If you’re a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident (green card holder) who wants to help your foreign relatives immigrate to the United States, filing an I-130 petition is the crucial first step in the family-based immigration process. The I-130, officially known as the “Petition for Alien Relative,” establishes the underlying relationship between you and your qualified relative. While this process can seem daunting, it’s possible to navigate it successfully on your own with careful preparation and attention to detail. Remember, this article does not constitute legal advice, and it’s essential to consult with an immigration attorney or check the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website for the most up-to-date information before proceeding.
Understanding the I-130 Petition
The I-130 petition establishes the qualifying familial relationship between a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and their foreign relative. Once approved, it doesn’t grant your relative immediate legal status or a green card, but it is the foundation upon which further immigration steps are built. Here’s a step-by-step guide to filing an I-130 marriage petition yourself:
- Determine Eligibility: Before you begin, make sure you are eligible to sponsor your relative. As a U.S. citizen, you can sponsor your spouse without numerical limitations. If you’re a permanent resident, there may be visa category limitations. Check USCIS guidelines for the most current eligibility criteria.
- Gather Required Documents:
- A completed Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).
- A copy of your U.S. birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or U.S. passport to prove your citizenship or permanent resident status.
- A copy of your marriage certificate.
- A copy of any divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment records from previous marriages for both you and your spouse.
- Proof of a bona fide marriage, such as joint bank account statements, photographs, or affidavits from friends and family.
- Passport-sized photos of you and your spouse.
- Pay the Filing Fee: As of my knowledge cutoff date in September 2021, the filing fee for Form I-130 was $535. However, USCIS fees can change, so verify the current fee on the USCIS website.
- Complete the I-130 Form: Follow the instructions on the USCIS website to complete the I-130 form accurately. Make sure to include all necessary supporting documents.
- Mail Your Petition: Send your completed I-130 form, along with the required documents and the filing fee, to the appropriate USCIS address. Be sure to use a trackable mailing method to ensure safe delivery.
- Await USCIS Processing: USCIS will review your petition and may request additional evidence or documentation. Be prepared to respond promptly to any USCIS requests.
- Receive USCIS Notice of Decision: If your I-130 petition is approved, you’ll receive an Approval Notice. This confirms the establishment of the qualifying relationship between you and your spouse.
- Further Processing: Once the I-130 is approved, your relative may proceed with the next steps in the immigration process, such as applying for an immigrant visa or adjusting their status if they are already in the U.S.
Filing an I-130 marriage petition is the crucial first step in helping your foreign relative obtain legal immigration status in the United States. While it is possible to navigate this process on your own, it’s important to stay informed about the latest USCIS guidelines and procedures, as they may change over time. If you encounter difficulties or have questions during the process, consulting with an immigration attorney is a wise decision. Remember, the I-130 petition is just the beginning of the family-based immigration journey, and there are more steps ahead before your spouse can obtain a green card and permanent residency in the U.S.