Completing Form I-130: From Start to Finish, Your Instructional Guide

What is Form I-130?

Form I-130, officially known as the “Petition for Alien Relative,” is a form used by U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) to sponsor certain family members for immigration to the United States. The purpose of this form is to establish the qualifying family relationship and initiate the process of obtaining a family-based immigrant visa or green card for the sponsored relative.

Here are the key points to understand about Form I-130:

  • Family Sponsorship: Form I-130 is primarily used to establish a qualifying family relationship between the U.S. citizen or green card holder (the petitioner) and the foreign national family member (the beneficiary) who intends to immigrate to the U.S.
  • Eligible Relationships: U.S. citizens can file Form I-130 to sponsor their immediate relatives, including spouses, parents, and unmarried children under the age of 21. Lawful permanent residents can also file the form to sponsor their spouses and unmarried children.
  • Initiating the Immigration Process: Once Form I-130 is approved, it establishes the qualifying family relationship and acts as the first step in the immigration process. After approval, the beneficiary may be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa or adjust their status to a lawful permanent resident in the United States.
  • Filing and Documentation: The petitioner must complete and file Form I-130 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form requires information about the petitioner, beneficiary, and their relationship. Supporting documentation, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and evidence of the petitioner’s status, must be submitted to prove the relationship’s authenticity.
  • Processing Times: Processing times for Form I-130 can vary, depending on factors such as the petitioner’s citizenship status, the beneficiary’s relationship, and the USCIS processing center. Delays can occur due to backlogs or incomplete documentation.
  • Two-Step Process: For beneficiaries who are outside the U.S., the approved Form I-130 is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC), where additional documents and fees are submitted. The NVC then forwards the case to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the beneficiary’s home country for further processing.
  • For Adjustment of Status: Beneficiaries who are already in the U.S. and eligible to adjust their status to a green card holder can do so after Form I-130 is approved. This involves submitting an application for adjustment of status (Form I-485) to USCIS.
  • Consular Processing: For beneficiaries outside the U.S., the next steps involve attending an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. If approved, they can enter the U.S. as lawful permanent residents.

Form I-130 is an essential component of family-based immigration, allowing U.S. citizens and green card holders to reunite with their immediate family members in the United States. It’s important to follow the USCIS instructions carefully, provide accurate information, and submit all required documentation to ensure a smooth processing of the petition.

How to fill out Form I-130

Filling out Form I-130, the “Petition for Alien Relative,” correctly is crucial to initiate the family-based immigration process. The form requires accurate and detailed information about the petitioner (U.S. citizen or green card holder) and the beneficiary (the family member seeking to immigrate). Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to fill out Form I-130:

  • Download the Form: Download the most recent version of Form I-130 from the official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
  • Read the Instructions: Carefully read the accompanying instructions for Form I-130 (Form I-130 Instructions) provided by USCIS. Familiarize yourself with the requirements, eligibility criteria, and guidance on how to complete the form accurately.
  • Choose the Correct Category: Determine the appropriate category for filing Form I-130 based on your relationship with the beneficiary. Categories include spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 for U.S. citizens, and spouses and unmarried children under 21 for green card holders.
  • Complete the Form: Use black ink to complete the form. Ensure legibility and accuracy. If you make a mistake, do not use correction fluid or tape; start over with a new form.
  • Part 1 – Information About You (Petitioner): Provide your personal information, including your full name, address, date of birth, Social Security Number (if applicable), and contact information.
  • Part 2 – Information About Your Alien Relative (Beneficiary): Provide the beneficiary’s personal information, including full name, gender, date of birth, country of birth, and relationship to you. If the beneficiary is already in the U.S., provide their current immigration status (if any).
  • Part 3 – Additional Information About You (Petitioner): Answer questions about your immigration history, criminal history, and other relevant information. Be truthful and provide explanations where necessary.
  • Part 4 – Information About the Beneficiary’s Prior Marriages: If the beneficiary has been married before, provide details about their previous marriages, including the names of the spouses and the dates of marriage and divorce.
  • Part 5 – Signature of Petitioner: Sign and date the form in this section. By signing, you certify that the information provided is true and accurate to the best of your knowledge.
  • Part 6 – Signature of Interpreter, Preparer, or Translator (if applicable): If someone helped you complete the form, they should sign and date this section.
  • Checklist: Review the checklist provided in the instructions to ensure that you have included all required supporting documentation and fees.
  • Filing Fee: Pay the required filing fee, if applicable. Check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date fee information.
  • Assemble Documents: Gather the required supporting documentation, including proof of your U.S. citizenship or green card status, proof of the beneficiary’s relationship to you, and any other required documents.
  • Mail the Form: Mail the completed Form I-130, along with the required documentation and filing fee (if applicable), to the address provided in the instructions.

