Obtaining a Green Card as an Immediate Relative of a U.S. Citizen

Stage 1 – I-130 Filing for Immediate Relative

A U.S. citizen may choose to petition for certain family members as immediate relatives under U.S. immigration laws.  The biggest advantage of being classified as an immediate relative for U.S. immigration purposes is not being subject to preference categories and their accompanying priority date backlogs, since immigrant visas are always available under the immediate relative category.  The ability to petition for family members under this immediate relative designation category is another reason lawful permanent residents may consider applying for naturalization when and if they become eligible. 

Which familial relationships qualify for immediate relative status?

A U.S. Citizen petitioner may petition for the following relatives as Immediate Relatives:

  • Husband or Wife (See Green Card Through Marriage for a detailed analysis for a marital relationship)
  • Unmarried Child under age 21
  • Mother or Father

Does the filing and/or an approval of the I-130 grant a green card to the family member?

No.  For a U.S. Citizen (USC) to petition for a family member, they must first submit a comprehensive package to USCIS emphasizing the legitimacy of the familial relationship.  The main form is: I-130 – Petition for Alien Relative.  This is the first stage of the green card process. The second stage, either Adjustment of Status or Immigrant Visa Processing, is dependent on various factors. It is only upon completion of both stages that the family member will obtain their green card.

Note: In some cases, assuming the foreign national family member is eligible for Adjustment of Status, both the I-130 and the Adjustment of Status paperwork may be filed concurrently.   In this scenario, the proper paperwork relating to the foreign national’s eligibility for Adjustment of Status should also be filed with USCIS at the same time. 

What form and supporting documents are necessary to apply for Immediate Relative Status?

Form I-130 – Petition for Alien Relative

The I-130 is the form that the U.S. Citizen (Petitioner) must file for their foreign national family member (Beneficiary).  Depending on the Petitioner's location, the form is either filed with USCIS in the U.S. or at an overseas location.  If the Petitioner is a resident of the U.S. or is temporarily abroad, the form must be filed with the appropriate USCIS Service Center in the U.S.  However, if the Petitioner is overseas, they may be able to file the form with either a USCIS International Office or a U.S. Consulate, as appropriate. 

The purpose of the form is to establish the legitimacy of the familial relationship, therefore, it is imperative to submit evidence of the bona fides of the relationship such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, proof of termination of previous marriages, etc. It is also necessary to include documentary evidence of the Petitioner’s status as a U.S. citizen. 

Therefore, the I-130 petition should be supported by:

  • Proof of U.S. Citizenship of Petitioner
    • The U.S. citizen petitioner will need to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship by submitting either a copy of the face page of their U.S. passport, a copy of their U.S. birth certificate or a copy of their Certificate of Naturalization.  Some other documents can also be provided in lieu of the above.  
  • Proof of Familial Relationship
    • U.S. Citizen Petitioner Filing for Petitioner’s Mother
      • Copy of Petitioner’s birth certificate long form birth certificate, showing Petitioner’s mother’s name
    • U.S. Citizen Petitioner Filing for Petitioner’s Father
      • Copy of Petitioner’s birth certificate long form birth certificate, showing Petitioner’s father’s name and Petitioner’s mother’s name
      • Copy of Parent’s marriage certificate, establishing that Petitioner’s mother and Petitioner’s father were married prior to Petitioner’s birth
      • If either of Petitioner’s parents were previously married, evidence of the termination of their prior marriage(s) prior to their marriage
      • If the Petitioner was born out of wedlock, there are different evidentiary requirements
    • U.S. Citizen Mother Filing for Child
      • Note: Beneficiary must meet requirement for “child” under INA § 101(b)(1) (i.e. child must be unmarried, be under age 21, etc.)
      • Copy of Petitioner’s birth certificate long form birth certificate, showing Petitioner’s mother’s name
    • U.S. Citizen Father Filing for Child
      • Note: Beneficiary must meet requirement for “child” under INA § 101(b)(1) (i.e. child must be unmarried, be under age 21, etc.)
      • Copy of Petitioner’s birth certificate long form birth certificate, showing Petitioner’s father’s name and Petitioner’s mother’s name
      • Copy of Parent’s marriage certificate, establishing that Petitioner’s mother and Petitioner’s father were married prior to Petitioner’s birth
      • If either of Petitioner’s parents were previously married, evidence of the termination of their prior marriage(s) prior to their marriage
      • If the Petitioner was born out of wedlock, there are different evidentiary requirements
    • Filing Based on the Stepparent/Stepchild relationship or an Adoptive Parent/Adopted Child relationship, has additional statutory and documentary requirements

Expectations After Filing

Receipt Notices

After all of the paperwork is filed, the Petitioner will receive a Receipt Notice within 2-3 weeks of filing.  The Receipt Notice will assign the foreign national an Alien # (if they do not have one already).  The Receipt Notice is also important for following up with USCIS in the future on this matter and checking the case status online. 

Request for Evidence

If USCIS determines that the information/documentation submitted is inadequate to satisfy the petition requirements and further information is needed, they will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE).  The Request for Evidence will specifically state the documents/information they are seeking and a timeline under which they need to be submitted (all requested information should be submitted at the same time).  Failing to respond to the RFE may result in the denial of the petition. 

Decision

Depending on processing times, (assuming no RFE was issued), if the statutory requirements were met and the familial relationship established, USCIS should issue a favorable decision within 4 to 6 months.  Sometimes, USCIS may schedule an interview prior to issuing a decision.

Adjustment of Status or Immigrant Visa Processing

After receiving the I-130 approval notice, the Petitioner and Beneficiary may proceed with the second stage of the green card process.

If the Beneficiary is residing in the U.S., and meets certain statutory requirements, they may be able to apply for Adjustment of Status, if they have not concurrently filed already. 

If the Beneficiary resides abroad, and meets certain statutory requirements, they may be able to pursue Immigrant Visa Processing (IVP)