How to File Your I-130 for a Family-Based Green Card

The I-130 form, officially known as the Petition for Alien Relative, is a form to be submitted by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who wishes to help their “eligible relatives” migrate to the United States. The United States allows those who have citizenship or lawful permanent residence status to sponsor certain foreign relatives to live permanently in the country and get a Permanent Resident Card. This procedure is known as family-based green card processing.

The purpose of filing an I-130 is to establish that there is a valid relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary. In this case, the petitioner is the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and the beneficiary is the foreign relative. If you can prove your family relationship to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the I-130 would likely be approved.

However, the filing or approval of the I-130 does not mean that the relative has been granted the privilege to live in the United States. Approval only implies that truly a valid family relationship exists between the two parties, a confirmation that will take the beneficiary one step closer to becoming a green card holder.

File Your I-130

Who Is Eligible to File an I-130?

Only a U.S. citizen or permanent resident can file an I-130 to sponsor their “eligible relatives.” That begs the question: who is an eligible relative within the context of family-based green card sponsorship?

There are two categories of eligible relatives for a family-based green card. The first category is for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and the second is for other relatives of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Immediate Relative of a U.S. Citizen

This covers spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21 years) of U.S. citizens, as well as the parents of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years of age. 

Other Relative of a U.S. Citizen or of a Lawful Permanent Resident

This category covers:

Other Relatives of U.S. citizens

  • Unmarried son or daughter of U.S. citizens aged 21 and older (F1)
  • Married sons or daughters of U.S. citizens (F3)
  • Brothers or sisters of U.S. citizens (F4)

Relatives of Lawful Permanent Residents (F2)

  • Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old of permanent residents (F2A)
  • Unmarried children 21 years old and above of a lawful permanent resident (F2B)

Note that the above categories are listed differently because the preference given to each varies, and this usually is reflected in how long it takes to process each family-based green card.

How to File Your I-130

The I-130 has nine different parts with several questions that mainly cover information about the petitioner and the beneficiary. The following is a breakdown of each category:

  • Part 1: The questions in this part require the petitioner to give information about the type of family relationship they have with the beneficiary.
  • Part 2: This section requires information about the petitioner. This includes personal details as well as proof of immigration status or a Social Security Number.
  • Part 3: This section requires the petitioner’s biographic information. Questions here include petitioner’s race, height, weight, as well as eye and hair color
  • Part 4: This part requires the petitioner to answer many questions that give detailed information about the beneficiary.
  • Part 5: This part covers other information about both the petitioner and the beneficiary. It also describes the penalties for giving false information or submitting falsified documents.
  • Part 6: Here, the petitioner is required to confirm that they fully understand the purpose of the application and append their signature.
  • Part 7: This part is to be filled and signed by an interpreter if an interpreter is used to complete the form.
  • Part 8: If someone else completed the I-130 on behalf of the petitioner, that person will need to give their information and signature here.
  • Part 9: This part is for additional information in case there wasn’t enough space for any necessary information in the above sections.

I-130 Documents Checklist

As a petitioner, you must submit some supporting documents with the I-130 to show your eligibility to file the form and establish a valid family relationship with the beneficiary. Keep in mind that, the required documents may vary for each petitioner. However, in most cases, the generally required supporting documents for I-130 are as follows:

  • Proof that the petitioner is a United States citizen or a green card holder
  • Proof that a qualified family relationship exists between the petitioner and beneficiary 
  • Proof that the claimed relationship is genuine and not fraudulent
  • Proof of the sponsored person’s nationality
  • If applicable, proof of changes of name for the petitioner or beneficiary

I-130 Processing Time

The I-130 processing time may vary depending on whether the beneficiary lives in the U.S. or is based abroad as well as, to an extent, the workload of the USCIS office that receives the form. However, barring any issues, the form is typically processed between 7-15 months. 

In some cases, the USCIS may issue a request for evidence (RFE) in case they need more information or documents to make a decision on the form. If this happens, the petitioner will be duly notified. Keep in mind that being issued an RFE may further elongate the processing time. To ensure that you get the form processed in due time without delay, it is best to consult an immigration attorney to guide you on how to file your I-130 correctly. Once the I-130 has been approved, the beneficiary can then proceed to apply to become a permanent resident.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card After I-130 Approval

The family-based green card processing time between the I-130 approval and the issuance of a green card varies depending on the family relationship. As mentioned above, some family members are given higher priority than others.

Immediate Relative of U.S. Citizen: 1-2 Months After I-130 Approval

For those who qualified as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, an immigrant visa (green card) is always available as soon as the I-130 has been approved. Also, if the beneficiary lives in the U.S., both the I-130 and green card petition can be filed concurrently (at the same time). The green card application is known as I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

The average processing time for a well-filled I-130 concurrently with an I-485 is between 7-11 months. Once the two applications are approved, the beneficiary will then need to make and attend other immigration appointments, including a biometrics appointment and an interview, which will take around 1-2 months in total. So, the overall family-based green processing time for an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen living in the U.S. is between 8-13 months.

If the beneficiary lives abroad, the overall processing time will likely be longer, between 11-17 months on average. This is because the  I-130 and green card application cannot be filed concurrently for that category. The beneficiary must wait until the I-130 has been approved before applying for an immigrant visa in their country of residence.

Immediate Relative of a U.S. Green Card Holder (Spouse and Minor Children): 18-23 months after I-130 Approval

If the beneficiary is in the U.S., the next step after I-130 approval is to file the I-485 for adjustment of status to a permanent resident. However, because there is an annual numerical limit that applies to this category, the beneficiary will have to wait until a green card is available before filing the I-485. The wait time varies widely but is usually 8-10 months.

After the wait time, the beneficiary can now apply for a green card, and this stage may take 9-11 months. This will be followed by an immigration interview and approval, which may take additional 1-2 months. So, the overall processing time for a green card in this category could be 29-38 months. Again, this may vary if the applicant is abroad.

Other Relatives: 5-14 Years

For other relatives of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, the overall green card processing time approximately ranges between 5-14 years, depending on the nationality, location, and the annual number of immigrants that apply to each category. Keep in mind that this is an estimated processing time, meaning certain circumstances can make it shorter or even longer in some cases.

How Much Does the I-130 Cost?

The I-130 processing fee is $535. However, if you are filing concurrently or separately, other filing fees must be put in mind as well. Here is the breakdown of a family-based green card processing fee:

  • I-130: $535
  • I-485: $750
  • Biometric Services Fee: $85, if applicable
  • DS-261: $445, if applicable
  • USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220, if applicable

How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help

The U.S. family-based green card is a highly sought-after immigrant visa category. It involves several stages and procedures that can take many years to complete. It’s not enough to have a qualifying family relationship and eligibility—you need to present your case in the most convincing way to the USCIS. This is why you need an experienced family-based green card immigration attorney to help you file your I-130.

Here at Immi-USA, we have a team of dedicated and highly experienced family-based green card lawyers. Our attorneys will help you file your petition with all necessary evidence to expedite the process. We will work closely with you from the beginning to the end of your family-based green card case. You can book a consultation with us today by filling out this contact form.