To petition for your parents (mother or father) to live in the United States as green card holders, you must be a U.S. citizen and at least 21 years old. (People who are themselves green card holders (permanent residents) may not petition to bring parents to live permanently in the United States.) To learn more about your eligibility to file for your parent, please see "Green Cards for Your Family: Sponsorship Categories."
The first step in petitioning for a parent is to file a “petition for alien relative” on Form I-130, available for free download from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This petition is necessary to prove to USCIS that you are a U.S. citizen and you really are the son or daughter of your parent, and that therefore your parent is potentially eligible for a green card.
If your foreign-born parent is living abroad, he or she will have to wait until the I-130 is approved before starting the green card application process through a U.S. consulate. This is referred to as consular processing. If your parent gained legal entry into the United States (through a visa or other means), then later decided to apply for a green card, he or she is eligible to file an I-485, Petition to Adjust Status, at the same time as the I-130 application. This will lead to immediate processing of the green card, without the need to wait for approval of the I-130. (But be sure your parent does not or did not use a tourist visa, visa waiver, or some other visa as a way of gaining U.S. entry with the actual goal of adjusting status. That would be a misuse of the visa, and could lead to the green card being denied based on visa fraud.)
Now, we will go through details of how to prepare and assemble the visa petition.
I-130 Form: Step-by-Step Instructions
There are several general rules to follow when filling out an I-130. It’s best to fill out the form on your computer, but if you’re writing answers by hand, use a pen with black ink.
If you find that there’s not enough space to give a full answer to a question, give the answer on a separate sheet of paper and attach it to the form. Make sure you indicate the question you’re answering (for example, “Part C., Item 7”), and date and sign every extra sheet.
If the form asks for some information that you can’t possibly have, don’t just leave the space blank. If your answer is really “none,” such as when the form asks for a middle name and you don’t have one, write “none” in the space provided. When the form asks a question that does not apply to you, it will usually be obvious to USCIS (based on other answers on the form) that it does not apply to you, but sometimes not. To be safe, you should put “N/A” (meaning “not applicable”) so USCIS doesn’t think you forgot to answer the question.
Page one of Form I-130 shows two columns. The left column, Part B, asks for information about the petitioner — that is, you, the U.S. citizen child. The right column, Part C, asks for information about your parent.
Question 1: Check the second box, Parent.
Question 2 - 3: These questions concern whether you’re related by adoption. You are allowed to petition for an adoptive parent if certain conditions are met. However, if you gained U.S. residence through adoptive parents, you are not allowed to petition for biological parents to receive green cards -- that relationship has been cut off for immigration law purposes. See an immigration lawyer with any questions.
Part B – Petitioner’s Information:
Question 1: Enter your last name (surname) in capital letters, but your first and middle name in small letters.
Questions 2–5: Self-explanatory.
Question 6: This refers to the petitioner’s most recent marital status. For example, if you are currently married but previously divorced, just check "married."
Question 7: There's no need to mention personal nicknames, but do include any first or last names by which you have been commonly known, and which therefore might have made it onto paperwork that you will, now or later, be submitting to the immigration decisionmakers. If you’re married and had a different last name before marriage (“maiden name”), include that.
Questions 8-9: Self-explanatory.
Question 10: A U.S. citizen can put N/A here, even if he or she was once a lawful permanent resident and had an Alien Registration Number (known as an A-Number).
Question 11 and 12: Add the names of any prior husbands and wives you may have had. Indicate the date the marriage ended, which would be the date of annulment, divorce (use the date of the final order signed by the judge), or death. (These questions are mostly relevant to people petitioning for spouses, but you must answer it nonetheless.)
Question 13: If you are a naturalized U.S. citizen (meaning you were not born a U.S. citizen or granted the status via parents, but became a citizen after an application and exam), this number can be found at the top right-hand side of your naturalization certificate. Do not use the number that appears after “USCIS Registration No.” The date and place issued are also shown on the certificate. For place of issuance, use the city and state where your oath ceremony took place, not the city and state of the USCIS field office where your application was filed, or your residence at the time. If you have a certificate of citizenship after gaining U.S. citizenship through your parents, the certificate number is on the top right-hand side (don’t use the “USCIS Registration No.”). The date of issuance is expressly stated on the certificate—don’t use the date you became a citizen. The place of issuance will be the only city and state on the certificate, which is your residence at the time the certificate was issued.
Question 14a and 14b: Write N/A here just to be safe.
Part C- Beneficiary’s Information:
Now you will be answering questions about your immigrating parent.
Question 1: Your parent's current name, with last name (surname) in capital letters.
Questions 2–5: Self-explanatory.
Question 6: This refers only to the beneficiary’s most recent marital status. If your parent is married to someone who is not also your biological parent, you can petition for that person only if he or she qualifies as a step-parent, meaning that the marriage took place before your 18th birthday.
Question 7-8: Self-explanatory.
Question 9: Your parent won’t have a Social Security number until he or she has lived in the United States and had a work permit, a visa allowing work, or U.S. residence. If your parent doesn’t have a Social Security number, just write “None.”
Question 10: The Alien Registration Number is an eight- or nine-digit number following a letter A that USCIS (or the formerly named INS) would have assigned to the immigrant if he or she had previously applied for permanent (or, in some cases, temporary) residence or been in deportation/removal proceedings. Of course, if that previous application was denied because the immigrant was inadmissible or lied on that application, call a lawyer before going any further.
