- What supporting documents do you need?
- How to submit the Petition
- How long is the processing time?
- How much does the Petition for Alien Relative cost?
- Petition for Alien Relative refused
- Next steps after approval
- Preference Relative Visas explained
- Immediate Relative Visas explained
- How can IAS help?
- Frequently asked questions
What is the Petition for Alien Relative?
The Petition for Alien Relative needs to be filed by US citizens or permanent residents before their foreign citizens can begin the process of applying for a Family-Based Visa.
The goal of Form I-130 is to help family members come to settle in the US.
Filing and submitting the Petition does not immediately get the foreign family member a US Green Card but it allows them to start and later complete their visa application.
Once the US relative submits the petition on your behalf, your place in line for a visa number will be reserved. When you reach the head of the line, you might be able to immigrate to the US.
The process of waiting for the visa to become available can take a long while if you are applying as a family preference category.
That is why it is recommended to submit the Petition as soon as possible.
Mistakes on the Petition can lead to delays or even rejection. To avoid delays, seek assistance from one of our immigration lawyers.
What supporting documents need to be submitted with the Petition?
When the US relative submits the Petition for Alien Relative, they need to include various documents to support the application. The required documents serve as evidence confirming the authenticity of the relationship between the petitioner and the foreign citizen.
Typically, the required documents are:
- Proof that the person submitting the Petition has US citizenship or permanent resident status in the US
- Proof that there is a legally valid relationship between the US national and the foreign citizen wanting to come to the US
- Beneficiary’s information including address and employment history for the past five years
- Proof of paid filing fee
- Two passport size photographs.
Some people also decide to include a cover letter. Doing so is not compulsory but it allows the petitioner to describe the submitted documents and clarify any evidence that needs more detailed explanation.
How to submit the Petition for Alien Relative
Once the US citizen files the Petition, they need to send it to the office of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The exact office they need to submit it to depends on where the petitioner is living. The Petition can be filed either online or in paper form by mail.
If the US citizen decides to fill it online, first they need to create an online account.
Once they submit it, they will receive a receipt notice. It is important that they retain it and give a copy of it to their relative wanting to come to the US so that they can include it in their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residency.
This form will need to be submitted at a later stage of the application.
If the US citizen prefers to file the Petition by mail, they can do it at one of the locations listed on USCIS’ website.
In the Petition, it is essential to include information about the petitioner, the beneficiary, and the type of the relationship between them.
How long is the processing time?
The processing time of Form I-130 depends on the type of your relationship with the US citizen and the workload of the USCIS office that you submit the petition to. It also depends on whether your family member is a permanent resident or a US citizen.
Typically, the processing of the Petition takes between 7 and 12 months for immediate relatives. For applicants who qualify as family preference categories, however, it can take much longer, even several years.
That said, the sooner the US-based relative starts filing and submits the Form, the better.
How much does the Petition for Alien Relative cost?
If you want to submit the Petition, you have to be ready to pay the government filing fee of $535. You can make a payment via check or credit card. This fee is subject to change because USCIS raises fees regularly.
That is why you should check the USCIS online page on Form I-130 before you submit it. If you do not pay the filing fee, you will not be able to proceed with the application.
You can also contact our immigration lawyers and they will help you find the latest information and explain exactly what fees you will have to pay.
Why can a Petition for Alien Relative be refused?
Sometimes USCIS may deny Form I-130. The most common reasons for it include:
- The petitioner not providing sufficient information. If that is the case, USCIS will send a Request for Evidence that you need to respond to. If you fail to do it and provide more detailed information, your visa petition will be denied.
- Supporting evidence being of poor quality. If the photocopies of required supporting documents are not clear and difficult to read, USCIS can deny your petition.
- Not having an eligible family relationship. For your petition to be approved, your relationship with a US relative needs to fall into immediate family or family preference categories.
- The petitioner not having adequate status. Only US citizens and lawful permanent residents can file a Petition for Alien Relative. If your relative is living in the US but does not satisfy this requirement, the Form will be denied.
- Failing to prove the family relationship. If the petitioner does not include evidence of the family relationship such as birth or marriage certificates the Petition might be denied.
