The Form I-130 Petition by Alien Relative, issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is the first form a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident files to start the immigration process for a family member. It's usually called the "I-130." Both U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can use Form 1-130 to petition for a spouse and unmarried children, and U.S. citizens can additionally use it to petition for parents, siblings, and married children. The goal is to get the immigrating person U.S. lawful permanent resident status (a green card).
If your I-130 petition has been denied, however, you need to figure out the likely reasons as well as whether you can overcome them. We'll discuss these concerns below.
Most Likely Reasons for USCIS to Issue I-130 Denial
There are many reasons why USCIS might refuse to approve an I-130 petition. For any of those listed below, note that normally you will be notified of the problem first, before receiving a denial notice, with something USCIS calls a "request for evidence" or RFE, on Form I-797. You should therefore will have a chance to supply follow-up documentation and avoid the denial.
- You didn't provide enough information for USCIS to make an informed decision. If, for example, USCIS sent you a request for follow-up documents or information (an RFE) and you didn't provide what it was looking for, you probably already have a good idea of the reason for the eventual denial.
- Not enough proof of family relationship. One of the key requirements of Form I-130 is proving that the petitioning U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is actually the spouse, parent, or other family member of the intending immigrant. If the birth or marriage certificates that you submitted were badly photocopied and difficult to read, had not been translated, or did not appear to come from an official source, your petition might be denied. Proving stepparent relationships can also be confusing, as some petitioners don't realize that they need to provide both the child's birth certificate and the parents' marriage certificate proving that the marriage took place before the child turned 18.
- Not enough proof of U.S. citizen's or permanent resident's status. There is no way that USCIS will approve an I-130 until it is convinced that the person filing it has the power to petition for an immigrant. If, for example, a permanent resident tried to file an I-130 petition for someone by presenting a copy of an expired green card, that application would be denied.
- Failure to pay the appropriate USCIS processing fee. USCIS fees are changed regularly, usually in an upward direction. If you didn't pay the correct fee at the time you filed the petition, or if USCIS lost your fee payment (it happens), the petition would be denied.
- A USCIS mistake. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, USCIS does not realize that you have provided everything needed in order for your I-130 petition to be approved. This is intensely frustrating, but at least you're likely to have better luck next time.
Options If Your I-130 Petition Is Denied
Although it's possible to appeal the denial of an I-130, it's usually just as easy to start over by preparing and submitting a new petition to USCIS. This also offers the advantage that you're not trying to convince USCIS that it made a mistake, which USCIS doesn't like to admit. Nothing prevents you from filing a new I-130 petition whenever you'd like.
A good immigration lawyer can help you figure out what went wrong with your first I-130 petition, and help you do it right on the next round. The attorney will also provide follow-up, monitoring the progress of your petition until USCIS approves it.