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 you file your I-130, 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, let’s 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.
You file the form 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 Status Online
Before checking your I-130 status, you’ll need to know if immigration accepted your petition. If you just filed your I-130 with USCIS, you will receive a notification that it’s been accepted. The notice will arrive by mail in about 2 weeks. Officially, USCIS refers to it as a 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 in process. It could also say that USCIS has mailed a letter to you requesting additional information.
Understanding your I-130 case status from the online system
Let’s take each of these possibilities and see what they mean for an I-130 status check:
- If the status check shows that your I-130 has been received, you should wait. This means USCIS is actively reviewing your case. There is nothing you can do to expedite your case unless some truly extraordinary circumstances are 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 immigration will route it 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, you’ll need to look for your appointment notice to find out where and when the I-130 interview will take place. It is very important to prepare 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.
What is the normal processing time for an I-130?
The normal processing time for an I-130 is typically 8 months. However, the timeline may be a different based number of factors. For example, USCIS will process your I-130 petition faster when you base the petition on a parent/child relationship. In other words, the I-130 is not a marriage-based petition. A parent/child petition normally does require an interview since a birth certificate alone can prove the relationship.
This is different from a marriage-based I-130 petition, which requires more evidence. USCIS requires that you show the marriage is a real good-faith relationship. Thus, this type of petition has a longer processing time.
But, to give you a rough idea of the time frame, USCIS’s timeline to approve an I-130 is about 8 months.
Why does the online system still say USCIS is actively reviewing my case?
Sometimes USCIS takes longer than 8 months to approve the I-130. 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 that USCIS does have all the evidence they need. For example, when a son or daughter files an I-130 petition for a parent, USCIS requires 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. This can slow 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 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 for this file could delay the case.
What can I do if my I-130 petition is pending for too long?
Sometimes immigration will inform you that USCIS is actively reviewing your case. If USCIS is actively reviewing your I-130, then typically you have to be patient. It is common, however, for review of any I-130 to take no longer than 12 months.
If your case has been pending for more than 12 months, 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 you filed it. The location can be found at the bottom of the Notice of Action I-797, Receipt Notice. USCIS may be very busy and processing times longer than normal. If you are still within normal processing times, then it’s 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.
Will I have an I-130 interview?
At some point, your I-130 status may reflect that USCIS scheduled you 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, you file a petition based on a 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, USCIS will likely deny your I-130 petition. So it is important to make sure that you received the letter and are aware of any deadlines.
Sometimes, but not often, USCIS may schedule you for a second interview. This normally happens in marriage cases where the USCIS officer suspects that the marriage may not be real. If they do schedule a second interview, it may be a good time to find an immigration attorney.
USCIS approved my I-130. What happens next?
At some point, your I-130 status will hopefully show USCIS approved your case. If so, congratulations! If USCIS approves your I-130, 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 (NVC). 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 the NVC will process it 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 immigration processes your case is the country 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. USCIS calls that process Adjustment of Status.
Be careful though. The law does not allow everyone with an approved I-130 petition 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, the law may bar you from applying.