Form I-130, Explained

What is a "Petition for Alien Relative"?

USCIS Form I-130

Form I-130 (officially called the “Petition for Alien Relative”) establishes that a valid family relationship exists between a U.S. citizen or green card holder and a person seeking a green card. This form is often simply referred to as the “I-130 petition.”

Filing the I-130 petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is the first step in the family-based green card process.

In the context of a marriage visa, the I-130 petition is filed to prove that your marriage is legally valid (based on a marriage certificate). This is also the phase of the marriage-based green card process in which you submit documents (for example, joint bank account statements, joint insurance documents, and photos together) to prove that your marriage is “authentic” — that is, it isn’t based on fraud.

Filing the I-130 petition also establishes your place in line for an available green card. Unless you’re the spouse, parent, or unmarried child (under age 21) of a U.S. citizen (who get to skip the line entirely), your place in line is determined by your “priority date,” which is simply the date that USCIS received your I-130 petition. Typically, petitions are processed in the order they are filed. Check out the Visa Bulletin to learn more about the current wait times for specific green card categories.

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I-130 Eligibility

Who can file Form I-130?

U.S. citizens can file I-130 petitions for their spouses, children, parents, and siblings. Current green card holders can file I-130 petitions for their spouses and unmarried children.

The U.S. citizen or green card holder who files the I-130 petition is officially called the “petitioner” or “sponsor.” The person seeking a green card is officially known as the “beneficiary.”

Who cannot file Form I-130?

There are some eligibility exclusions that prevent the filing of an I-130 petition, even when the above family relationships exist. You cannot file an I-130 in order to sponsor any of the following relatives:

  • A grandparent, grandchild, nephew, niece, uncle, aunt, cousin, or parent-in-law
  • An adoptive parent or adopted child, if the child was adopted after he or she turned 16 years old
  • A biological parent, if you became a green card holder or obtained U.S. citizenship through adoption
  • A stepparent or stepchild, if the marriage that created the step relationship happened after the child turned 18 years old
  • A spouse, if you and your spouse were not both physically present at the marriage ceremony
  • A spouse, if you became a green card holder through a prior marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder — unless you are now a naturalized U.S. citizen or have been a green card holder for at least five years
  • A spouse, if you married your spouse while he or she was part of any immigration court proceedings (a hearing in an immigration court for someone facing deportation, or, more formally, “removal”)
  • Any relative, if USCIS has determined that this person married, or attempted to marry, purely for immigration purposes

It’s important to know that there are exceptions to some of the above exclusions and that you may be able to file an I-130 petition with additional supporting documentation in those situations.

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Commonly Asked Questions

How much does it cost to file an I-130 petition?

The government filing fee for an I-130 petition is currently $535. (Boundless has a detailed guide on the full costs of a marriage green card.)

How long does the I-130 petition process take?

The processing time for your I-130 petition will depend on the family relationship and the USCIS field office that receives your form. For marriage-based green cards, the USCIS I-130 processing times will vary between 7 and 15 months, depending on whether the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen or green card holder and whether the spouse seeking a green card lives in the United States or abroad. (Boundless has a detailed guide on the timeline of the marriage-based green card process.)

Where should I send my I-130 form?

Where you must send your I-130 petition depends on where you live and whether you’re filing just an I-130 (officially called a “standalone” I-130) or filing an I-130 with an I-485 green card application, or “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status,” at the same time (officially called a “concurrent filing”). (See this USCIS chart for the appropriate mailing address to send your I-130 petition.)

With Boundless, you don’t have to worry about remembering form numbers or which specific forms you need for your situation. You don’t even need to read the Form I-130 instructions. Simply answer a series of questions online — typically within just a couple of hours, compared with days or weeks the traditional way — and the completed forms arrive at your doorstep. Get started now, or learn more about our services.

I-130 Required Documents

The I-130 petition must be filed with supporting documents to prove that the sponsor is allowed to file an I-130 and that they have a valid family relationship with the person seeking a green card.

The required supporting documents for an I-130 petition typically include:

  • Proof that the sponsor is a U.S. citizen or green card holder
  • Proof that a legally valid relationship exists
  • Proof that the relationship is not fraudulent
  • Proof of name changes for the sponsor and/or the person seeking a green card, if any
  • Proof of nationality of the person seeking a green card

Supporting documents required for a marriage-based green card include, for instance, a copy of the sponsor’s U.S. birth certificate to prove that they’re a U.S. citizen, photos of the couple over the course of their relationship, and joint bank account statements to demonstrate that they’ve combined their finances. (See this complete list of I-130 supporting documents for a marriage green card, including guidance on locating the paperwork.)

The Boundless immigration website can help you obtain a marriage-based green card with minimal hassle. We print out all of your forms and documents, assembled precisely how the government prefers. We mail the whole package to your doorstep, ready for you to sign and send to the correct government address. Ready to start?

Alternative Documents

If a required document is not available, you must submit alternative documents (officially called “secondary evidence”) so that USCIS can make a decision on your I-130 petition. (Boundless has a detailed guide to obtaining hard-to-find documents and on providing secondary evidence.)

For example, if your birth certificate is not available, you can first obtain a statement from the issuing government agency in your home country certifying that your birth certificate is not available from that agency. Otherwise, you’ll need to obtain other records (for example, a baptismal certificate or school records) showing the facts of your birth or written statements from relatives who can attest to those facts.

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