Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is a well-known application form used by U.S. immigration officials to process family-based immigrant visa petitions. It can be used by U.S. citizens and permanent residents wishing to sponsor relatives so that they can become U.S. permanent residents. The form I-130 starts off the process (though there will be many more steps ahead).
As with all aspects of U.S. immigration, there are a few easily missed details about the I-130 petition that can make or break your application. This is an overview of some of the more important issues you should note.
You can download the form from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and should use it as a reference while you read this overview.
Not exactly. In fact, Form I-130 is really only one the beginning of the process of securing permanent residence for a relative, though many of the forms are technically supposed to be completed by the immigrant, not the U.S. petitioner.
Applying for permanent residence requires two main steps:
Even if USCIS approves the I-130 petition, that on its own does not confer permanent residence, nor any right to live or work in the United States while awaiting it. The approval does confirm that U.S. immigration officials recognize that you and your relative have one of the qualifying familial relationships necessary for family-based permanent resident sponsorship to go forward.
In some cases, you might need to file separate I-130s for each qualifying relative you intend to sponsor. In others, where "derivative" family members are allowed, one I-130 is sufficient.
The types of family relationships and situations that satisfy the requirements for permanent resident sponsorship vary greatly, and thus there's no one list of documents that works for everyone. Below are a few key tips to keep in mind when putting together your I-130 supporting materials.
One of the most critical things you must show when filing an I-130 for your relative is that you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident yourself. This can be more complicated than it sounds!
If you are a permanent resident sponsoring a relative, you can submit a photocopy of the front and back of your Form I-551 Permanent Resident Card to start, but any other documents you have showing your permanent residence are also helpful. Submit copies of your current passport, along with your Form I-797 approval notice of your permanent residence or your immigrant visa stamp.
If you are a U.S. citizen, the usual documents to show are a copy of your valid U.S. passport, a copy of your government-issued birth certificate showing you were born in the U.S., or a copy of your naturalization certificate. However, many U.S. citizens do not have a valid passport or even a birth certificate.
If you aren't able to obtain one of these documents, U.S. immigration officials can accept what is called "secondary evidence." For example, to show birth in the U.S., you could contact the Department of Health in the U.S. state or territory where you were born and request a "Letter of No Record" (to show no birth certificate was created) along with early birth documents, such as a baptismal certificate, a hospital birth certificate, census records, early school records, family bible records, or sworn affidavits from persons having knowledge of your U.S. birth.
Proving that you have a qualifying relationship with the relative you are sponsoring is also extremely important. Overall, you will want to show clear, credible, and understandable evidence of your familial relationship. Be sure to:
Part of a sponsor's responsibilities include a promise to the U.S. government, and to the immigrating relative, that the sponsor will financially support the relative if necessary. Immigration law forbids entry to immigrating relatives who appear likely to become public charges; that is, dependent on need-based government assistance.
If you are sponsoring a relative for permanent residence, you will have to file Form I-864 with or after the I-130 to fulfill this financial promise.
Form I-864 is not just a formality. It is a legally binding contract between you, your relative, and the United States. If for some reason your relative does acquire permanent residence but is not able to support himself or herself financially in the U.S., you can be held liable for providing financial support.
The I-130 is really just the beginning. Your immigrating relative will need to fill out multiple forms and submit documents. Exactly which ones depends on whether the person is coming from abroad via "consular processing" or is in the U.S. and able to adjust status. See Getting a Green Card: Consular Processing vs. Adjustment of Status for details.