2022, the amount is $535, but that could change anytime. So, you’ll need to confirm the exact amount before making payment.

You can pay the fee by check, money order, or credit card. Note that the fee is non-refundable, so if your petition is denied, you do not get back the money you’ve spent. This is one of the reasons why you need to take utmost care while completing and filing the form. Any mistake you make would likely lead to a denial, resulting in a waste of your money.

Consider getting professional help to minimize the likelihood of such scenarios.

Form I-130: Processing Time

The processing time for Form I-130 varies depending on whether the sponsor is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, their relationship with the beneficiary, and the processing office handling the case.

For example, an application made by a U.S. citizen for their immediate relative that the California processing office is handling is estimated to take ten months to conclude. In contrast, a permanent resident applying for their spouse from the same processing office is estimated to take about 25 months to complete.

If you’d like to find out how long the processing time for your form is, the USCIS website has a handy estimation tool you can use. All you need to do is select the details that apply to your application and proceed.

What Happens After Form I-130 Is Approved?

After filing your form, you may be invited for an interview or further biometric screening as part of the process. If all goes well, the USCIS will approve your petition.

Once the petition is approved, the beneficiaries can apply for their immigrant visas through the state department (National Visa Center). But if they have already entered the U.S. via legal means such as a K3 visa, they do not need to wait for the form to be approved before applying for permanent residence. They are most likely eligible for concurrent filing and can file their application to ‘adjust status’ with Form I-130.

Thus an approved Form I-130 is not equivalent to an immigrant

How Can an Attorney Help With Form I-130?

The importance of Form I-130 in family-based immigration applications cannot be overemphasized. But many people find it challenging to complete the forms correctly due to the numerous details and requirements involved. This is serious because any errors in the document would likely lead to a rejection, which means your time and money have been wasted. 

To avoid such situations, consider getting an experienced immigration attorney to help you with the form and immigration process. They can ensure that your application gets off to a good start by completing the form and mailing it correctly on your behalf, saving you the stress of doing it by yourself.

If you have further questions on family or business and employment-based immigration or need an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles, contact us at the Law Office of Diana L. Levy, P.A.

We can help you find answers and provide possible solutions for your case. Contact us as soon as possible to begin the process that would help you reunite with your family.