What Happens after I-130 Approved?
Updated on 11/15/2023
You have filed form I-130 on behalf of a family member – your spouse, child, parent or sibling. After pending for months, or perhaps even years, the form is approved. Congratulations! Now what comes next? There are several possible steps, depending on the circumstances.
1. What is form I-130?
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is used to demonstrate that an eligible relationship exists between you and the family member that you are sponsoring for permanent residency. The form requests basic biographical information about you, your spouse, your parents, contact information, work and address history.
Once the form is submitted, you will receive a receipt notice, usually about 2-4 weeks after submission. This will include a received date and a receipt number that you can use to track the status of your case. Case processing times vary based on the type of family relationship, your own immigration status and the service center, with a range of anywhere from 6 months to 10 years. Once form I-130 is approved, you will receive an approval notice.
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2. What’s next after I-130 approved?
The next step will be determined on factors such as the type of family relationship, what country your family member is born in and your own immigration status. The U.S. government places a cap on the number of Green Cards issued per year. This total number is further divided based on family relationship and country of origin.
Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens
An immediate relative is defined as your spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21 or parent. There is no cap on the number of Green Cards that can be issued for immediate family members of U.S. citizens. An I-485 can be filed at the same time (concurrently) as form I-130 if your family member is already in the U.S. and otherwise eligible for AOS. Adjustment of Status allows your family member to receive their Green Card while inside the U.S.
If they are outside the U.S., they will interview for their Green Card at a U.S. consulate once form I-130 is approved. This process is known as consular processing and will be explained in more detail below.
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If your family member has filed an AOS application concurrently, form I-130 and the AOS application will be processed together. And they will receive an interview notice to appear at a USCIS field office about 4 weeks before the scheduled interview. Some AOS applications for child and parent will be waived an interview, which means you will receive I-130 approval notice, I-485 approval notice and Green Card almost at the same time without an interview. If there is interview notice, you will need to accompany them to the interview. The USCIS officer conducting the interview will determine if they should receive a Green Card.
Other family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents
If you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for your son or daughter over the age of 21 or your sibling, they will not be able to file an AOS application concurrently with the I-130 petition because there will not yet be an immigrant visa available. This same situation is also frequently the case for any family member if you are a permanent resident. You will need to consult the visa bulletin to determine when the AOS application can be filed.
The table below is taken from the December 2023 Visa Bulletin. Adjustment of status applications can be filed if the I-130 receipt date is before the date that corresponds to that country and category.
Unmarried children of U.S. citizen
Spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of green card holder
Unmarried children 21 years of age or older of green card holder
Married children of U.S. citizen
Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizen
World except listed
Any other category will require a waiting period to either file an AOS application or submit documents for an immigrant visa appointment. As you can see, there is considerable variation on the waiting period. The unmarried son or daughter of a permanent resident born in China Mainland will have to wait about 8 years, but the sibling of a U.S. citizen born in Mexico will have to wait more than 20 years.
3. National Visa Center Processing (Consular Processing)
If your family member will not adjust their status, they will instead receive their Green Card through a U.S. consulate. USCIS will automatically send cases to the National Visa Center (NVC) after form I-130 is approved. The NVC now is processing all the cases through Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). It is an online portal; means you need to pay and submit documents online.
If you are a U.S. citizen and they are an immediate family member, they can start the immigrant visa application process almost as soon as form I-130 is approved. It will take about 2-6 weeks for the NVC to get the case setup, after which you will be notified that you can submit documents. If they are not an immediate family member or you are a permanent resident, you will need to consult the visa bulletin to estimate when that process can begin. Whatsoever, you will be notified by NVC when it is time to submit documents for a consular processing.
You will have to pay consular processing fees. It will take about 1-2 weeks for the NVC to process the payment, after which you can submit DS-260 application for immigration and the documents needed for consular processing. The required documents and evidence include demonstrating that you can financially support your family member if necessary, vital records such as birth certificate, marriage certificate if applicable, divorce paper if applicable, passport, police clearance certificate, military records, etc. Once documents are submitted, it will take about 1-3 months for the NVC to review them. If some of documents are missing or not complete, the NVC will notify you to re-submit. Apparently, resubmission will delay your case for sure.
4. Immigrant Visa Interview at a U.S. Consulate
If all the required documents are complete, the NVC will coordinate with the U.S. consulate to schedule an immigrant visa interview on condition that immigrant visa number is available.
The amount of time needed to schedule an immigrant visa interview can vary widely depending on the consulate. After your family member schedules an interview, they will need to prepare for it by getting a medical exam and making sure they have either original or certified copies of all documents that were previously submitted.
Your family member will be stamped an I-551 as a lawful permanent resident upon entry to the United States. The I-551 stamp on their passport is valid for 1 year so that they can enter and exit the USA during that period without a physical Green Card at hand. They will receive their physical Green Card within 4 months upon entry.
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