Form I-130 Processing TimeWhat Happens After Filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
1. Receipt of Petition
Approximately 2 to 4 Weeks After Filing
If you are helping a family member immigrate to the United States, you'll file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, to establish a qualifying relationship and reserve an immigrant visa (green card). If properly filed, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (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 4 weeks after filing. If you did not properly file your Form I-130, USCIS will send a Notice of Action to reject the petition. A rejection will significantly delay your request and overall I-130 processing time. Thus, it's important to prepare the immigrant visa petition package correctly and submit all required supporting documents. Learn how.
I-130 Rejection Statistics
Source: USCIS FY2022
2. Review of Petition
Approximately 4 to 12 Weeks After Filing
At this point, USCIS may begin reviewing your petition. 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. However, family preference categories generally have a wait time. Therefore, there is no urgency to process these petitions as an immigrant visa typically is not immediately available.
During the processing period, USCIS could deny your petition at any time if they've determined that you haven't established eligibility. Likewise, they may issue a Request for Evidence at any point if they need additional evidence to confirm your eligibility.
I-130 Historical Processing Times at USCIS
The graph below illustrates median processing times (in months) for the previous 10 fiscal years. There's been a fairly steady increase in the time it takes USCIS to process immigrant visa petitions. With more demanding requirements and an increasingly complex form, USCIS is struggling to keep I-130 processing times within their desired range.
3A. Approval for Immediate Relatives
Approximately 10 to 14 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 10 to 14 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 consular processing. 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 visas. All other types of relationships are considered family preference categories and generally take longer to approve and become current.
3B. Approval for Family Preference
Approximately 12 Months to Several Years After Filing
There is a numerical limit on the number of immigrant visas issued to family preference category immigrants each year. The length of the wait depends on the specific category and the date the petition was filed. This is called your priority date.
Therefore, it's very important to understand that even if USCIS approves Form I-130, you may not get an immigrant visa number immediately. In some categories, 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 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 the visa bulletin works >>
I-130 Backlog Report
The graph below shows the number of open cases at the end of each fiscal year. There is an unprecedented number of I-130 cases in the backlog. If unaddressed by USCIS, more backlog can contribute to longer processing times for future petitioners.
Green Card Wait Times by Category
Approximately 12 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.
Est Wait Time
|IR||Immediate Relative: Spouse, unmarried children (under 21 years old), and parents of U.S. citizens||No numerical limit||None1|
|F1||Family Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of U.S. citizens||23,400||7-9 years2|
|F2||Family Preference: Spouse, sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents||114,200|
|F2A: Spouse and minor children (under 21 years old)||1 year|
|F2B: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 or older)||6-8 years|
|F3||Family Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens||23,400||14-15 years2|
|F4||Family Preference: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens||65,000||15-16 years2|
1There is no quota for the immediate relative visa category, but it will take several months for USCIS to approve Form I-130 and transition to the embassy.
2Some countries like China, India, Mexico and Philippines may have significantly longer wait times.
An I-130 approval does not give the beneficiary lawful status in the United States. It clears the way to apply for permanent residence (green card). There are additional steps on the path to permanent residence. After USCIS approves Form I-130, see what's next.
Total I-130 Processing Time
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 10 to 14 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.
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