A few weeks ago, USCIS announced that I-130 petitions can now be filed via the internet.
The I-130, known as the Petition For Alien Relative, is the first step in the green card process. Its purpose is to prove the family relationship between a U.S. citizen or green card holder and an immigrant relative.
Most news stories note how this development speeds up the green card process. They portray the change as a positive, pro-immigrant measure.
The new filing procedure is a step in the right direction. Yet, the change warrants cautious optimism for immigrants and their families.
I suspect some immigrants who use the online I-130 filing process will do so when they should not. These individuals will plow forward without understanding how it might impact their cases.
The true goal is not to file your petition quickly. Rather, the objective is to ensure the approval of your immigrant relative and family visa petition.
Although most immigrants are in a hurry to legalize their status, it’s often the hare, not the tortoise who wins the race to immigration success.
I foresee two types of stumbling blocks that may surface. They can be classified as relatively harmless application errors and potentially insurmountable legal complications.
Correctible Online I-130 Application Errors
On the one hand, problems may stem from incomplete packages of supporting evidence.
Examples of such mistakes 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- Submission of erroneous or outdated forms
- Failure to completely fill in all parts of the required forms
In some cases, USCIS may return the entire package to you to make corrections.
Other times, the agency sends a Request For Evidence pinpointing the evidence they want.
After you comply, the government will continue processing your petition. If there are no further legal problems, USCIS will approve the I-130 petition.
Your case will move to the next stage.
Substantive Legal Mistakes
This is where my major misgivings about the expedited online I-130 process arise. They pertain to the second set of problems, which cannot be overcome in many instances.
The decisions leading to these mistakes occur at the I-130 planning and filing stages.
In most cases, these miscues are not immediately discovered when the I-130 petition is submitted to immigration authorities. Instead, they are usually caught at the green card application stage.
Here are a few:
Comparing your case to someone else’s case. Immigrants often follow the advice of friends or family members to copy their steps. They do not grasp the differences between their cases could affect the outcome.
Multiple entries and exits. Some individuals enter, leave, and reenter the U.S. These actions could affect their chance for green card success. The significance is not understood by the immigrant or his sponsoring family member.
Omitting and misrepresenting the truth. Some immigrants provide fake dates of entry, marriage dates, and countries of birth. They rely on less-than-scruplous individuals to guide them. They’re told, “Don’t worry. The government will never find out.” Such ommissions or falsehoods are not innocent errors.
If you would like more information on these types of substantive errors, see: Immigrants Without Lawyers: Five Common Pro Per Mistakes
Despite these warnings, the new online I-130 filing process is not to be feared.
Rather, if you plan to file online, you need to exercise caution before submission.
It’s in your best interest to address both known and unknown issues prior to proceeding ahead, whether you file online or by mail.
The new process can expedite a decision on your paperwork. It can also hasten future problems related to mistakes and errors.
In other words, speed is not always your ally.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics