clock of I-130 processing time

Form I-130 Processing Time

Form I-130 Processing Time

What Happens After Filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is the first step in obtaining family-based permanent residence (green card) in the United States. A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident may file Form I-130 to establish a qualifying relationship with the beneficiary (intending immigrant). Understandably, you want to know how long it takes throughout the Form I-130 processing time line and what happens in the different steps.

Although the steps that take place are fairly consistent, the I-130 processing time will vary significantly based on the type of relationship (between petitioner and beneficiary), USCIS case load, and your ability to properly file an accurately prepared I-130 petition. The following outline describes the basic steps of the I-130 time line for most people.

Form I-130 processing time line, what happens after filing

Receipt of Petition

APPROXIMATELY 2 TO 3 WEEKS AFTER FILING
If you properly file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, USCIS will initially respond by mailing you a receipt notice that confirms receipt of your petition. Formally known as Form I-797C, Notice of Action (see example below), the receipt notice typically arrives 2 to 3 weeks after filing. If you did not properly file your Form I-130, USCIS will send a Notice of Action to reject the petition or may send a Request for Evidence that requests additional items. Either will significantly delay your request. Thus, it is vital to prepare the I-130 correctly and submit all required supporting documents.
I-797c receipt notice during I-130 time line

Tip: Save this important letter. It contains your 10-digit receipt number. You can use this receipt number to check your case status. If you didn’t receive a Notice of Action, you can make a case inquiry.

Nearly 9% of Form I-130 petitions are rejected, and thousands more are denied. A poorly prepared petition can also delay the approval process and even create significant immigration problems. When you prepare your I-130 on CitizenPath, we provide simple, step-by-step instructions and alerts to help you avoid costly delays. We even guarantee USCIS will approve your petition. No credit card is required to try it.

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Review of Petition

APPROXIMATELY 2 TO 4 WEEKS AFTER FILING

At this point, USCIS may begin reviewing your petition. But it’s very helpful to understand the difference between immediate relatives and family preference categories as well as how that will affect your petition. Immigration law defines immediate relatives as the spouse, unmarried children (under age 21) and parents of a U.S. citizen. They are given priority. More accurately, there is no numerical limit on immigrant visas for immediate relatives. Therefore, the wait time is much shorter. USCIS will begin reviewing immediate relative petitions as soon as possible.


At this point, USCIS may begin reviewing your petition. But it’s very helpful to understand the difference between immediate relatives and family preference categories as well as how that will affect your petition. Immigration law defines immediate relatives as the spouse, unmarried children (under age 21) and parents of a U.S. citizen. They are given priority. More accurately, there is no numerical limit on immigrant visas for immediate relatives. Therefore, the wait time is much shorter. USCIS will begin reviewing immediate relative petitions as soon as possible.

form i-130 processing time, what to expect

Tip: If the petitioner or beneficiary change a mailing address during this time, don’t forget to inform USCIS. Call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 to change the address with your pending I-130 petition.

Approval for Immediate Relatives

APPROXIMATELY 5 TO 12 MONTHS AFTER FILING

Again, the number of immigrant visas (green cards) issued to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens is unlimited. Most Form I-130 petitions for immediate relatives are approved within a 5 to 9 month time frame, but they can take longer in some cases.

If you are in the United States and also filed an application to adjust status, USCIS will begin reviewing Form I-485 at this point. If you are outside the U.S., USCIS will forward your case to the National Visa Center (NVC) to begin coordinating the visa interview at a U.S. consular office in your country. The NVC will advise you when it's time to submit the visa application and other supporting documents.

Remember, immediate relatives are the spouses, unmarried children (under 21) and parents of U.S. citizens. This is a select group of immigrants with unlimited visa numbers. All other types of family relationships are considered family preference categories and generally will take longer to approve and become current.

Approval for Family Preference

APPROXIMATELY 6 MONTHS TO 20+ YEARS AFTER FILING

Immigrant visa numbers are not unlimited for people in the family preference category. There is a numerical limit on the visas issued each year. For limited categories, the availability of immigrant visa numbers depends on the date your petition was filed. This is called your priority date.

Therefore, it's very important to understand that even if USCIS approves an immigrant visa petition for you, you may not get an immigrant visa number immediately. For many people, it can take several years before the priority date is current.

USCIS may approve the petition in as little as 6 months for the F2A category (usually much longer for other categories), but you will still need to wait for a visa number to become available before the immigrant visa (green card) application can be submitted to the U.S. consulate. Using your priority date, you can check the status of the State Department's Visa Bulletin. Learn how to read the visa bulletin >>

Tip: If an immediate relative is in the United States through a lawful entry, it's generally easiest (and fastest) to file the green card application (Form I-485) at the same time as Form I-130. Learn more about adjustment of status.

I-130 Processing Time by Category

APPROXIMATELY 5 MONTHS TO 20 YEARS (DEPENDING ON CATEGORY)

Under current U.S. immigration law, Congress limits the number of family preference green cards that may be granted each year. Thus, the annual quota (numerical limit) on each category combined with limits for each country can create very significant waits for some categories. That generally translates into a wait time after filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.


Category
Eligibility
Annual Quota
Estimated Wait Time
IRImmediate Relative: Spouse, unmarried children (under 21 years old), and parents of U.S. citizensNo numerical limitNone1
F1Family Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of U.S. citizens23,4007 years2
F2Family Preference: Spouse, sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents114,200
F2A: Spouse and minor children (under 21 years old)None3
F2B: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 or older)5-6 years
F3Family Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens23,40012-13 years2
F4Family Preference: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens65,00013-14 years2

1There is no quota for the immediate relative visa category, but it may take 6 to 12 months for USCIS to approve the Form I-130.
2Some countries like China, India, Mexico and Philippines may have significantly longer wait times.
3This category is presently "current." However, it may take 6 to 12 months for USCIS to approve the Form I-130.


File Early

Within each category, USCIS processes the I-130 petition on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, it is important to get onto this wait list early by establishing a priority date. It is extremely important that the petitioner file a well-prepared Form I-130 package that is free of errors and inconsistencies.


After filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, the approval process can take anywhere from 5 to 12 months for immediate relatives and could take several years for family preference categories. This is an approximation. It may be shorter for some and longer for others. Don’t forget — you can check your case status online with your receipt number. The USCIS website also lists normal processing times for an I-130 petition. If you believe that your case is outside the normal I-130 processing time, you can make a case inquiry.

GET HELP WITH FORM I-130

The approval of your I-130 petition is just the beginning of a process that has several more steps. After USCIS approves the I-130 petition, see what's next.