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 is in the U.S. after having gained legal entry (through a visa or other means), and 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 there's an important caution here: 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. This discussion refers to the version of the form issued 2/13/2019, set to expire on 02/28/2021.
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, use Part 9 of the Form (for "Additional Information").
If the form asks for a piece of information that you can’t possibly have, you might answer either “none,” such as when the form asks for a middle name and you don’t have one. If the form asks a question that does not apply to you, this will usually be obvious to USCIS (based on other answers on the form), but sometimes not. To be safe, you can enter “N/A” (“not applicable”) so that USCIS doesn’t think you forgot to answer the question.
The form refers to you, the U.S. citizen child, as the "petitioner." Your parent is called the "beneficiary" or "your relative."
Part 1. Relationship
Question 1: Check the second box, "Parent."
Question 2: These questions are meant to verify the parent/child relationship. 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.
Question 3: You can leave this blank.
Part 2. Information About You
Question 1: A U.S. citizen 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).
Questions 2: You might not have a USCIS Online Account Number (from a past application). If you don't, just leave this blank.
Questions 3: The U.S. citizen's Social Security Number goes here.
Question 4: Enter your last name (surname) in 4.a, and first and middle names in 4.b and 4.c. If you are married, use your current married name even if it is different from your parents’ last name.
Question 5: 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 your birth certificate and other paperwork that you will, now or later, be submitting to the immigration decision-makers.
Questions 6-9: Self explanatory.
Question 10: The address at which you receive mail. If this changes, be sure to advise USCIS, because you're going to be receiving some important documents by mail.
Questions 11-15: If your mailing address is different from the address where you live, check "no," and fill in Questions 12 and 13. If your current address is less than five years old, fill in Questions 14 and 15.
Question 16: Enter the number of times you have been married, counting your current marriage (if any). (These questions are mostly important for petitioning spouses, but you, too, need to answer them.)
Question 17: This refers to your most recent marital status, so if you are married, for instance, check that box even if there was a previous divorce.
Questions 18-19: You can leave these blank if you’re unmarried. If married, enter the date and place that you and your spouse were legally married. If, for example, you had an official at city hall perform the actual wedding and then went to a church for a later ceremony, you would enter the date that occurred, and the city hall location.
Questions 20-23: Add names of any current or prior husbands and wives, for example where the relationship ended in annulment, divorce, or death.
Questions 24-35: Questions about your parents. Self-explanatory. If you really don't know the answer to something, say "Unknown."
Question 36: As a U.S. citizen, you should check the "U.S. citizen box, then fill out the following questions (through Question 39). If you were born in the U.S., you would not have a naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship. If you are a naturalized U.S. citizen (meaning not born a U.S. citizen or granted the status via parents, but you instead became a citizen after an application and exam), this number can be found at the top right-hand side of the 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 a parent, 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.
Questions 40-41: You can leave these blank, because you are a U.S. citizen, not a green card holder.
Questions 42-49: Your work history. Mostly self-explanatory. If you aren't working, leave the employer entries blank, but under "Occupation" (Question 44) enter whatever is appropriate, such as "student," "stay-at-home parent," "self-employed," "disabled," or "unemployed," and enter the applicable dates. If you've worked within the past five years, fill out the other "employer" entries.
Part 3. Biographic Information
These questions are still about you, the U.S. citizen filing the petition. They are largely self-explanatory.
Part 4. Information About Beneficiary
Question 1: 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 your parent(s) if they 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 2: It's entirely possible that your immigrating parent has no USCIS online account number, in which case you can leave this blank.
Question 3: The immigrant 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 the immigrant has no Social Security number, leave this blank.
Question 4: The immigrant's current name.
Question 5: This is for other names that might be found on the immigrant's paperwork, including maiden name.
Questions 6-9: Self explanatory.
Question 10: This question is partly because USCIS is on the lookout for visa fraud, and is asking about prior visa petitions so it can check the immigrant's files on this. But it’s not a problem if someone has filed a visa petition for the same parent (for instance, another child, or a U.S. citizen brother), and it’s still pending.
Questions 11-16: Self-explanatory.
Question 17: Count up the number of times your immigrating parent has been married, including the current marriage (if any).
Question 18: Enter your parent’s marital status as of right now.
Question 19: Date of your parent’s present marriage (if married.)
Question 20: Enter information about the place your parent was legally married.
