Did you file an I-130?
To get a green card through marriage or some other family relationship, you have to file an I-130. After your I-130 is filed, you will want to check your I-130 case status.
Before learning more, let’s review some basics about the I-130.
What is an I-130?
Before we begin, lets briefly discuss some basics. A Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is a petition used by U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) to ask the U.S. government to allow a family member to come and live in the U.S. with a green card.
The form is filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which is the immigration agency that handles all applications inside the U.S.
If a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident wants to bring his or her family member to the U.S., the I-130 is the first step in the process.
(If you are past the first step, and have filed a Form I-485, you will instead want to check your green card case status.)
Checking Your I-130 Case Status
If you just filed your I-130 with USCIS, the you will receive notification that your I-130 has been accepted. the notice will arrive by mail in about 2 weeks and is referred to as an Form I-797, Notice of Action or a Receipt Notice. Here is a picture of the top of the form:
In the picture above, notice a box labeled “Receipt Number.” It contains a string of three letters and 10 numbers. This number is extremely important as it is how USCIS identifies your case. You can also use it to do things like check your case status online, which we will discuss now.
The USCIS online status check doesn’t provide detailed information, but instead gives you an idea about the last action taken in your case. For example, the online status check may say that your case has been received and is being processed. It could also say that USCIS has mailed a letter to you requesting additional information.
Let’s take each of these possibilities and see what they mean in the context of an I-130:
- If the status check shows that your I-130 has been received, you are safe waiting. There is nothing you can do to expedite your case, unless there are some truly extraordinary circumstances present.
- If USCIS has sent you a letter asking for more information, you need to check your mail frequently to make sure you get it. When USCIS asks for more information, there is typically a 90 day deadline to respond.
- If USCIS has transferred your case to another office, this is generally a good sign. It means that your I-130 petition has met some basic requirements and is being routed to a local official to perform an interview if needed and to make a final decision on your case.
- If you learn that your case has been scheduled for an interview, then you’ll need look out for your appointment notice to find out where and when the I-130 interview will take place. It is very important to be prepared for it, especially when your I-130 is based on marriage.
- If you find out that your I-130 has been approved, congratulations! But this is only the first step in the process of getting a green card. What you have to do next will depend greatly on your particular situation.
When will they approve my I-130?
The speed of I-130 processing depends on a number of factors. But to give you a rough idea, USCIS will process your I-130 petition faster when the relationship between the petitioner (the person filing the form) and the beneficiary (the person seeking a green card) is not a marriage. This is because immigration officials often do not require an interview for non-marriage cases when both the spouses are present in the U.S.
It will also depend on the method you are using to get a green card. When you are trying to get a green card from outside the United States — a process known as consular processing — then I-130s are decided faster. When both persons are within the United States, then the I-130s are decided slower.
The speed of I-130 processing will also depend on the immigration status of the person filing the I-130 petition. If you’re the spouse, parent, or minor child of a U.S. citizen, you can expect that the I-130 will be decided faster. If you’re the spouse, parent, or child of a lawful permanent resident, it will take longer.
To give you a rough idea of the timeframe, an I-130 takes about 8 months to be approved.
Why is my I-130 taking longer than normal?
Sometimes the I-130 takes longer than 8 months to be approved. There are several reasons why.
For starters, USCIS may be very busy and have longer than normal processing times. You can take a look at the USCIS processing times and see if your case is outside of normal processing time.
Another issue that could delay a case is USCIS does have all the evidence they need. For example, when a son or daughter files an I-130 petition for a parent, they are required to submit a copy of the birth certificate to establish the relationship. But if they did not submit a complete, legible copy of the birth certificate then USCIS will request another birth certificate, which slows down the I-130 processing.
Other times, there is a problem with a discrepancy in names. For example, a son or daughter files an I-130 petition for a parent, but the name of the parent on the son or daughter’s birth certificate does not match the name the parent is using on the petition. This may happen if a mistake on the birth certificate or if the child changed their last name after getting married.
In the worst-case scenario, a delay could be because the I-130 is stuck on someone’s desk or because the file is lost or the beneficiary of the petition had past immigration history . For example, if you have previously been in removal proceedings USCIS will need to get that file (also known as an “A-file”) from the agency that handled your deportation. The request of this file could delay the case.
What can I do if my I-130 petition is pending for too long?
