I-130 Petition for Alien Relative: Not a Green Card / Long Wait for Approval

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is probably the most common form filed in the immigration system, as it is the first step in applying to bring a relative of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident to the United States. Although the I-130 is the necessary first step, it in no way entitles the applicant to a green card, with the only exception being for “immediate relatives.” The form simply identifies a foreign individual as a close relative of the person filing the form, and classifies that close relative into one of the Family Preference categories designated under immigration law.

Family Preference Categories

There are five Family Preference categories a close relative can be classified under. From highest to lowest preference (or priority), the categories are as follows:

F1: unmarried sons and daughters who are 21 years old or older of U.S. citizens
F2A: spouses and children under 21 years of age of legal permanent residents (green card holders)
F2B: unmarried sons and daughters who are 21 years old or older of legal permanent residents
F3: married sons and daughters who are 21 years old or older of U.S. citizens
F4: parents, brothers, and sisters of any age of U.S. citizens

A wait time of over 10 years is normal for F4 petitions which are the lowest level of priority in the Family Preference categories. For this reason, if you are applying for an F4 visa and are undocumented, you must take care not to be picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and put into removal proceedings (deportation).

If your petition is granted

Once the I-130 petition is granted, the applicant may apply for the appropriate visa for the close relative to immigrate to the United States. There are a limited number of visas available for each category each year. Visas are also granted on a first come/first serve basis, based on the priority date of the applicant’s petition.

For this reason, each applicant is given a visa number that is attached to their petition and given a priority. Visa numbers can be given very quickly in some months and incredibly slowly in other months. Therefore, wait times can be long, sometimes years, as there is no clear answer on how long it will take to obtain a visa number.

With that being said, each month, the State Department publishes the Visa Bulletin which lists the availability of immigrant visas in each category for that month. You can check the availability of your category at their website.

The process for immediate relatives is somewhat different and a bit faster. Immediate relatives encompass spouses and children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens. For individuals who fall into this category, there are an unlimited number of visa numbers available. These petitioners can skip the Visa Bulletin and go straight forward with the adjustment application for a green card.

Despite the long wait for approval of Form I-130 and if you are not an immediate relative, it is still precedent to plan far in advance, applying as soon as your place in line allows.

Learn More

The USCIS website is the best source of information for all immigration related matters.

You can also visit the following sources for more information about Form I-130 and the Family Preference categories.

USCIS’s page on the I-130 form
USCIS’s page on the Family Preference categories
USCIS’s page on visa availability and priority dates
the Department of State’s page on family-based immigration
the Visa Bulletin page on the Department of State’s website

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Disclaimer: Nothing in relation to the enclosed information should be construed and or considered as legal advice for any individual, entity, case, or situation. The following information is prepared for advertisement use only. The information is intended ONLY to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice on your specific situation, we encourage you to consult an attorney experienced in the area of Immigration Law.