Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

Getting a family-based Green Card is one of the most common ways of becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States. Family-based immigration, however, is a complex topic with many different categories, conditions, and waiting times to consider. We’ll break it down to the most important facts.

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Who is eligible for a family-based Green Card?

Every year, the American authorities issue family-based Green Cards to more than one million people. Spouses, children, or other close relatives qualify for the much sought-after Green Card, which grants them permanent residency in the United States.

The process of getting a family-based Green Card starts with a person already living in the US, who is usually referred to as a sponsor or petitioner. The sponsor can either be a US citizen, or a Green Card holder. The person who seeks to immigrate to the US is known as the beneficiary.

To get the family-based Green Card process going, the sponsor needs to file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) on behalf of the beneficiary. What steps the beneficiary needs to take depends on whether they are still abroad or already in the USA. Detailed and current information about all required documents can be found on the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Categories for family-based Green Cards

The US Immigration Law distinguishes between two main categories of family-based immigration:

Only relatives of US citizens are covered by the Immediate Relative category. Family Preference Categories, however, exist for relatives of US citizens as well as for relatives of Green Card holders.

The main difference between these categories is the amount of Green Cards issued per fiscal year. While there is no cap to the number of family-based Green Cards issued for Immediate Relatives, only a limited number of applications from the Family Preference Categories are processed each year. Therefore, for some groups in the latter category, there may be long waiting periods of several years or even decades.

Let’s take a look at those categories in detail.

Family-based Green Card for Immediate Relatives

More than two-thirds of all family-sponsored Green Cards issued each year go to applicants from the Immediate Relative category. Only close family members of US citizens fall into this category. They can be:

Officially, there are no waiting times and no limited contingents for Green Card applicants from the Immediate Relative category. In reality, however, it can take several months before the Green Card is issued.

The Immediate Relative category is further divided into five subcategories:

Spouses of US citizens

Spouses of US citizens belong in the IR-1 category. This also applies to same-sex marriages. Family-based Green Cards are issued to spouses if the marriage is legally contracted.

Attention: It is not legal to arrange a marriage solely for the purpose of immigrating to the US!

Conditional Green Card

Family-based Green Cards are issued conditionally for marriages that were concluded less than two years before the Green Card petition was filed. These conditional Green Cards are called CR-1.

Before the conditional Green Card expires, the holder has to file Form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence). The Green Card application will then be re-evaluated, and if successful, Permanent Residency will be granted.

If the US spouse of a CR-1 holder dies while the applicant’s Green Card is still conditional, the latter does not have to leave the United States. He may file Form I-751 prematurely but must still prove the authenticity of the marriage.

Fiancés of US citizens

A couple who is not yet wed but would like to marry in the US can apply for a K-1 visa. To do so, the sponsor must file a petition on Form I-129F with USCIS. The waiting time can range from 5 to 18 months.

If approved, the fiancé can enter the US and must marry their American partner within 90 days. Form I-485 can then be used to file for an adjustment of status to obtain a family-based Green Card.

Unmarried children under 21 years

The IR-2 category includes all biological children of US citizens who are under 21 years of age. However, adopted children are also eligible for a family-based Green Card if they are:

Children adopted outside the US

Children adopted by US citizens outside the United States fall into the IR-3 or IH-3 category. To obtain a family-based Green Card, the adoption must have been recognized in the child’s country of origin and the United States. Also, at least one parent must have had physical contact with the child during the adoption process.

Children to be adopted in the US

The IR-4 or IH-4 category includes children who are still abroad but are to be adopted by US citizens in the United States.

Parents of US citizens

Parents of US citizens also qualify for the Immediate Relative category and may enter the United States through family-based immigration. The sponsor must be over 21 years of age and reside in the United States.

Stepparents and adoptive parents can also apply for a family-based Green Card.

Relatives of US citizens

Family-sponsored Green Cards issued to people belonging to one of the “Family Preference Categories” are limited to 226,000 per year. As the demand for Green Cards always exceeds supply, there are usually long waiting times of several years or even decades.

For relatives of US citizens, there are three subcategories:

Unmarried children over 21 and their minor children

This category includes unmarried children of US citizens who are older than 21 years and their minor children. Depending on the country of origin of the beneficiary, the waiting period for this category can range from 7 to 20 years.

