In this Learn About Law podcast & videoblog, attorney Kevin O'Flaherty of O'Flaherty Law discusses the changes to Immigration Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relatives to enter the United States.
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The purpose of this article is to explain Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative, as well as to describe some changes to Form I-130 that occurred in 2017.  Form I-130 is used by American citizens or permanent residents to sponsor a relative’s the Visa petition.  It establishes the familial relationship between the U.S. citizen or permanent resident and the person seeking a Visa, as well as the citizen's or resident’s intention to assist the non-resident in immigrating to America.  Form I-130 is a prerequisite to familial Visa petitions.  The Visa petition itself is filed as a separate form (Form I-485).

Preparing and Filing Form I-130

‍The first step in the process of sponsoring a relative’s Visa petition is to prepare Form I-130 and file it with the office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).  On February 28, 2017, USCIS updated its Form I-130.  The new form became effective on April 28, 2017.  

‍The new form contains additional questions regarding the petitioner’s address, the petitioner’s five-year employment history, the petitioner’s parents, current and prior spouses, and physical identifying information such as height and ethnicity.

‍In addition, when the beneficiary of the petition is the citizen’s or resident’s spouse, the new Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary form (Form I-130A) must be submitted.  This replaces the previous Form G-325A, and contains background information on the beneficiary spouse.  

‍The instructions section of Form I-130 has been revised to state that USCIS may require the citizen or resident to appear for an interview collect additional information, conduct background checks including an FBI criminal history check, and to verify the petitioner’s identity by providing fingerprints, a photograph and/or a signature.

‍It is advisable to work with an immigration attorney when completing Form I-130, because petitions that contain errors or that are incomplete may significantly delay the green card process.  Once the petition is complete, it must be sent by mail along with all accompanying documents to the appropriate USCIS processing facility.  It cannot be filed in-person at a USCIS office. 

USCIS Review For Completeness

Once the USCIS has received your Petition for Alien Relative, it will review the petition for completeness.  At this stage, if the petition is complete and has been correctly filled out along with all required accompanying documents, the USCIS will mail you a notice that the USCIS has received the petition, formally known as Form I-797C: Notice of Action.  The petitioner will usually receive the USCIS notice of receipt 2-3 weeks after filing his or her petition.

If the petition is incomplete, the USCIS will either send a letter to the petitioner, called a Request for Evidence, requesting any missing portions of the petition, or send the entire petition back to the petitioner for correction and refiling.  

USCIS Review and Approval of Petition

After the USCIS has confirmed that your petition is complete, the USCIS will begin the process of reviewing and approving the petition.  How quickly this happens depends on whether the beneficiary of the petition is an “Immediate Relative.”  “Immediate Relatives” are defined as spouses, parents, or unmarried children under the age of 21.  These types of relatives are given priority and there is no limit on the number of visas that may be issued to individuals in this category.  Form I-130 petitions for Immediate Relatives are typically approved within five to nine months of filing.  

‍Family members who are not “Immediate Relatives” are categorized as “Family Preference.”  Family Preference beneficiaries have much longer wait times, because there is a limit on the number of Family Preferences that can be granted, and therefore there is a wait list based on the date of filing the visa petition.  The wait time for approval of Family Preference petitions is several years.   

Green Card Processing

Once Form I-130 has been approved, the next step depends on whether the beneficiary is currently in America.  If so, the USCIS will begin reviewing the beneficiary’s Green Card petition (Form I-485) and move forward with the visa process.  If the beneficiary is currently outside of the U.S., the USCIS will send approval of your form I-130 to the National Visa Center, which will begin coordinating a visa interview at the U.S. consular office in the beneficiary’s country of residence. 

November 16, 2020
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