If you previously filed an I-130 petition for your spouse and/or minor children when you were a permanent resident, you can upgrade the petition if you’ve now become a U.S. citizen. For the spouse and/or children of a lawful permanent resident, the wait for an immigrant visa (green card) can be lengthy. After the filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, spouse and children of a lawful permanent resident will wait several months to years. In some situations the wait can be very long. If you upgrade an I-130 petition after naturalization, your petition gets expedited because there is no numerical limit.
In many cases, one family member is able to obtain permanent resident status in the United States, but must leave behind a spouse and/or children in the home country. Upon arriving in the U.S. and becoming a permanent resident (green card holder), he or she may petition those family members to immigrate with Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. However, the wait time can take several years. If that permanent resident becomes a U.S. citizen, he or she may upgrade the I-130 petition and speed up the immigration process.
Advantage of Upgrading an I-130 Petition
As a U.S. citizen, your spouse and unmarried children (under age 21) have green cards immediately available to them. That’s because there is no numerical limit of immigrant visas available to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. So even if you already filed a petition for your relative(s), your status as a U.S. citizen will streamline the green card process.
When a permanent resident petitions a spouse and/or minor children, the wait to get an immigrant visa (green card) may take a few years. That’s because they fall into family preference categories. The spouse and unmarried children under age 21 (including step children) of a U.S. citizen are eligible immediately to get permanent residence. Their visa category will be upgraded from family second preference (F2) to immediate relative (IR).
How to Upgrade an I-130 Petition
When you naturalize as a U.S. citizen and have a pending Form I-130 for a relative, USCIS does not automatically upgrade your relative’s priority. You need to actively inform the immigration agencies of the change in immigration status.
Generally, it is not necessary to file a new petition or pay another fee. You can simply write a letter to the appropriate immigration agency. However, if you’ve petitioned a spouse with at least one child together on the same petition, you must file new petitions for the children. Skip below to Child’s I-130 Petition.
If your I-130 petition is pending (not yet approved)…
A pending I-130 petition is still being reviewed at the office where it was submitted. Therefore, you’ll need to look up the address of the service center where you mailed your initial Form I-130. You will need to send proof of your U.S. citizenship. Submit the following documents:
- Proof of U.S. citizenship
Examples of acceptable documents include a copy of the biodata page of your U.S. passport or a copy of your certificate of naturalization.
- Proof of a pending I-130 petition
Submit a copy of the Form I-797C, Notice of Action (receipt letter) that was mailed to you by USCIS that indicates your I-130 petition was accepted.
Mail the evidence with a cover letter to the same USCIS service center that you mailed your I-130 petition.
If you have additional questions that require support, contact USCIS at (800) 375-5283.
If your I-130 petition has already been approved…
An approved I-130 petition is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). You’ll need to direct your upgrade request to the NVC. You can do this by sending proof of your U.S. citizenship to the NVC. Scan and submit one of the following documents:
- U.S. Passport
Submit a copy of the biodata page of your U.S. passport.
- Certificate of Naturalization
Submit a copy of the Certificate of Naturalization you received after naturalizing as a citizen.
Save the document as a PDF or JPG file. Then, send it as an attachment to the NVC Public Inquiry Form.
If you have additional questions that require support, contact the National Visa Center at (603) 334-0700.
Sample Letter to Upgrade an I-130 Petition
It’s important to include a cover letter when mailing items to USCIS to upgrade an I-130 petition. The letter can be simple, but it needs to state clearly that you want to upgrade an I-130 petition and a summary of the evidence that’s enclosed.
It’s essential that you include the following pieces of information in your letter:
- Case Number: Your case number (also called receipt number) is located within the I-797C Notice of Action that you received after filing the I-130 petition.
- Name of Petitioner: You (the person who filed Form I-130) are the petitioner.
- Name of Beneficiary: Your relative (the person whom you are petitioning) is the beneficiary.
When you mail the letter, don’t forget to include the evidence (naturalization certificate or Notice of Action) as explained in the previous section.
What Happens Next
After you upgrade an I-130 petition, your case will move much more quickly. As mentioned previously, there is an unlimited number of visas available for the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. If your spouse and/or children are currently outside the United States awaiting immigration, the National Visa Center will inform the U.S. Embassy offices within your family’s country. Your family can proceed immediately to being interviewed for their immigrant visas.
If your family is already in the United States (and eligible to apply for a green card through adjustment of status), they can file individual Form I-485 applications immediately. In this scenario, the case could be upgraded by filing Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, with a cover letter, a copy of your naturalization certificate and proof of filing or approval of the I-130 petition.
Child’s I-130 Petition
If you upgrade an I-130 petition for your spouse, and you did not file separate petitions for your minor children when you were a permanent resident, you must do so now. That’s because a child cannot be a derivative on an immediate relative (IR) petition. The child must have his/her own I-130 petition. This is in contrast to the family second preference (F2) petition, which includes minor children as “derivatives” of the parent. This may be a little confusing. What’s important is that each immediate relative has an I-130 petition filed on his/her behalf.
Your spouse is covered in the initial I-130 petition that was filed. You do not need to file a new petition for your spouse. However, you must file separate visa petitions for each child, as long as they continue to be unmarried, under age 21 and are your natural children or legal stepchildren. This will delay your case slightly, but the approval process will be quick (a few months) given that they are immediate relatives. Your spouse and children will be able to immigrate together.
What if you have a child born abroad after you become a U.S. citizen? Your child may be a U.S. citizen at birth. You may apply for a U.S. passport on behalf of your child. The consular officer will determine whether your child is a U.S. citizen and can be granted a U.S. passport. If the officer determines your child is not a U.S. citizen, you will need to file another I-130 petition.
RECOMMENDED: Petition a Child for a Green Card
Adjustment of Status Option
If the beneficiary spouse and/or child are presently in the United States, they may be eligible to adjust status to permanent resident status. Adjustment of status is the process of applying for a green card from inside the United States. It is an alternative to consular processing for certain beneficiaries. When the immediate family members entered through a lawful entry, they can typically file Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, to become green card holders.
Even if you initially anticipated that the immigration would go through consular processing, this can be switched to adjustment of status. The beneficiaries simply file an adjustment of status application package. Include a short cover letter explaining that the petitioner has become a U.S. citizen and the beneficiary has opted to adjust status instead of applying through a U.S. embassy abroad.
The typical adjustment of status package includes the following forms:
- I-485, Application to Adjust Status
- I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency
- I-864, Affidavit of Support
- I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
- I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (optional)
- I-131, Application for Travel Document (optional)
Provided that you have already filed an I-130 petition for the beneficiary, you won’t have to file it again. Check to see the adjustment of status costs and forms for your situation.
CitizenPath provides simple, affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. Individuals, attorneys and non-profits use the service on desktop or mobile device to prepare immigration forms accurately, avoiding costly delays. CitizenPath allows users to try the service for free and provides a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve the application or petition. We provide support for the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864), Petition to Help a Relative Obtain a Green Card (Form I-130), Adjustment of Status Application (Form I-485), and several other USCIS forms.
Note to Reader: This post was originally published on May 1, 2018, and has been modified with improvements.