Married children and their spouses and minor children

The F-3 category includes all married children of US citizens as well as their spouses and minor children. Applicants in this category can expect significant waiting times of 12 to more than 20 years.

Siblings and their spouses and minor children

The F-4 category includes siblings of US citizens as well as their spouses and minor children. Very long waiting periods of 14 to more than 20 years can be expected in this category.

The Green Card contingents and waiting times for Family Preference Categories at a glance:

Relatives of Green Card holders

Not only relatives of US citizens, but also the spouses and children of Lawful Permanent Residents qualify for family-based immigration.

The number of family-based Green Cards issued to relatives of Lawful Permanent Residents is limited to about 114,200 per year, which also produces long waiting times. However, if the sponsor becomes a US citizen during the application process, the category of the beneficiary automatically changes as well.

If the sponsor is a Green Card holder, there are two subcategories:

Spouses and unmarried minor children

In the F-2A category are spouses and unmarried children up to 21 years of Green Card holders. This group faces waiting periods of between one and three years.

Unmarried adult children

Unmarried children over 21 years fall into the F-2B category and must expect a waiting time of about seven years. Stepchildren and adopted children of Green Card holders also belong to this category.

Visa Bulletin – the Green Card “waiting list”

Every month, the US Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin. For people who belong to one of the Family Preference Categories, the bulletin can be understood as a waiting list. It indicates which groups of Green Card applicants are “current” and therefore eligible to advance in the process.

The waiting times also vary greatly depending on the country of origin. While Europeans can expect faster processing, waiting times can be very long for petitioners from countries like China, India, Mexico, or the Philippines.

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If you want to live and work in the USA, applying for a Green Card is essential. Find possible ways to get the desired US immigrant visa, including the Green Card Lottery.

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Green Card through the Green Card Lottery

The US government draws 55,000 Green Cards annually through the Diversity Visa Program. Due to the high requirements in other Green Card categories such as employment-based, family, marriage, and investment Green Cards, the path through the Green Card Lottery is, for most people, not only the easiest but often the only way to a life in the USA.

All you have to do to get the coveted residence permit for the USA is to register for the annual lottery. The USA experts of The American Dream accompany your application and immigration process as the world’s largest Green Card agency with comprehensive services, especially for the Green Card Lottery.

Green Card DoubleChance for married couples

Our tip for your Green Card application: Take advantage of the DoubleChance for married couples! Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 will automatically receive a Green Card if they are included in your application – without having to wait! This also applies to same-sex spouses.

Green Card through the job or investment

There are several US work visas available to you for taking up employment in the United States. Factors such as qualification, citizenship, duration of the planned stay, company affiliation, or company constellation are decisive.

Green Card through the family or marriage

Family reunification is one of the most common reasons for immigrating to the United States. In addition to close relatives of US citizens and Green Card holders, spouses of US citizens are also entitled to a Green Card. The respective procedures are subject to severe restrictions and differ in terms of widely varying waiting periods until the Green Card can be obtained.

Relatives/spouses of US Green Card holders

You can look up the waiting periods for different dependents in the Visa Bulletin, which explains and abbreviates the different immigrant categories, for example:

“Family-Sponsored” waiting periods in the Visa Bulletin

A visa is immediately available to applicants if a “C” for “current” is listed in the applicable “Preference Category.” Nevertheless, the waiting time for approval may be about 1 year or more, depending on the workload of the authorities after that.

The US immigration process for family reunion or the Green Card through marriage proceeds in several stages:

The easiest way to get a Green Card

Given the high requirements and difficult application process for Green Cards by family, job, or investment, the straightforward Green Card Lottery proves to be the easiest path to a permanent life in the United States.

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Living and Working in the USA

Anyone who wants to have an unlimited residence and work permit for the USA needs the most famous visa in the world: the Green Card. With very few exceptions, the Green Card holder has the same rights as a US citizen.

What is a Green Card?

The Green Card is an official ID document that allows its owner to live and work in the United States of America without any time limit.

Most people are familiar with the legendary Green Card Lottery, in which US fans worldwide can fulfill their dream of emigrating to America each year.

