If you are a U.S. green card holder (permanent resident), you may be able to petition for your foreign-born children who are age 21 or older (referred to as “sons or daughters” by U.S. immigration law) to immigrate to the U.S. and receive lawful permanent residence (green cards).
To start this process, you will need to prepare and submit a visa petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Form I-130, with supporting documents and a fee. If you are petitioning for more than one son or daughter, you need to fill out an I-130 for each of them. This article describes how to fill out and submit that form.
Note that filing Form I-130 only starts the immigration process for a U.S. green card holder’s son or daughter. Such a person will be considered a “second preference relative,” in category F2B of the family-based visa preference system (unlike, for instance, the spouse or unmarried child under 21 of a U.S. citizen, who is an “immediate relative” and not part of the family-based visa preference system). Preference relatives face annual quotas on the number of visas (green cards) given out, and thus may have to wait years after approval of their I-130 for a visa to become available and to continue with their immigrant visa or green card application.
Who Qualifies as a “Son or Daughter?”
Sons or daughters for whom a U.S. green card holder can petition using USCIS Form I-130 include those who once met the immigration law’s definition of a “child” but who have since turned 21—yet remain unmarried.
The definition of “child” for purposes of a visa includes:
What if you started the immigration process for your child before he or she turned 21, so that your child was in category "F2A," for children under 21—but your child turned 21 before getting the green card or immigrant visa? There's good news and bad news. The bad news is that your son or daughter will go from F2A to F2B, and currently there is a much longer wait for a permanent resident opening (immigrant visa or green card) in the F2B category than in the F2A category. The good news is that you don't have to start the process all over again—the immigration agency will automatically convert your son or daughter's category from F2A to F2B. The better news—for some people—is that the immigration law might pretend that your son or daughter is still under 21, and still in F2A. You are allowed to subtract from your child’s true age the number of days that the I-130 was awaiting a decision from USCIS, as described in How the CSPA Helps Family-Based Preference Relatives and Derivative Beneficiaries.
How Long Will Your Son or Daughter’s Immigration Process Take?
How soon your son or daughter (married or over 21) will be able to immigrate after you submit the I-130 depends on how much demand there is in category F2B by people from his or her country. Category F2B allows only around 26,000 people to become permanent residents each year worldwide, and there is also a limit of the number of new residents from each country. So your adult son or daughter will likely have to wait many years before an immigrant visa or green card becomes available. Currently, waits for people from Mexico and the Philippines are longer than for other people.
To better understand this preference system of green-card allotment, see How Long Is the Wait for Your Priority Date to Become Current?
Also realize that, if your son or daughter is living abroad, he or she will have to wait until the I-130 is approved and his or her visa becomes available before coming to live with you. Approval of the I-130 confers no rights whatsoever to enter or live in the United States.
Issues If the Son or Daughter Is Living in the U.S. Unlawfully
Living in the U.S. without authorization can lead to the person accruing “unlawful presence,” and thus becoming inadmissible and possibly ineligible for a green card, as described in Consequences of Unlawful Presence in the U.S.—Three– and Ten-Year Time Bars and The Permanent Bar to Immigration for Certain Repeat Violators.
See an immigration attorney immediately if your son or daughter is living in the U.S. unlawfully (after an illegal entry or the expiration of a visa or other authorized stay). Again, having an approved I-130 will not solve this by itself.
This article discusses the version of the form dated 3/23/2015, expiring 12/31/2015. Although the expiration date of the form is in the past, it is still the most current version of the form and the one you should use.
It's best to fill out the form on a computer. If you can't do that, write your answers using black ink.
If you can't fit an answer in the box or space provided, you will need to write or type your answer on another piece of paper and attach to the end of the form. (If you're filling in the form on a computer, you will notice that you can't type certain things in the boxes.) On every sheet of additional paper, indicate the item number that your answer refers to, and date and sign each sheet.
If one of the questions doesn't apply to you (most likely one of the questions that begins with "If...") type or write "N/A." (That stands for "Not Applicable.") If the answer to a questions is none, like if you have no prior spouses, write "none."
Question 1: Check the fourth box, Child.
Question 2 - 3: These questions concern whether you and your child are related by adoption. Petitioning for an adopted child is an entirely different process. See an immigration lawyer with any questions.
Part B. Information About You:
Part B asks for information about the petitioner—that is, you, the U.S. lawful permanent resident.
Question 1: Enter your last name (surname) in capital letters (LIKE THIS), but your first and middle name in small letters.
Question 2: Where it says "State/Country," you only need to indicate your state. Writing "United States" is not necessary. If you're not living in the U.S., you need to see a lawyer about your own immigration status, because you may have lost it, and your I-130 would not be approved.
Question 6: This refers to your most recent marital status. For example, if you are currently married but previously divorced, simply check "married."
Question 7: You need not mention personal nicknames, but should 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 decision-makers.
Question 8: "Place" of marriage means the city and state or country where you were married.
Question 10: You will find your Alien Registration Number (known as an A-Number) on your green card.
Question 11 and 12: Add the names of any prior husbands and wives, for example where the relationship ended in annulment, divorce, or death. Indicate the date the marriage ended. If your previous spouse died, the marriage ended on the date your spouse died. If you got divorced, look for the date the judge signed the final divorce decree.
Question 13: As a green card holder, you do not answer this question.