What to do after Petition for Alien Relative has been approved?
Once the Petition has been approved, the applicant can start the application for a Family-Based Visa. Depending on their relationship with the relative permanently living in the US applicants can apply for two categories of Family-Based Green Cards:
Family Preference – only a limited number of people can receive them each year. After the Petition for Alien Relative is approved, the applicant needs to wait for a visa to become available.
Immediate Relative – intended for the closest relatives to the person who submits the Petition. That covers spouses, unmarried biological or adopted children, and parents of the petitioner.
Visas belonging to this category are not capped, which means that as soon as the Petition is approved, the applicants can continue their application for a US Green Card.
What are Preference Relative Visas?
The Family Preference category includes the following visas:
- First Preference, F1 Visa – intended for unmarried sons and daughters who are 21 years of age or older of US citizens. Each year there are 24,000 of them available.
- Second Preference, F2A Visa – intended for spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 years old. Every year 79,940 of them can be granted
- Second Preference, F2B Visa – intended for unmarried children who are 21 or older. F2B Visas are capped at 34,260.
- Third Preference, F3 Visa – intended for married children of US citizens. The annual cap for F3 Visas is 23,400.
- Fourth Preference, F4 Visa – intended for siblings of US citizens. Each year 65,000 of them can be given to applicants.
Once the annual cap for each visa type is reached, other applicants have to wait until next year as no more applications will be processed. That is why the waiting time for visas belonging to this category can be extremely long. Often applicants have to wait several years.
What are Immediate Relative Visas?
Unlike Preference Relative Visas, Immediate Relative Visas are not capped. Consequently, the waiting time for them is much shorter and applicants can proceed with their application for a US Green Card immediately after the Petition for Alien Relative is approved.
Immediate Relative category includes the following visas:
- IR1 Visa – designed for spouses of US citizens
- IR2 Visa – designed for unmarried children under the age of 21 of US citizens
- IR3 Visa – designed for children who have been adopted abroad by US citizens.
- IR4 Visa – designed for children who have been adopted in the US-by-US citizens
- IR5 Visa – designed for parents of US citizens.
These visas are always available, no matter how many people apply for them each year.
How can IAS help?
Most popular reasons for the denial of Petition for Alien Relative can be avoided with the help of an immigration lawyers. If you get in touch with our expert lawyers, they will check whether your Petition has been filed correctly and make sure that all the required information and supporting documents have been included. If you make mistakes in your Petition, the whole process will take significantly longer.
At IAS we understand the importance of not wanting to be separated from your loved ones for too long. That is why we want to help you make the process of bringing them to the US as straightforward and quick as possible.
Our immigration lawyers will support you during every step of the application procedure, from the beginning until the end. They will answer all your questions and help you solve any problems that might arise.
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Sometimes you might become a US citizen while your foreign relative is still waiting for their visa. If that is the case, it is possible to upgrade your relative’s visa classification. To do it, you will have to send a letter to USCIS or the Department of State notifying them of the change to your status. You will need to include a copy of your naturalisation certificate, as well as Form I-130 receipt notice.
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of US citizens have immigrant visas immediately available to them. That means that once you get your US citizenship, your loved ones will be able to join you right away, without having to wait in line for a visa to become available.
Unfortunately, just getting Petition approval does not give you the right to come and stay in the US. It is the first step in helping relatives apply for a Family Based Green Card. To receive an immigration status in the US, however, once the Petition is approved the eligible relative needs to wait until a visa becomes available.
As of early 2021, it takes 7 to 32 months to get Petition for Alien Relative approved by USCIS. Those who are applying for visas from the Immediate Relative category should not wait longer than 12 months because these visas are always available. On the other hand, visas from the Family Preference category are subject to annual caps so applicants have to wait much longer.
The Petition for Alien Relative has to be filled by a US citizen or lawful permanent resident on behalf of their eligible relative who wants to come to the US and stay there permanently. Once the petition is approved, foreign relatives can start applying for Family Based Green Cards. It is impossible to skip this step of the application process.