However, due to the tremendous hurdles and long waiting times for most family and work-based Green Cards, for most US fans, the lottery is the only way to emigrate to the States. 55,000 people win the lottery each year. Those who meet the requirements and do not make any mistakes in the application process have excellent chances and do not need extraordinary skills.

Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

How to apply for a Green Card

The application process for a Green Card differs depending on your reason for immigrating to the US or the type of your qualifications:

The benefits of a Green Card

Green Card holders enjoy a lot of benefits. These include:

Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

Increase your chances to get a Green Card

Applying for a Green Card through employment or for a family reunion is time-consuming and complex. With a few exceptions (for example, for spouses of US citizens), you must prepare for several years of waiting. The solution to this problem is the Green Card Lottery.

But even this has hurdles and pitfalls. The US government can disqualify you for even a small mistake. That’s why every year, thousands of US citizens seek the help of The American Dream’s Green Card experts to increase their chances of getting a Green Card.

What does a Green Card cost?

The costs for a Green Card differ depending on the category and can vary from case to case. The “basic” costs are:

  • The USCIS Immigrant Fee of $220
  • The Biometrics Services Fee of $85

Employment-based Green Card

Also, consider the costs for a Green Card activation trip to the USA. Insider tip: If you have chosen the SMART or VIP plan from The American Dream, the flight costs for your trip to and from the USA are included.

Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

Green Card through Relatives Application Guide

Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

IMPORTANT: The sponsoring relative can be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (Green Card holder). If the sponsoring relative is a U.S. citizen, you should download the application guide on this page. However, if the sponsoring relative is a Green Card holder, you should download the “Green Card through Permanent Resident Relative Application Guide”.

What’s included

A foreign national who wants to live and work permanently in the United States must first become a permanent resident (Green Card holder). One of the most common ways of obtaining a Green Card (U.S. permanent resident status) is through a relative who is already a U.S. permanent resident. Spouses and children of permanent residents qualify for green card status if they meet the required criteria and their permanent resident relatives are willing to act as their sponsors. In the Green Card through Permanent Resident Relative Application Guide you will learn how to apply for a Green Card through your Green Card holder relative.

You may submit an application for a Green Card if you have a close family member who is a United States citizen by birth or through naturalization.

The family member who will sponsor you for a Green Card can be your:

IMPORTANT: The sponsoring relative can be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (Green Card holder). If the sponsoring relative is a U.S. citizen, you should download the application guide on this page. However, if the sponsoring relative is a Green Card holder, you should download the “Green Card through Permanent Resident Relative Application Guide”.

Green Card through Permanent Resident Relative Application Guide

Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

IMPORTANT: The sponsoring relative can be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (Green Card holder). If the sponsoring relative is a Green Card holder, you should download the application guide on this page. However, if the sponsoring relative is a U.S. citizen, you should download the “Green Card through Relatives Application Guide”.

A foreign citizen whose spouse or parent is a permanent resident in the U.S. may be able to obtain permanent residency in the U.S; what is otherwise known as a green card. The spouse or parent of the Green Card applicant must be willing to act as a sponsor, and must have the financial means to support the foreign citizen relative economically. There are no educational requirements to qualify for a Green Card through the sponsorship of a permanent resident relative.

Spouses: Refer to the Green Card through Marriage Application Guide for detailed information on how a U.S. citizen and U.S. permanent residents can sponsor a spouse (legally married husband or wife) for a Green Card.

Siblings: If you are a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder), you are not eligible to sponsor your brother or sister to live and work permanently in the United States. Only U.S. citizens can sponsor their siblings for a Green Card. Download the Green Card through Relatives Application Guide for detailed instructions.

United States citizens and green card holders can sponsor their relatives to help them get permanent residency in the U.S. Applying for a green card typically involves getting sponsored by a current employer or a family member.

If you are a U.S. citizen and green card holder wishing to sponsor a relative already living in the U.S. on a temporary visa, these three steps can help your relative obtain a green card. If your relative lives outside the U.S., he or she will need to apply for a green card through consular processing.

Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

Steps to Sponsor a Relative for a U. Green Card

Sponsoring your family members for a green card in the United States can be tricky. These three steps can help you get your relative a green card.

The Immigrant Petition

  • Stepparents should provide a copy of the marriage certificate showing their marriage to the stepchild’s natural parent before the stepchild turned 18.
  • Parents of an adopted child should submit a copy of the adoption decree that shows the adoption took place before the child turned 16.

