Filling Out and Submitting Form I-130 for Sibling of a U.S. Citizen

How to begin the process of petitioning a brother or sister for U.S. residence

If you are a U.S. citizen, and at least 21 years old, you can petition for your siblings (brothers or sisters) to live in the United States as green card holders (lawful permanent residents). Siblings include children from at least one common parent. You do not necessarily need to be related to your sibling by blood.

The legal definition of sibling includes step-brothers and step-sisters (so long as you were both 18 or under when your parents married, and your parents remained married) and adopted siblings (so long as your sibling – and if applicable, you -- were both under age 16 when adopted and meet other legal conditions for a valid adoption).

Unfortunately, your brother or sister will not receive the right to immigrate to the U.S. immediately, as described in "Green Cards for Your Family: Sponsorship Rules.” Due to annual limits on green cards given out in the relevant category, known as “Fourth Preference,” siblings wait a long time for the right to apply for U.S. permanent residence — the people applying for sibling visas in September 2015 waited over 12 years, and in many instances (depending on the country they are from) longer.

(Note: Green card holders may not themselves petition to bring siblings to live permanently in the United States. To make sure that you become a U.S. citizen as soon as possible, see the articles under “How to Become a U.S. Citizen.”)

 The first step in getting permanent residence in the U.S. for your sibling is to file a visa petition on Form I-130, available for free download from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This article describes how to fill out and submit that form.

 If your foreign-born sibling is living abroad, he or she will have to wait until the I-130 is approved and his or her “priority date” becomes current before starting the green card application. To understand priority dates, see “How Long Is the Wait for Your Priority Date to Become Current?

 Approval of the I-130 confers absolutely no rights to live in the U.S. – in fact, living here 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." See an immigration attorney immediately if your sibling is living in the U.S. unlawfully.

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. The right column, Part C, asks for information about your sibling.

Part A

Question 1: Check the third box, Brother/Sister.

Question 2 - 3: These questions concern whether you and your brother or sister are related by adoption. Again, you are allowed to petition for an adoptive sibling if certain conditions are met, most importantly that your sibling was adopted by your parent(s) before turning 16 years of age. 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 your 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: As a U.S. citizen, you can put N/A here, even if you were 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 by virtue of your citizen parents, but became a citizen after an application and exam), the requested "certificate 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 brother or sister.

Question 1: Your sibling’s current name, with last name (surname) in capital letters.

Questions 2-5: Self-explanatory.

Question 6: This refers only to your sibling’s most recent marital status. If your sibling is married, your sibling’s spouse can also come to the U.S., as a “derivative.”

Question 7-8: Self-explanatory.

Question 9: Your sibling will not 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 sibling doesn’t have a Social Security number, write “None” here.

Question 10: The Alien Registration Number is an eight- or nine-digit number following a letter A that USCIS (formerly called INS) assigns to an immigrant based on an application for permanent (or, in some cases, temporary) residence or if the person is placed in deportation/removal proceedings. Of course, if your sibling had such a previous application denied because he or she was inadmissible or lied on the application, or your sibling has been ordered removed from the U.S., call a lawyer before going any further.

Question 11 and 12: Self-explanatory.

Question 13: It is important to state whether your sibling has 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 sibling is living outside the United States. If living inside the U.S., state what status he or she entered in. (If your sibling illegally entered the U.S., consult an attorney immediately — your sibling is likely inadmissible to the United States.) The “I-94” arrival/departure record number was created when your sibling entered the United States or changed status within the United States. If your sibling 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 sibling’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 sibling 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 sibling is not in the United States, but to be safe you should provide it anyway.

Question 16: If your sibling is or has been in immigration court (removal or deportation) proceedings, 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 your sibling. List all your sibling’s children, including any children by previous relationships. The children may be eligible to come to the U.S. and receive green cards as well, provided they remain unmarried and under the age of 21 until your sibling’s priority date is current.

Question 18: Self-explanatory.

Question 19: If your sibling is in the U.S. and no longer has an overseas address, write "N/A" here.

Question 20: If your sibling’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 sibling.

Question 22: This question should be answered only if your sibling is already living in the U.S. and eligible to apply for adjustment of status. It’s extremely unlikely that your sibling would qualify to adjust status, because a visa must be immediately available to do so. As discussed above, there is currently a very long wait for sibling visas to become available. Therefore, for question 22 most people will put “N/A” and skip to Part D. There is no need to answer the question about where your sibling will apply for a visa abroad — the National Visa Center will figure that out.

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 brother AND your sister, 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).

Required Documents for Submission With the I-130

You will need to gather the following documents along with the signed forms 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 of your sibling relationship: In most cases of blood-related siblings, all that you need to provide here are a copy of your and your sibling’s birth certificates listing your common parent(s). If you have the same father but different mothers, you’ll also need to provide certificates showing the various marriages’ termination and formation. For a step-sibling, you’ll need to provide a marriage certificate showing that the relevant marriage took place before both of your 18th birthdays. For an adopted sibling, include the adoption certificate(s). 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 the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov/i-130 or by calling USCIS at 800-375-5283 for the latest amount.

Where to File the Form I-130 Petition

After you, the U.S. citizen 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 website instructions for Form I-130.

 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 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. This may take a long time, but don’t worry – it won’t ultimately affect the case. The “priority date” establishing your sibling’s place on the (long) 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 remedy the reason USCIS stated for the denial. But don’t just re-file if you don’t understand why the first one was denied – 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 sibling can expect to later receive communications from the NVC and/or consulate, and after the priority date has become current, to attend a visa interview there. See "Consular Processing Procedures" for more information on this procedure.

If your immigrating sibling is living in the U.S. and (by some miracle) is eligible to adjust status here, he or she can file an I-485 application for adjustment of status with the I-130, or later. Your sibling can expect to be called in for an interview at a USCIS office. See "Adjustment of Status Procedures" for more information.

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