If you think your case is taking too long here are some steps you can take:
- The first step is to check normal processing times for I-130 petitions. You can do so by checking the USCIS processing page. You will have to enter the form type, I-130, and the location where it was filed. The location can be found at the bottom of the Notice of Action I-797, Receipt Notice. If you are still within normal processing times, then it is best to wait.
- If you are outside the normal processing times, then the next step is to file a request with USCIS online. In order to file this request, you will need all of the information on the Notice of Action I-797, Receipt Notice. After you have submitted the request you will get a confirmation number. USCIS will then send you an email telling you when you should expect a response from them.
- If USCIS does not respond to your request within the time stated, or if you see no change in the status of your I-130 petition, then you should call the USCIS hotline and speak to someone at 1 (800) 375-5283. It is helpful to have the confirmation from your online request.
After you have tried the above, but nothing has changed with your I-130 case status, then you may consider hiring an experienced immigration attorney. Some, but not all, immigration attorneys are able to file lawsuits against the federal government, asking for USCIS to make a decision on the I-130 petition because it has been pending for too long.
A lawsuit like this is called a “petition for writ of mandamus,” which is just a fancy way of referring to a lawsuit asking the government to take some action that it’s supposed to take.
Will I have an I-130 interview?
At some point your I-130 case status may reflect that you are scheduled for an interview.
But not all I-130 cases require an interview. Whether you have one will depend on your case. It will depend on the relationship between the person filing the I-130 and the person seeking the green card. For example, if you are related by marriage, then you will probably need to go to your local field office for an interview. On the other hand, if your relationship is parent-child or if you’re siblings, then the interview is often skipped.
USCIS will schedule your interview by mail. The appointment letter will give you the date, time, and place of the interview. Read it carefully to learn who needs to attend, and what to bring.
What happens during and after an I-130 interview?
During an I-130 interview, a USCIS officer will confirm the information in the application is correct, ask to see the originals of the documents such as birth certificates, and request any other relevant information.
If the officer has everything they need, then they will simply approve your I-130. Notice, officers will typically not provide you with a final decision at the I-130 interview, but sometimes they will inform you they’re recommending approval. Either way, you will have to wait for an official approval notice from USCIS which is sent by mail.
If the officer does not have everything they need, they will issue a Request for Evidence asking for more information or more documents. Usually when USCIS sends a letter requesting additional evidence, there will be a deadline for responding. If you miss your deadline, you can be almost certain that your I-130 petition will be denied. So it is important to make sure that you received the letter and are aware of any deadlines.
Sometimes, but not often, you may be scheduled for a second interview. This normally happens in marriage cases where the USCIS officer suspects that the marriage may not be real. If a second interview is scheduled, it may be a good time to find an immigration attorney.
My I-130 was approved. What happens next?
At some point, your I-130 case status will hopefully show that you are approved. If so, congratulations! If you find out online that your I-130 is approved, make sure that you get a copy of the I-130 approval notice. This is very important document, and you will need to keep it for your records.
But this is only the first step in the process of getting a green card. Your next step will depend on your specific situation.
People who have to get a green card by going to a U.S. consulate
If you are outside of the United States, or if you had planned on applying for your green card through a U.S. consulate in a foreign country, then you will need to get ready for something called consular processing.
This is where you apply for an immigrant visa, which is a paper that lets you arrive in the U.S., stay permanently, and get your green card. Consular processing starts with you sending documents and applications to a place called the National Visa Center. If on your I-130, you stated you were going to apply for a visa through a consulate, then your I-130 should be automatically forwarded to the National Visa Center. An email will be sent to you informing that the case has been created.
Just know that your case creation does not not always mean it can be processed right away. When you can process it will depend on your visa category. Your visa category depends on your relationship to the petitioner (husband or wife, child, parent, or brother or sister.) and immigration status of the person who filed the petition for you. For example, if the I-130 filer is a U.S. citizen filing for a parent then processing can occur right away.
Another thing that can affect how quickly the case is processed depends on where you are from. People from some countries have to wait a lot longer than those from other countries. Generally speaking, people from China, India, and Mexico have to wait longer for visas than others.
People who can remain in the United States to get a green card
Some people with approved I-130 petitions are able to apply for a green card from within the United States. That process is called Adjustment of Status.
Be careful though. Not everyone with an approved I-130 petition is allowed to apply for adjustment. You need to check with an experienced immigration attorney to find out. If you have negative immigration history or criminal history, or if you entered the United States illegally, you may be barred from applying.