The USCIS will let you know when it gets your I-130 visa petition.

If the USCIS Needs More Information or Denies the I-130 Visa Petition

If the USCIS denies the visa petition, the USCIS will explain why it was denied. Then, you can try to fix the problem and file again. Do this by repeating all the steps we discussed, including sending in Form I-130 with the signatures, supporting documents, and another $535 USD filing fee.

The Green Card Application, Form I-485

The USCIS will let you know if they approve of your petition. The approval notice will show a “priority date” determining when your relative’s immigrant visa number will become available. The relative you’re sponsoring then files Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status.

  • Completed Form I-485
  • Their approval notice for Form I-130

If you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for an immediate relative who is currently in the U.S., Forms I-130 and I-485 can be concurrently filed.

The USCIS’s Decision

The USCIS will let your relative know when they receive your relative’s application. The USCIS will also tell them when and where to have their biometrics taken and contact your relative if they need additional documents. They will send your relative their decision by mail. Your relative would receive their green card in the mail if the application was successfully approved.

Supporting Documents and Fees

Supporting documents vary based on the relationship and whether the beneficiary or petitioner has to submit evidence. Our system is designed to personalize the list of supporting documents based on the means of application.

The filing fee is $420.00 and must be paid in the form of a check or money order made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Sponsoring a Relative as a U. Citizen

U.S. citizens over the age of 21 can sponsor these immediate relatives for a U.S. green card:

These relatives have unique priorities and do not have to wait in line for a visa number. This shortens the waiting time for a green card significantly.

When U.S. citizens sponsor other family members, including their unmarried children over age 21, married children, or brothers and sisters, there is a waiting period before an immigrant visa becomes available.

Sponsoring a Relative as a Green Card Holder

A limited number of immigrant visas are available for these relatives, so there is a significant waiting period before the relative can get a green card.

Relatives who must wait in line for their visas can check here to find out about their visa’s availability.

How Hard Is It to Get Your Relative a Green Card?

Applying and getting a green card for your relative isn’t as difficult as it seems. As long as you file the paperwork right and have the proper preparations in place, it shouldn’t be too difficult. The main barrier to be concerned about is the time it takes to receive a green card once everything is set and finished.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Green Card?

It can take many people months and sometimes even years of waiting to get their relatives a green card. Realistically, you should expect to wait at a minimum of six to eight months for green card processing to complete and an additional month or so to receive it in the mail. Keep in mind that we can only give very broad and general estimates.

Get Your Green Card Today

If you are looking to sponsor your relative for a green card, FileRight will set you on the right track. Start with a free questionnaire to check your eligibility. Our online software can lead you through your paperwork quickly and efficiently. So don’t end up wasting time and money through simple mistakes on your applications. Let us help you get started today.

U.S. citizens and green card holders are allowed to petition different relatives. But if you’re considering petitioning a relative for a green card, the process can be daunting. While there are a few ways to get a green card, petitioning a relative typically involves filing USCIS Form I-130.

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is the form used by U.S. citizens and green card holders to establish a relationship between them and a relative. What does that mean? Essentially, it means you will prove the relationship to the USCIS with various types of evidence.

Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

A family portrait of happy immigrants. Learn what you need when preparing to petition your relative for a green card.

Documents for U. Citizens

If you’re a U.S. citizen and you want to petition a relative, you’ll first need to prove your citizenship status. There are several ways to do this. You can present:

Documents for Green Card Holders

If you’re petitioning a relative as a green card holder you will have to provide a copy of the front and back of your green card (Form I-551). If you have not received your card, the USCIS requires you to submit copies of your passport’s biographic page and the page showing you were admitted as a lawful permanent resident.

You can also send other evidence of permanent resident status issued by the USCIS or INS.

Documents Needed to Prove Family Relationship

There are several ways that you can petition a child, depending on your relationship with that person. Different relationships require different forms of proof.

Petitioning a Parent

Again, you will need different documents depending on your specific relationship to the parent you are petitioning.

