I-130 Petition for Family Members (Spouses, Parents, Children, Siblings)

Family-Based Immigration

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) offers two major pathways to immigration to the United States via green card — employment and family relationship. Other pathways, such as asylum status, exist as well, but employment and family ties are by far the most common bases for permanent residence.

USCIS Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is a form filed by your sponsor that is designed to prove the family relationship between the two of you so that green card processing can commence. Approval of your I-130 form by the USCIS is not enough by itself to get you a green card, but it is a good start.

Eligibility for I-130 Sponsorship

To sponsor someone for a green card, you must hold the status of:

  • United States citizen (either by birth or by naturalization); or
  • lawful permanent resident.

The range of relatives you can sponsor is greater if you are a US citizen rather than a 1-130 green card holder, and the amount of time that your relative will have to wait to obtain a green card may be considerably shorter if you are a US citizen.

Proving Your Family Relationship

You must prove to the USCIS that the family relationship you are claiming actually exists. There are two main ways of proving this — through documentary evidence and through your testimony at the USCIS green card interview that you will be expected to attend.

If you are attempting to secure I-130 green card holder status for your spouse based on your US citizenship, for example, you will need to prove your US citizenship through documentation (a naturalization certificate or a birth certificate, for example), and you will need to prove your marriage relationship (using a marriage certificate, for example).

Proving a bona fide marriage relationship using a marriage certificate might not be enough, however, since many people enter into sham marriages for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration benefits. Some of the additional evidence you might provide could include:

  • Joint bank account statements;
  • Joint insurance documents;
  • A lease with both of your names on it;
  • A deed showing joint ownership of your home;
  • Wedding photos;
  • Mutually consistent answers to personal interview questions when you are interviewed separately by USCIS officers (“What color is your wife’s toothbrush”?); and
  • Other indicators that you two actually share your lives together.

Who Can be an I-130 Beneficiary

An approved Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative filed by a US citizen or green card holder can pave the way for the immigration of spouses and unmarried children.

A US citizen (but not an I-130 green card holder) can also use an I-130 form to sponsor:

  • Parents;
  • Siblings; and
  • Married children.

So, in other words, a US citizen can sponsor his spouse, children, parents, and siblings. A US I-130 green card holder is subject to more limited options — spouses and unmarried children — and a long wait may be involved.

Some of these people may have to wait for longer than others before permanent residence actually becomes available. Most spouses of US citizens can gain permanent residence in about a year, for example, while siblings may have to wait decades after the approval of Form I-130 before they can immigrate.

Who Cannot be an I-130 Beneficiary

Sponsorship in the form of a Form I-130 petition is limited to immediate relatives of US citizens or green cardholders. The following relatives are not eligible for permanent residence even if a Form I-130 petition is approved on their behalf (in fact, it is unlikely that Form I-130 will be approved in the first place for these people):

  • Adoptive parents of US citizen or green card holder children;
  • Newly-adopted children (there is a two-year delay for filing Form I-130, although alternative procedures may be available under the Hague Adoption Convention);
  • Biological parents of adopted U.S. residents;
  • Stepparents and stepchildren, if the stepparent/stepchild relationship was created by a marriage that took place after the stepchild turned 18 years old;
  • Mothers-in-law;
  • Fathers-in-law;
  • Grandparents;
  • Grandchildren;
  • Nephews and nieces;
  • Cousins;
  • Aunts and uncles;
  • Ex-spouses;
  • Spouses who have been subject to deportation proceedings;
  • Spouses who entered into sham “green card marriages.” or who were married in a ceremony in which both spouses were not present’
  • Your current spouse, if you obtained permanent residence through a previous spouse and you are now neither (i) a US citizen or (ii) a lawful green card holder of the United States for at least five years prior to filing Form I-130.

Priority Date

Your priority date is the date on which the USCIS accepts the sponsor’s petition for the immigration of his alien relative. In certain cases, such as when a US citizen sponsors their spouse, the priority date is “current”, and the sponsored relative can immediately apply for permanent residence.

In other cases, however, there will be a delay of years or even decades before your priority date becomes current. Petitions sponsored by US citizens are typically processed faster than petitions sponsored by green cardholders.

If you are a US green card holder, it is likely to be in your interests to obtain citizenship first, and then sponsor your relative. Certain relatives, such as parents, can only be sponsored this way while sponsoring your spouse after you become a US citizen can save you years of waiting time.


The fee for filing Form I-130 is currently set at $535. Payment of the fee and submission of the form plus supporting documents to the USCIS are what get processing started. The USCIS Service Center you mail your petition to depends on where you live and whether you are filing Form I-485 concurrently.

$535 is the fee for Form I-130 alone, not the total fee for adjusting status to green card holder, which adds up to considerably more.

Herman Legal Group: What Sets Us Apart

Herman Legal Group is no ordinary immigration law firm. We practice all immigration law, only immigration law, every minute of every day, and we know the law inside and out. This is hardly surprising since we enjoy over 25 years of experience practicing immigration law. It is likely we can find someone to converse with you in your native language since our lawyers and staff speak over a dozen languages.

More than anything else, however, we offer an intangible quality that few immigration law firms can match — we care passionately about our clients, their futures, and their outcomes. That quality alone sets us apart from the crowd — and that is why we win, time and time again.

Frequently Asked Questions About I-130 Petition (FAQs)

What is your approach to handling I-130 petitions?

We can sum up our general approach to handling I-130 petitions in a single world–individualized. Any decent immigration lawyer eventually learns that no two cases are exactly alike — meaning that there are no cookie-cutter solutions. You are an individual, your concerns are unique, and our representation reflects that reality at every stage of the process.

How do I pay the filing fee?

You can use a check (preferably a certified check) or a money order. The USCIS will not accept cash payments, and you must include the filing fee with your complete I-130 package.

How long does it take to process Form I-130?

Processing times run from 6 to 15 months. Petitions filed by US citizens tend to be processed faster, as do petitions filed on behalf of people who live in the US and petitions filed by US citizens on behalf of their foreign spouses. Remember that if your priority date is not current, you may have to wait years to immigrate even after Form I-130 is approved.

What is Form I-864 and how does it relate to Form I-130?

As the sponsor of a would-be immigrant, you are expected to guarantee your beneficiary’s financial support while he is in the US by completing Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.

If your income is insufficient to do so, you could seek a joint sponsor. If you cannot guarantee support, your petition will be rejected even if it otherwise meets all requirements.

Does my beneficiary have to attend a USCIS interview? Do I have to attend with him?

No interview is required for approval of Form I-130. Once your beneficiary files Form I-485 for adjustment of status, however, in all likelihood an interview will be required. Your presence will probably be required if your relative lives in the United States. If your relative lives abroad and is interviewed at a US embassy or consulate, however, your presence may not be required.

The Clock is Ticking

The sooner you prepare and submit a viable Form I-130, the sooner you can proceed with the latter stages of your application. Without an approved I-130, by contrast, you can proceed no further with your family-based immigration petition.

Fortunately, however, it doesn’t matter which US state you live in, because US immigration law is the same no matter where you live. Even if you live abroad, the law will be the same, although your application process will be different. The Herman Legal Group represents people who need help in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and abroad.

Contact us anytime 24/7 by calling (+1) (216) 696-6170, by completing our online intake form, or by stopping in at one of our offices.

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