Regardless of which route you are taking, someone who is married to a U.S. citizen/legal permanent resident needs to have their resident spouse file what is called an I-130 application. This is crucial for having a successful processing of your adjustment of status I-485 application.
(**Note: If your spouse is the U.S. citizen, you can file both I-130 and I-485 at the same time. Please refer to further details from USCIS website. )
Below we cover the thorough guidance on how to self-apply Form I-130. Ready? Here we go!
I-130, officially called “Petition for Alien Relative,” is the form for petitioner (your American spouse: legal permanent resident or U.S. citizen) to establish the relationship to an eligible relative (that is, you!) who wishes to come to or remain in the United States permanently and get a Permanent Resident Card (the green card.)
To put it simply, by filing I-130, the government in charge, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS,) will examine your application to determine your relationship with your resident spouse is legitimate. After I-130 is approved, you can start filing green card applications, adjustment of status or consular processing. Well, sounds complicated? We’ll walk you through step by step! Check our form I-130 guidance here.
**In the following sections, we address guidance to those petitioners, that is, those filing Form I-130 for their alien spouses.
The list applies to both paper and electronic filing.
- Form I-130
- Form I-485 or consular processing (no worries, we’ll explain later!)
- Proof of Sponsor validity (U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident)
- Marriage Certificate or other proof of valid marriage (if requested)
- Proof of termination of prior marriage(s), if applicable (any of the below can serves as the proof varying by situations:)
a divorce decree
- Proof of official name change, if applicable (any of the below can serves as the proof:)
- Petitioner’s passport photos*2:
Every petitioner (again, your resident spouse) needs to provide 2 passport-style photos (2 inches by 2 inches) with his/her Form I-130 petition.
- Other supporting documents related to the above documents (if applicable.)
As stated above, you have two ways to file Form I-130: through paper filing or online filing. Since Form I-130 can only be filed by legal U.S residents, who for most cases, live in the U.S., either way works and will not affect the application result. Here we will take you through both ways in detail so that you can decide which option to go after.
Download the form from USCIS website, have all the necessary documents printed, assemble and envelope them in a packet, and mail to the specified USCIS Lockbox.
We have a comprehensive guide in filling out the form, check our form guidance here. Below is the summary of the general reminders from USCIS:
After you get all your documents and forms completed, you can start the next step: assemble your application.
Mail your forms to the address listed on that form’s webpage. You may submit your forms through USPS, FedEx, DHL, or UPS. If you mail to the wrong filing address, USCIS has the right to reject your application/petition as improperly filed and return it to you to re-file. If you choose the U.S. Postal Service, certified mail with a return receipt is the safest way to send your petition.
That’s all for paper filing. Should you have any questions, feel free to leave us a message :)
What a workload for paper filing, get dizzy? If so, you may prefer the online application more, and here’s how:
create your own account on USCIS website. Log in the account, complete the form, upload all the necessary documents, and submit your application on the same platform. Sounds easy, right? It is, we’ll show you below!
To start completing Form I-130, please create a USCIS account. You can find the guidelines on USCIS website. After you create the account, please log in here. USCIS uses a two-factor authentication process. This means that in addition to entering your username and password, you must also enter a one-time password that will be sent to you by email or text message. When you create your USCIS online account, you can select your preference for receiving the one-time password.
After logging in, please select the form you want to file from the tab “File a form online,” and choose “Petition for Alien Relative (I-130).”
An overview of the Form I-130 is presented below, including the eligibility, fee, process, etc. Please go through those sections carefully before you start completing the form.
After you read the instruction, you are directed to the form; each section is listed on the top, and you can click which section you want to begin with. The system automatically saves your response, and you can leave and log in to continue your application whenever you wish. USCIS may reject your form if there is any blank field or if you do not sign your form. Please make sure all the fields are completed and preferably, provide as much information as you can.
In the tab “Evidence,” you can upload your supporting documents here for USCIS’s reference. These documents help USCIS evaluate your form and verify your answers. If the document is not requested, then you do not need to include it.
In the last tab “Review and Submit,” please go through all the summary of the information you provided in your application. You can also download the form in pdf format for your record and review. After that, you need to digitally sign your legal name (first, middle, and last names) in the specified blank.
You’re not far from completion! Finally, the system will initially screen your data to check if there is any missing information. Once you are ready to submit your application, the system will automatically direct you to the secure Department of Treasury site, pay.gov. To pay your fees online; you can pay the fee with a credit, debit, or pre-paid card. There is no need to file Form G-1450.
Well done! Now you can rest a bit and wait for the further notice!
After a few weeks (typically 2 weeks, but it depends on the capacity USCIS handles at the moment,) you will receive the receipt notice in your account inbox (online,) or from a USCIS Service Center (which is different from the lockbox to which you sent the I-130—the lockbox will forward the file.) You can also login the account to check your application status. (Tips: this applies to paper filing, learn more here.) The date you receive the receipt notice is called the “priority date.”
In the later 2~3 months, you may receive the contact from USCIS asking for further information or supported documents through Request for Evidence (RFE,) if necessary. Moreover, once you file a form, you will have access to a secure inbox to send messages to an immigration services officer and receive a response to your question.
When everything is ready for their scrutiny, they will typically make a decision on the application within the next 7~15 months, depending on the applicants’ situation and the capacity of each USCIS service center. You can check the estimated processing time on USCIS website.
Finally, when you receive the notice stating the I-130 application is approved, this means that the familial relationship between you and your alien spouse is legally formed! A definite hooray and congratulations! The next step is to file Form I-485 to USCIS to apply status adjustment for your spouse. Check out how to file I-485 on your own.