Remember that Form I-130 requirements can vary based on your specific situation and the relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary. It’s important to carefully read and follow the instructions provided by USCIS, and consider seeking guidance from an immigration attorney if you have any questions or concerns.

Form I-130 checklist of required documents

Preparing a thorough set of required documents for Form I-130 is essential to ensure a smooth processing of the petition. The specific documents you need may vary based on your relationship with the beneficiary and your individual circumstances. Here’s a general checklist of the common documents required for Form I-130:

  • Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Permanent Residency (Petitioner):
    • S. citizens: Copy of U.S. passport, U.S. birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, or Certificate of Citizenship.
    • Lawful permanent residents (green card holders): Copy of green card (front and back).
  • Proof of Relationship:
    • Marriage-based: Copy of marriage certificate.
    • Parent-child relationship: Birth certificate showing parent’s name.
    • Sibling relationship: Birth certificate showing parent’s name.
  • Beneficiary’s Identity and Nationality:
    • Copy of beneficiary’s passport or birth certificate.
    • If beneficiary is already in the U.S., copy of their I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.
  • Proof of Eligible Relationship:
    • Marriage certificate for spouse.
    • Birth certificates for children.
    • Marriage certificates, birth certificates, and other documents to establish parent-child relationships.
  • Translation (If Applicable):
    • If documents are not in English, include certified translations.
  • Passport Photos:
    • Provide passport-style photos of both the petitioner and beneficiary as per USCIS specifications.
  • Proof of Legal Name Change (If Applicable):
    • If you or the beneficiary have changed your legal name, provide documentation of the name change (e.g., marriage certificate, court order).
  • Divorce or Death Certificates (If Applicable):
    • If either you or the beneficiary were previously married, provide divorce decrees or death certificates as applicable.
  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864):
    • This form is required to show your financial ability to support the beneficiary.
  • Supporting Financial Documentation (Form I-864):
    • Tax returns, W-2s, and other evidence of financial stability.
    • Employment verification letters or pay stubs.
    • Proof of assets (bank statements, property ownership, etc.).
  • G-325A Biographic Information Forms (if applicable):
    • Completed G-325A forms for both the petitioner and beneficiary.
  • Proof of Legal Immigration Status (if applicable):
    • If the beneficiary is already in the U.S., provide documentation of their current legal immigration status (e.g., copy of visa, I-94, etc.).
  • Filing Fee:
    • Pay the required filing fee for Form I-130. Check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date fee information.
  • Check or Money Order:
    • If paying by check or money order, make it payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
  • Form G-28 (Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative) (if applicable):
    • If represented by an attorney, include a completed Form G-28.
  • Additional Documentation (if applicable):
    • Depending on your relationship and circumstances, USCIS might request additional documents to establish the authenticity of your relationship.

Remember that USCIS requirements can change, so always refer to the most current version of the Form I-130 instructions and USCIS website for the latest information. It’s also a good idea to make copies of all the documents you submit for your records. If you have any questions or concerns about the documentation required, consider seeking guidance from an immigration attorney.

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