I-130: Petition for Alien Relative

What is Form I-130?

While there are numerous methods of legally immigrating to the United States, foreigners with family members who are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents (green card holders) may immigrate through family. Foreigners with the intent of immigrating to the U.S. can request their lawful relative to file Form I-130 to Petition for Alien Relative. Depending on the legal status of the sponsor, USCIS has different guidelines on the definition of eligible relative. Applicants should check the list below before filing Form I-130. To start the immigration process, applicants can download a copy of Form I-130.


U.S. Citizens Filing I-130 Form

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried children of any age
  • Married children of any age
  • Siblings (if the applicant is older than 21 of age)
  • Parents (if the applicant is older than 21 of age)


Permanent Residents Filing I-130 Form

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried children of any age

Any other relative cannot be included in Form I-130. Examples include stepchild, grandparents, niece, nephew, uncle, and aunt. Applications with the invalid relative relationship will be rejected.


Processing Times

The processing of the Form I-130 is based on a first come first serve basis. If an applicant has filled and submitted the form first, their form is likely to undergo processing prior to others. Once submitted, applicants can use the USCIS processing times to estimate the amount of time required to hear back from the agency. Typically, the USCIS updates information every 45 days to keep applicants informed of the latest status. For I-130, the typical processing time is approximately 5 months. In order to ensure expedited processing, the USCIS has divided every form into six groups. Your application will fall into one of the following groups below:

  • Filling of permanent resident for husband/wife or child below 21 years of age
  • U.S. citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child below the age of 21
  • U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried child above the age of 21 years
  • Permanent resident filling for an unmarried son or daughter over 21
  • U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter over 21
  • Petition for Alien Relative

Although the USCIS tries to keep the processing time under 5 months, recent processing times may go as high as 15 months. This is generally due to issues on the initial application such as incomplete documentation and inability to fill the form correctly.


Instructions and Processing the I-130 Form

Form I-130 consists of eight parts. While applicants must fill out each section of the form, applicants should provide special attention to the following selections. Failing to complete these sections will result in automatic rejection from the USCIS.


Part 1 – Relationship

  • Applicants must fill out the relationship with the beneficiary

Part 2 – Information About You

  • Applicants must fill out name, date of birth, mailing address, marital status

Part 4 – Information About Beneficiary

  • Applicants must fill out beneficiary’s name, date of birth, physical address, and marital status

For each application, there is a filing fee of $535.


USCIS Review Process

Reviewing procedure takes around three to four weeks after the submission of the application. After this, USCIS reviews your petition carefully. The petition can be broken into two categories: 1) immediate relatives and 2) family preference. The two differs in terms of review time as well as other aspects. The immediate relative category is dealt with way before the permanent spouse category. In addition, there is not a visa limit number on the immediate relative category.

All other family connections are considered “Family Preference” category that usually has a longer processing time. The waiting time may take more than a year. However, there may be circumstances the USCIS will prioritize over. For instance, an applicant who has requested of a companion or unmarried youngster is given a high need in the F-1 visa.

Immediate Relatives Approval

As mentioned earlier, the request for the immediate family relatives is prioritized according to the USCIS guidelines. Most of the petitions for immediate relatives are reviewed and processed within a span of 5 to 9 months. If you have filed another form to adjust the status in the U.S. (I-485), the review process would also include reviewing the I-485 form. However, if the applicant currently does not reside in the U.S., the USCIS will transmit the information to the appropriate country’s consulate to conduct the confirmation procedure.

Immediate relatives account for a particular class of people in the family. These are listed below.

  • Unmarried Children below the age of 21 years
  • Spouse
  • Parents of the U.S. Citizen

Note that the USCIS has not imposed an annual cap on the number of visas issued to the immediate relative category.


Family Preference Approval

For the family preference category, the immigrant visa numbers are limited on an annual basis. In addition, the number highly depends on the date when you filed your petition which is called the priority date. Approval for this category may take years. However, there is one exception.

If the petition comes under the F-1 visa, the approval is generally processed within months. To check, use the priority date assigned to your petition on the visa bulletin of the state department’s website.


Processing Receipt from the USCIS

After applicants successfully submit the form, they can expect to hear back from the USCIS within 2 to 3 weeks. In addition, USCIS shall send Form I-797C, Notice of Action, acknowledging the receipt of the application. If additional documents are required, applicants shall receive a Request for Evidence, which can delay the immigration process. To avoid delays, applicants are encouraged to submit all required documents with the initial application.

Form I-130 processing time can vary depending on the USCIS caseload at the time. However, one determining factor is the U.S. citizenship status of the applicant. If the applicant is a U.S. citizen, applicants can expect an approval within 12 months as there is no quota limit on green cards given to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. If the applicant is a permanent resident, applicants can expect an approval within 6 months to 6 years. There is a limited number of immigrant visas issued to relatives of permanent residents. Since the USCIS processes I-130 requests on first come first serve basis, applicants in this category will receive a Priority Date after filing Form I-130. To find the current processing time for I-130, visit the USCIS website.