Question 11 and 12: Self-explanatory.
Question 13: It is important to state whether your parent has ever been in the U.S., because certain types of negative immigration history may affect eligibility for a green card.
Question 14: Enter N/A if your parent is living outside the United States. If living inside the U.S., state what status he or she entered in. (If your parent illegally entered the U.S., consult an attorney immediately — your parent is likely inadmissible to the United States.) The “I-94” arrival/departure record number was created when your parent entered the United States or changed status within the United States. If your parent doesn’t have a little white I-94 card stapled in his or her passport (they stopped doing this in May 2013 for people arriving by plane or ship), or attached to an approval notice when he or she changed status, you can search for the I-94 number online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov. (Some persons, such as Canadian tourists driving across the border, do not have I-94s created for them.) The date your parent’s authorized stay expired or will expire is shown on the I-94 (or I-95 if he or she entered on a crewmember’s visa). Write “D/S”—for “duration of status”—if your parent was admitted on a student visa or exchange visitor visa with no specific end date.
Question 15: It is probably not necessary to provide this information if your parent is not in the United States, but to be safe you should provide it anyway.
Question 16: If the immigrant faces or has faced immigration court proceedings, contact an attorney before filing the Form I-130.
Question 17: This is the continuation of Part C, so all questions still refer to your parent. List all your parent’s children, including yourself and any children by previous relationships.
Question 18: Self-explanatory.
Question 19: If your parent is in the U.S. and no longer has an overseas address, write "N/A" here.
Question 20: If your parent’s native language uses a non-Roman script (for example, Russian, Chinese, or Arabic), type or write the name and address in that script (or find someone who knows how). Otherwise put “N/A.”
Question 21: This should be answered "N/A," as you are filing for your parent.
Question 22: This question should be answered only if your parent is already living in the U.S. and planning to apply for adjustment of status. (Put “N/A” and skip to Part D otherwise.) See a lawyer if unsure whether your parent qualifies to adjust status. As a backup, you will also need to list the city and country where your parent will go to apply for the visa, if it turns out he or she really isn’t eligible to adjust status. If you don’t know exactly where the consulate is, just list the capital city of the country in which your parent is living—USCIS will figure out which consulate the case will be sent to, based on where your parent lives and which of the State Department's consulates in that country actually handle immigrant visas. If the country listed doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the United States, USCIS will locate a consulate in a nearby country to handle the case.
Part D: Other Information (More questions for you):
Question 1: This refers to other petitions being submitted simultaneously (for example, if you are filing for your mother AND your father, which you would need to do using two separate forms I-130), so that USCIS can process the petitions together.
Question 2: This question is meant to uncover your history (if any) of petitioning other immigrants to come to the United States. For place of filing, you can use the city and state you were living in when you filed the petition. The “result” is whether your petition was approved or denied (not whether the green card application was approved or denied).
You must sign the end of the application under Part E. If assisted by an attorney, he or she will sign under Part F, filling in the needed information.
Required Documents for Submission With the I-130
You will need to gather the following documents along with the signed form and filing fees:
- Proof of your U.S. citizenship. Depending on how you became a citizen, you should make a copy of your birth certificate, passport, certificate of naturalization, Form FS-20 (Report of Birth Abroad of a United States Citizen), or certificate of citizenship.
- Proof that you are the son or daughter of your parent: This can most likely be covered by submitting a copy of your birth certificate listing your parent as your mother or father — and if it's a father, their marriage certificate, as well. For an adoptive parent, include the adoption certificate. For a step-parent, include both your birth certificate and the marriage certificate with your biological parent. See the USCIS instructions to Form I-130 for details.
- Fees. The fee for an I-130 visa petition is, as of September 2015, $420. However, these fees go up fairly regularly, so double-check this on the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/i-130 or by calling USCIS at 800-375-5283.
Where to File the I-130
After you, the U.S. citizen child, have prepared and assembled all the items listed above, make a photocopy for your personal records. Then send the whole visa petition to the USCIS “lockbox” indicated on the website instructions for Form I-130 -- or for Form I-485, if your immigrating parent is in the U.S. and eligible to adjust status.
The lockbox will process the fee payment, then forward the petition to a USCIS Service Center for further handling.
What Happens After Filing the I-130
A few weeks after sending in the visa petition, you should get a receipt notice from USCIS. The receipt notice will tell you to check the USCIS website for information on how long the application is likely to remain in processing. Look for the receipt number in the upper left-hand corner, which you will need in order to check the status of the case online at www.uscis.gov. There, you can also sign up for automatic email updates about the case.
If USCIS needs additional documentation to complete the application, it will send you a letter asking for it. Eventually USCIS will send an approval or a denial of the visa petition. If the petition is denied, USCIS will provide a denial notice stating a reason. It is usually best to start over and refile the application (rather than attempt an appeal), and remedy the reason USCIS stated for the denial.
If USCIS approves the application, it will send you a notice and then forward the case to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing, if your beneficiary parent is residing abroad. Your parent can expect to later receive communications from the NVC and/or consulate, and to attend a visa interview there. See "Consular Processing Procedures" for more information on this procedure.
If your immigrating parent is living in the U.S. and filed an I-485 application for adjustment of status concurrently, the application will continue to be processed. Your parent may be called in for an interview at a USCIS office. See "Adjustment of Status Procedures" for more information.