Form I-130, also known as the Petition for Alien Relative, is a form used by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to establish their relationship with foreign relatives who wish to immigrate to the United States. This form is a crucial part of the family-based immigration process, and its approval is necessary for the foreign relative to apply for a green card.
Form I-130 itself does not grant any immigration benefits, such as naturalization or adjustment of status. However, it is the first step in the process of helping a relative obtain permanent residence through the naturalization processes in the U.S.
What Documents Do I Need for I-130?
To file Form I-130, you will need to provide several supporting documents, including but not limited to:
- Proof of the petitioner’s U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status (e.g., birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or green card)
- Evidence of the qualifying relationship between the petitioner and the foreign relative (e.g., marriage or birth certificates)
- Passport-style photographs of both the petitioner and the beneficiary
- If the petition is based on marriage, evidence of the bona fide nature of the marriage (e.g., joint financial statements, photographs, etc.)
Are There Any Filing Fees for Form I-130?
The Form I-130 filing fee is $535 (as of May 2023; fees may change over time).
Visa quotas, which are numerical limits placed on certain family-based and employment-based immigrant visa categories, do apply in some cases. If a visa quota is in place, the foreign relative may experience a wait time before being able to apply for a green card, even if their Form I-130 is approved.
- The preference system: The family-based and employment-based visa categories are divided into preference levels. For family-based visas, there are four preference categories (F1, F2A, F2B, F3, and F4), while employment-based visas have five preference categories (EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4, and EB-5).
- Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which include spouses, unmarried children under 21 years old, and parents, are not subject to the preference system and visa quotas.
- Per-country limits: In addition to the overall numerical limits for each preference category, there are also per-country limits. These limits restrict the number of visas that can be issued to individuals from any single country each year.
- Applicants from countries with high levels of immigration to the U.S. may experience longer wait times due to these per-country limits.
- Priority dates: When a petitioner files Form I-130 on behalf of a foreign relative who falls under a preference category subject to visa quotas, the foreign relative will be assigned a priority date.
- This priority date is generally the date when the Form I-130 was received by USCIS. The priority date serves as the applicant’s place in line for an immigrant visa or green card.
- The visa bulletin: The U.S. Department of State publishes a monthly visa bulletin that provides information about the availability of immigrant visas for each preference category and country.
- The visa bulletin shows the “cut-off” priority dates for each category and country, indicating which applicants are currently eligible to apply for a green card based on their priority date.
If a foreign relative’s priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed in the visa bulletin, they are considered to be “current” and can proceed with the next steps in the green card application process. This process includes filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) or applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.
However, if a foreign relative’s priority date is not current, they must wait until their priority date becomes current before they can move forward in the green card process. This waiting period can vary significantly depending on the preference category and the applicant’s country of chargeability. In some cases, it may take several years for a priority date to become current.
What If A Form I-130 Is Rejected?
If a Form I-130 is rejected, it can be a frustrating and disheartening experience for both the petitioner and the foreign relative. However, there are options available to address the rejection and potentially still achieve a successful outcome.
This expanded explanation will cover the following topics:
- Understanding the reasons for rejection;
- Refiling the petition;
- Filing an appeal;
- Filing a motion to reopen or reconsider;
- Seeking legal assistance.
When a Form I-130 is rejected, USCIS will provide a written notice that explains the reasons for the rejection. It is crucial to carefully review this notice and understand the specific issues that led to the denial. Common reasons for rejection include insufficient evidence, failure to establish the qualifying relationship, or errors and inconsistencies in the submitted documentation. By identifying the reasons for rejection, the petitioner can then determine the best course of action to address the issues and potentially overturn the decision.
One option for addressing a rejected Form I-130 is to refile the petition with additional or corrected documentation. This process involves submitting a new Form I-130 along with the required supporting evidence, updated information, or any corrections needed to address the reasons for the initial rejection. Refiling the petition also requires paying the filing fee again.
When refiling, carefully review the entire application to ensure that all the required information is accurate and complete. The petitioner should also include a cover letter that explains the changes made to the petition in response to the initial rejection. This cover letter can help demonstrate to USCIS that the petitioner has taken the necessary steps to address the issues raised in the initial decision.
Another option for addressing a rejected Form I-130 is to file an appeal with the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), depending on the specific circumstances. An appeal is a formal request for a higher authority to review the initial decision and determine whether it was correct based on the evidence and the law.
To file an appeal, the petitioner must complete and submit Form EOIR-29, Notice of Appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, or Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, depending on the case. The appeal must be filed within the specified time frame, usually 30 days from the date of the rejection notice. The petitioner should also provide a detailed explanation of why they believe the initial decision was incorrect, along with any additional evidence or legal arguments to support their claim.
Filing a Motion to Reconsider
In some cases, the petitioner may choose to file a motion to reopen or reconsider the initial decision instead of an appeal. A motion to reopen is a request for USCIS to reexamine the case based on new facts or evidence that was not available at the time of the initial decision. A motion to reconsider is a request for USCIS to reevaluate the case based on an alleged error in the application of the law or the facts.
To file a motion to reopen or reconsider, the petitioner must complete and submit Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, along with the required filing fee. The motion must be filed within the specified time frame, usually 30 days from the date of the rejection notice. The petitioner should provide a detailed explanation of the reasons for the motion and submit any relevant evidence or legal arguments to support their claim.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Form I-130?
While it is not mandatory to hire a lawyer for help with a Form I-130, consulting an experienced immigration attorney can be beneficial. An attorney can help ensure that the petition is prepared accurately and completely, minimizing the risk of rejection or delays. Additionally, a lawyer can provide guidance on navigating the complex U.S. immigration system and help you understand your rights and options.
How Can LegalMatch Help?
LegalMatch is a platform that connects individuals seeking legal assistance with experienced attorneys in their area. If you need help with a Form I-130, LegalMatch can help you find a qualified immigration attorney who has experience handling immigration cases similar to yours.
To get started, you can visit the LegalMatch website and provide some basic information about your case. This information will be used to match you with attorneys in your area who have experience with Form I-130 and other immigration matters. You can then review the profiles of the matched attorneys and select the one that you feel is the best fit for your needs.
Working with a LegalMatch attorney can provide you with peace of mind, knowing that you have an experienced professional on your side who can guide you through the immigration process and help you achieve your immigration goals.