Question 14: Permanent residents will find the date of admission and class of admission on their green card or immigrant visa. “Place of admission” is where you either entered the U.S. with your immigrant visa for the first time, or (if you adjusted status), the location of the USCIS office that approved your green card.
Part C. Information About Your Relative:
Part C asks for information about your son or daughter, referred to as "the beneficiary," or "your relative."
Question 9: Your son or daughter won’t have a Social Security number unless he or she has lived in the U.S. and had a work permit, a visa allowing work, or U.S. residence. If your child doesn’t have a Social Security number, write "none" here.
Question 10: Your son or daughter would not have an alien registration number unless he or she was previously in the U.S., and even then only if your child had applied for some kind of immigration benefit while in the U.S. or had been placed into removal (deportation) proceedings.
Question 13: It is important to state whether the child has been in the U.S., because certain types of negative immigration history may affect eligibility for permanent residence (or indeed any other application for U.S. entry).
Question 14: Enter N/A if your child is living outside the United States. If living inside the U.S., state what visa status he or she legally entered in. (For example, B-2 visitor or F-1 student.) If your child illegally entered the U.S., or overstayed a visa, consult an attorney immediately—the child is likely inadmissible to the United States, which will make it impossible to get a green card anytime soon unless a narrow exception applies.
The “I-94” arrival/departure record number was created when your son or daughter entered the U.S. or changed status within the United States. If your son or daughter 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. (Some persons, such as Canadian tourists driving across the border, do not have I-94s created for them.) The date your son's or daughter'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 son or daughter was admitted on a student visa or exchange visitor visa with no specific end date.
Question 15: If your son or daughter is currently in the U.S. on a legal work visa or work permit, state the employer’s name and address. It is probably not necessary to provide this information if your son or daughter is not in the U.S., but to be safe you should provide it anyway.
Question 16: If your son or daughter is or has been in immigration court (removal or deportation) proceedings in the U.S., be sure to contact an attorney before filing Form I-130.
Question 17: This is the continuation of Part C, so all questions still refer to the immigrant beneficiary son or daughter. List your son or daughter's spouse and all children (if any); they may immigrate at the same time as your son or daughter, without you needing to file separate I-130 petitions for them.
Question 19: If your son or daughted is in the U.S. and no longer has an overseas address, write "none" here.
Question 20: If your son's or daughter's native language uses a non-Roman script (for example, Russian, Chinese, or Arabic), write the name and address in that script.
Question 21: This should be answered "N/A."
Question 22: You should answer this question only if your son or daughter is already living in the U.S. and plans to apply for adjustment of status. See a lawyer if you're unsure whether your son or daughter qualifies to use this application procedure—it’s unlikely unless he or she has a long-term valid visa.
As a backup, you will also need to list the U.S. consulate nearest to where your son or daughter would be living if he or she would go back to the home country. If you don't know or can't decide, don't worry—just write the capital of the home country, and USCIS will figure out which consulate the case will be sent to. If the country listed doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the U.S., USCIS will locate one in a nearby country to handle the case.
If your son or daughter will not be adjusting status, put “N/A” and skip to Part D. Do not answer the question about where your son or daughter will apply for a visa abroad—the National Visa Center will figure that out and tell you.
Part D: Other Information (More questions for you, the petitioner):
Question 1: This refers to other I-130 petitions you are filing at the same time as the one for your son or daughter (for example, a petition you are filing for your spouse, or another son or daughter), so that USCIS can process these visa petitions together. (Their applications could be separated later, however, based on different priorities within the visa preference system.)
Question 2: This question is meant to uncover the U.S. petitioner’s history (if any) of petitioning other immigrants to come to the U.S., just in case you’ve shown any patterns of suspicious use of the immigration laws. 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 or visa 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 copies (not originals) of the following documents along with the signed forms and filing fees:
Where to File the Form I-130 Petition
After you, the U.S. petitioner, have prepared and assembled all the forms and other items listed above, make a photocopy for your personal records. Then send the whole visa petition to the USCIS “lockbox” indicated on the USCIS I-130 filing addresses page.
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 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. There, you can also sign up for automatic email updates about the case. You can check the status of your particular case online as well.
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. This may take a long time, but don’t worry—it will not affect the speed of your son or daughter’s case. The “priority date” establishing your son or daughter’s place on the waiting list for a visa has already been set as of the date USCIS received the I-130 petition.
If USCIS denies the petition, it will provide a denial notice stating why. Your best bet is most likely to start over and refile the application (rather than attempt an appeal), and fix the reason USCIS gave for denying the I-130. But don’t just refile it if you don’t understand why the first one got denied—instead, get an attorney’s help.
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. Your son or daughter can expect to later receive communications from the NVC and/or consulate, telling him or her when it's time to apply for the visa and go for the interview. See Consular Processing Procedures for more information.
If your immigrating son or daughter is living in the U.S. and is eligible to adjust status here, the next step (when USCIS is ready to accept the application—see the USCIS web page on this subject to learn how to find out when) is to file an I-485 application for adjustment of status. Your son or daughter, and perhaps you as well, may be called in for an interview at a USCIS office. See Adjustment of Status Procedures for more information.
You might think that you could speed up your son or daughter’s case by becoming a U.S. citizen (in which case he or she would automatically move to the F1, family first preference category), but as of early 2016, the adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens are waiting longer than the sons and daughters of permanent residents! If you do become a citizen after your I-130 is filed, you can ask USCIS to keep your son or daughter in the F2B category,