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Taking The First Steps To A Green Card: Filing An Immigrant Relative Petition
You’re here for a reason . . . your family is important to you.
You want to help them become permanent residents.
But you’re not sure how to handle this on your own.
With so much at stake, why guess?
Guessing is not the way to find the best solution.
What Is Form I-130?
The I-130 Form is officially known as the Petition For Alien Relative Form. The I-130 is used to prove a valid family relationship between a U.S. citizen or green card holder and an immigrant relative
Filing the I-130 is the first step in the family green card process.
The I-130 Form is often referred as the I-130 Petition, as well as the I-130 Immigrant Relatives Petition.
Your efforts to bring – or keep – your loved ones together can be torpedoed before they really get off the ground. Miscues, mishaps, and missteps on immigrant relative petitions can lead to long delays, increased costs, or worse.
Naturally, you’re concerned.
You’re afraid to make mistakes which might harm your family members.
Maybe You’ve Heard Neighborhood Gossip.
You want to file a family petition for your elderly mother. Her tourist visa expired a few years ago. She has been living with you and your husband. You were told by a neighbor that he was not allowed to immigrate his mother.
Perhaps You Were Told There’s Just No Chance To Win.
You want a family visa for your son. You went to the office of an immigration consultant to fill out a petition to immigrate him. She told you that you cannot help him because he is 21 and married.
You Fear Deportation Of Loved Ones.
You want to sponsor your husband. He had papers filed by his ex-wife many, many years ago. They divorced. His I-130 spousal petition was denied. You read a story about a person who was arrested after he filed green card papers and went to an interview without his spouse. He was sent to Immigration Court for deportation and removal. You think the same thing might happen to your spouse.
Making immigration family unity decisions based on fear is the worst thing you can do.
That’s where our experience in handling family-based immigration petitions comes in. We can help you figure out which relatives you can help – and which ones you cannot help.
Don’t Take A Chance. Here Is What You Need To Know.
- What immigrant relatives can you sponsor?
- How does the visa petition process work?
- How long will it take to finish the process?
What Relatives Can You Petition For A Immigration Family Visa?
There are two categories of family visa petitioners. Some sponsors are U. S. citizens. Others are lawful permanent residents.
A U.S. citizen can “open the door” for four different relatives:
On the other hand, a lawful resident can only help two set of relatives:
- Children, Unmarried
Of particular significance, what family members you can sponsor for green cards affects how fast their applicantions will move through the immigration process.
This breakdown is reflected in the following chart.
I-130 Immigrant Relative Petitions Chart
How Does The I-130 Immigrant Petition Process Work?
There are three basic steps to applying for an immigrant relative visa.
Preparing The Immigrant Visa Petition
As noted earlier, the first step of the visa process is to complete and submit Form I-130.
Your petition must be supported with evidence to establish:
- Whether the petitioner is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- What type of family relationship bonds the petitioner and beneficiary (i.e., husband – wife parent – child, brother – sister)
- Where the beneficiary will attend the green card interview (in the U.S. or their home country)
All of your legal documents, such as birth certificates and marriage certificates, must be properly certified by a court or government agency. If any of your documents are in a foreign language, they must be officially translated, as well as properly certified by the appropriate courts or agencies in your home country.
Although the I-130 questions seem straight-forward, your answers should not be given in a light-hearted manner. They can lead to complicated legal issues not apparent on the surface of the form.
Tips To Avoid Mistakes, Delays, And Problems
Our office follows a few simple rules to avoid hidden complications.
We never file an I-130 unless we have conducted a complete interview with both the petitioner and beneficiary.
Some clients call our office asking if we can review their petitions for them before they file them. Our office refuses to do so, since merely asking a few quick questions and obtaining a few quick answers is like the blind leading the blind.
We never file an I-130 if we have any doubts about the accuracy of a petitioner or a beneficiary’s answers.
It is wiser to delay filing the I-130 to investigate discrepancies and clarify inconsistencies before paying your fees and submitting your petition. In some cases, we have to do background checks for arrest records, criminal convictions, and past immigration history.
Clients have sought our services after they went forward on their own, and learned that an assumption was wrong, like a previous divorce that was never finalized.
We never file an I-130 if we suspect any of the information is false or deceptive.
At time, clients visit our office after they discover errors made by others who helped them. This occurs when clients believed their papers, with the help of a notario or legal assistant, were filed correctly, only to later discover important information had been omitted or falsified.
In these situations, we can sometimes correct the problems. But not always.
Worse, if the government suspects immigration fraud, it can lead to your relative being arrested and deported.
USCIS Reviews The I-130 Family-Based Immigrant Relative Petition
Once the government receives the I-130 immigrant relative petition, it begins the review process. The agency which goes over your documents is the United States Citizenship And Immigration Services (USCIS).
Previously, the petition could only be filed through the mail. Recently, the government announced that I-130 petitions can now be filed electronically.
There are no local immigration offices for submission purposes, whether filing electronically or by standard U.S. mail.
At this point, certain stumbling blocks may arise. Normally, problems stem from incomplete packages of supporting evidence. Such errors include:
- A missing or illegible signature or document
- Lack of proper government certification for a birth, death, marriage, or divorce certificate
- Payment of incorrect filing fees or inconsistent information listed on the petition
- Using wrong-colored ink, highlighters, or correction tapes and liquids
- Submission of of wrong or outdated forms
- Failure to completely fill in all parts of the required forms
USCIS may return the entire package to you. Other times, the agency sends you a Request For Evidence, a document which pinpoints what evidence they’re questioning.
After you comply with their request for additional information, the government will continue processing your petition, If there are no major legal problems, your petition will move to the next stage.
The I-130 Immigrant Relative Visa Petition Approval
After USCIS reviews the I-130 and finds the petitioner has met all the requirements, it issues an Approval Notice.
Some immigrants are confused about the meaning of an approved I-130 petition. The main purpose is that it shows you have a valid relationship to immigrate your family member.
It does not confer permanent residency benefits upon the beneficiary.
For instance, if you’re attempting to petition your wife for green card benefits, it only serves to show that your marriage is technically legal.
How Long Does The Process Take?
Generally, the waiting time for an Approval Notice of an I-130 immigrant relative visa petition is about five months. Some petitions are approved more quickly. Others take more time.
But the filing of the I-130 immigration family visa petition is merely the first step of the complete family unity legalization process.
Helping a relative win permanent residency is a two-step endeavor.
As a result, after your immigrant petition has been approved, you’ll still need to take the second step of the legalization process, filing for permanent residence.
Ready to file a visa petition for a family member? Let’s schedule a personalized strategy and planning consultation . . .