Petitioning a Spouse

When petitioning a spouse, you can use several types of evidence to prove this relationship to government officials. You’ll need to provide forms of documentation including:

The photos must have been taken within 30 days of filing the petition. The background must be white to off-white, printed on thin paper with a glossy finish, and be unmounted and unretouched.

Also, your photos must be two inches by two inches, in color, with a full face/frontal view. Head height should measure 1 to 1 3/8 inches from top of hair to bottom of chin, and eye height must be between 1 1/8 to 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the photo.

Your head must be bare unless you are wearing headwear as required by your religious denomination. Using a pencil or felt pen, lightly print your name and A-Number (if any) on the back of the photo.

Additional Evidence Required to Prove Your Marriage Relationship

Each affidavit must contain the name and address of the person making the affidavit, their birthdate and place of birth, and complete details about how the person acquired the knowledge of your marriage.

You can also submit any other relevant documentation to establish that there is an ongoing marriage.

Conditional Permanent Resident Card

The USCIS will issue your spouse a two-year conditional permanent resident card if you have been married for less than two years on the day your spouse obtains permanent resident status.

You and your spouse will be required to complete Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, during the 90-day period immediately before your spouse’s conditional permanent resident card and status expires.

Documents Needed if a Name Has Changed

The USCIS states that if you or the person you are petitioning has a different name than the name on official documents, you must provide copies of the legal documents that reflect the name change. Those could be marriage certificates, adoption decrees, or other court orders.

What if Official Documents are Not Available?

School record: The USCIS will accept a letter showing the date of admission to school (preferably the first school attended) showing the child’s date of birth or age at the time, place of birth, and names of the parents.

A permanent resident card, commonly known as a green card, is a photo ID card issued by the United States government. Green card holders are allowed to live and work in the U.S. as legal residents. However, the application process can be complicated.

Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

A close-up of a permanent resident card. Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, can help your family member obtain permanent residency in the United States.

Who Can Use Form I-130 to Apply for a Family Green Card?

Both U.S. citizens and green card holders may use Form I-130 to petition for relatives to receive legal permanent residency (LPR) status. Relatives of a U.S.citizen who may qualify for a green card include:

  • Married or unmarried children under age 21
  • Married or unmarried children over the age of 21

Preference of these qualified relatives is given to immediate relatives with spouses and children at the top of the list. LPR qualified relatives are:

Things to Remember When Completing Form I-130

Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure your petition for relative application is accepted and processed in a timely manner:

How Much Does It Cost to Petition for a Relative?

There are multiple fees associated with filing USCIS forms. You can expect to pay a total of $955 to apply for a relative’s green card using Form I-130. This includes:

Do I Need to File Form I-130 for Each Relative?

A U.S. citizen or permanent resident may sponsor more than one relative. File Form I-130 for each relative you are sponsoring. For example, if you are applying for your parents, you must submit FormI-130 for each parent.

What Happens After You Submit Your Petition?

Once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your Form I-130, the agency processes the petition for relative application. USCIS will then send you:

Apply for a U. Visa

Normally, when the USCIS approves the petition, the agency sends it to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). When a U.S. visa is available, the NVC notifies both you and your relative of the invitation to apply for an immigrant visa. The invitation extends to qualifying dependents as well.

File Form I-864

Prepare Your USCIS Form I-130Petition for Relative Application

USCIS Form I-864 on a clipboard. This is the Affidavit of Support application form needed to sponsor an immigrant for U.S. citizenship.

When the time comes for the relative to immigrate, the petitioner must agree to be his or her financial sponsor by filing Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. The form states your commitment of financial support to your immigrating relative. The minimum annual income requirement is 125% of Federal Poverty Guidelines.

How Long Does Form I-130 Take to Process?

How long your application will take to process depends on the status of the sponsoring relative. Green card holders sponsoring an immediate relative can expect a processing time between 13 and 19 months. U.S. citizens who sponsor an immediate relative using Form I-130 may experience a wait time between 15 and 20 months.

Can You Check if Your Form I-130 Is Approved?

If you do not provide enough information for USCIS to make a decision, you will be issued a Request for Evidence (RFE). Your application to petition for a relative’s green card may be denied if you ignore the request or do not provide enough information.

USCIS will not refund your money, even if your petition for relative application is denied. The most important thing you can do is make sure your application is prepared with care. FileRight will help ensure your application is correct and complete.

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