Form I-130 – A Guide for Immigrants

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative, is the initial step in obtaining a Green Card for family members.
  • Filed by a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) to establish familial relationships, an approved I-130 serves as evidence of the relationship.
  • Required documents include proof of citizenship or LPR status, evidence of the relationship, and relevant documentation. The filing fee is $535, with a processing time of 7 to 15 months, subject to additional requests for evidence. Seeking guidance from an immigration attorney is advisable for a successful process.

Are you a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)? And are you searching for a way to help your immediate family members immigrate here? What documents do you need to file and who is eligible to immigrate to the U.S. based on your immigration status?

The Form I-130 application may be the best way to complete your family’s immigration process. Here you can find how it works and who is eligible.

Read on to learn more, or check out our video I-130 Visas and Petitions | Processing Time 2020!

What is I-130?

Form I-130 is called a Petition for Alien Relative. Someone who has U.S. citizenship or is at least a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) may petition on behalf of their family members for a Green Card. Filing the Form I-130 is the first step in the process of applying for a Green Card. This form establishes the relationship between a petitioner (the family member) and the beneficiary (the family member seeking a Green Card).

Please note, an approved I-130 is not a visa and it does not grant someone the privilege to stay here in the U.S. It simply proves the relationship between a sponsor (or also called the petitioner) and the beneficiary. The beneficiary of a successful I-130 application may seek further immigration options like a CR1 visa in the case of a couple married for less than two years.

Who Needs to File Form I-130?

Immigration matters in the U.S. can be tricky and you’ll need to keep a level head throughout the whole process. You can always ask for the professional help from an immigration attorney who can help guide you towards your best options.

The parent or spouse who is a U.S. citizen or LPR files an I-130 on behalf of the family member who wants to come to live with them here in America. U.S. citizens may file on behalf of their spouse, children (referred to as an F1 preferred family member and not be confused with an F1 visa student), parents, and siblings (siblings can apply for an F4 visa). A Green Card holder (LPR), however, may only file for their spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21). There are some more intricate eligibility requirements within the aforementioned requirements which may be applied and interpreted according to your unique situation. Once again an immigration attorney will help to clear any confusion.

Required Documents for I-130

Just like the visa requirements for an F1 visa, you need to prove your family members’ and your own eligibility with specific documents. First of all, the person who files on behalf of their family members (also called a sponsor) needs to prove they are indeed a U.S. citizen or LPR. And then you also need to prove the relationship with the beneficiaries.

The following documents need to accompany the Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.

  • Proof of the sponsor’s citizenship or Permanent Resident status
  • Proof of the bona fide relationship between the sponsor and beneficiary
  • Proof that the relationship is not fraudulent
  • Proof of name changes for either the sponsor or beneficiary (if applicable)
  • Proof of the beneficiary’s nationality

The above documents are the basic documents required in the average Form I-130 filing. Your unique situation might require more so make sure you get professional advice if you need to.

How to Fill Out Form I-130

Form I-130 has quite a few sections to complete. Let’s look at how to fill out Form I-130.

Here are the main sections:

  • Part 1 – This section requires information detailing the relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary.
  • Part 2 – Here the petitioner needs to submit personal details like proof of their immigration status.
  • Part 3 – This section requires a bit more information about the petitioner and it is fairly self-explanatory.
  • Part 4 – Here you need to supply personal information about the beneficiary.
  • Part 5 – This section requires other forms of information relating to both the petitioner and the beneficiary.
  • Part 6 – Here the petitioner needs to sign and confirm they understand the purpose of the form and declare the information as truthful.
  • Part 7 – If applicable, the interpreter used in the process of completing the form must sign and confirm here.
  • Part 8 – If applicable, someone who completed the form on behalf of the petitioner must sign and declare in this section.
  • Part 9 – This part is reserved for additional information in the case where you ran out in previous sections. Mark the answer clearly by referencing the part and question it refers to.

Where to File I-130

The recipient of your I-130 application depends on your situation. You can follow the USCIS chart to find the correct mailing address for your application. Take care to send it to the right address. You’ll either have to send it to the designated address for the state you live in, or you’ll need to send it to a Lockbox if you apply from abroad.

How Much Does I-130 Cost?

The Form I-130 filing fee costs only $535. But you may need to cover more fees when you start to file other types of paperwork like a Form I-485 (application for a marriage-based Green Card). You may also have to complete a biometric screening test which costs $85 (if applicable to your situation).

I-130 Processing Time

There are different stakeholders involved in this process. Your process may also be more intricate if the beneficiary lives abroad. Processing typically takes between 7 and 15 months if all goes well. However, the USCIS may send you an RFE (Request for Evidence) if they require more proof or information which may prolong your application process. Comply with the requirements and supply the correct information to help limit any lost time due to errors. Please note that the I-130 can be denied.

Read More


Are you tired of living apart from your family or afraid they may have to leave the U.S.? You as a U.S. citizen or LPR can petition on their behalf for Permanent Residency. Form I-130 is the first step in that process. It establishes the relationship between you (the sponsor) and them (the beneficiary).

Check your and their eligibility and apply on behalf of your immediate family members today. Form I-130 is the first step to keeping your family together in the United States.

Form I-130 FAQ

Wrapping your head around all this information can be tough. So let’s make it simple and answer a few frequently asked questions.

Where should I send my I-130 form?

You can follow the USCIS chart to find the correct address for your I-130 application. Your home address determines the mailing address applicable to your petition. There is also a specific address for people who file from abroad. Certain types of applications that include a petition for a marriage-based Green Card also has a specific address as listed on the USCIS chart.

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

The I-130 filing fee is $535. But you may have to cover more costs if you include other forms into your application as well. Also, remember the biometric screening test required by some petitions which cost $85 (if applicable to your unique situation).

How long does the I-130 petition process take?

The typical I-130 petition takes 7 to 15 months from the date of the petition to the approval of the request. That does not include any extra time due to an RFE (Request for Evidence) or lost time due to errors in the supplied information. A professional like an immigration attorney can help you to improve your chances of success and also shorten the possible wait for an outcome regarding your petition.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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