Questions 21-24: If the parent for whom you are petitioning is married to someone other than your biological parent, you will need to be able to establish a separate parent-child relationship with that person in order to petition for him or her to immigrate at the same time. You can for petition a step-parent, meaning that the marriage took place before your 18th birthday.
Questions 25-44: Enter all your immigrating parent's children, including you. Providing a complete list of children is important, in case the immigrant wishes to petition for them at any time in the future. Any names that are left out will likely lead USCIS to deny later petitions of this sort.
Question 45: Answer "yes" even if the immigrant is not currently in the U.S., but has been here in the past. Certain types of negative immigration history may affect eligibility for a green card (or indeed any type of admission to the U.S.), so see an attorney if, for example, the immigrant overstayed a past visa or was placed in removal (deportation) proceedings.
Question 46.a: If your parent is living inside the U.S., state how he or she arrived, for example as a visitor, H-1B worker, or on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). But if the arrival was "without inspection," consult an attorney immediately; the immigrant's accrual of unlawful presence in the U.S. is likely to make him or her inadmissible (ineligible for a green card) unless he or she qualifies for a waiver.
Question 46.b: The I-94 number was formerly found on a card that entrants in the U.S. received from the border/port officials and was placed in their passport. Now, however, it's an online document, and you can get the immigrant's record and number from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website. 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 46.c: Enter the date the immigrant entered the United States.
Question 46.d: This is NOT the date the immigrant's visa expired or expires. You must check the I-94 for the date when his or her right to remain in the U.S. legally ran out. "D/S" is usually only granted to students.
Questions 47-50: Enter the number that the immigrant's home country put in his or her passport. Or, if the immigrant used some other type of travel document (such as parole or a refugee travel document) enter that number in Question 48.
Questions 51-52: State the immigrant's employer’s name, address, and other information.
Question 53-56: If the immigrant has been placed in Immigration Court proceedings, see a lawyer before submitting this form, particularly if the case was lost. It's possible the immigrant is not eligible to file for a green card at this time.
Questions 57-58: This needs to be filled in only for applicants from countries such as Russia, China, Korea, Japan, various Arab nations, or others that do not use Western "ABC" letters for their written language.
Questions 59-60: Leave blank; this is only for petitioners filing for spouses.
Question 61: This question is only for immigrants who are already living in the U.S. and planning to apply for a green card using the procedure known as adjustment of status. See a lawyer if unsure whether the immigrant qualifies to use this application procedure. Not everyone does.
Question 62: If your immigrating parent isn't in the U.S., or is in the U.S. but can't use the procedure known as "adjustment of status," you will need to list the consulate in the immigrant's home country. USCIS will make the final decision on which consulate your case will be sent to, based on where the immigrant 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 5. Other Information
Now we’re back to questions related to the U.S. citizen petitioning child.
Questions 1-5: These questions addresses two potential issues. First, USCIS wants to know whether you already tried to petition for this immigrant before, but had the petition denied. Second, USCIS wants to know if you have petitioned for other immigrants to come to the United States. As you can probably imagine, if you have a history of providing false information on immigration applications, USCIS will look very carefully at this petition.
For place of filing, use the city and state you were living in when you filed the petition. The “result” is whether your I-130 petition was approved or denied (not whether the green card application was approved or denied).
Questions 6-9: These refer to other petitions being submitted simultaneously, (such as for your other parent), mainly so that USCIS can process the petitions together and schedule their interviews on the same date.
Part 6. Petitioner's Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature
The U.S. citizen petitioning for a parent must affirm that he or she understands and swears to the information in this petition, provide contact information, and sign here.
Part 7. Interpreter's Contact Information, Certification, and Signature
If you had help from a foreign-language interpreter in filling out the Form I-130, that person needs to fill in this section (or sign it after you've filled it in).
Part 8. Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of Person Preparing This Petition if Other Than the Petitioner
If filling out this application unassisted, write N/A here. A little typing assistance or advice from a friend doesn’t count; the only people who need to complete this line are lawyers or agencies who fill out these forms on others’ behalf.
Part 9. Additional Information
This provides added space, in case you need it to finish your answers to any of the questions.
You will need to gather the following documents along with the signed form and filing fees:
After you, the U.S. citizen child, have prepared and assembled all the items listed above, make a photocopy for your personal records. You then have a choice: you can file it online, or send the whole petition packet 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.
If you send it to a lockbox, its job is to process the fee payment, then forward the petition to a USCIS Service Center for further handling.
A few weeks after sending in the petition, you should get a receipt notice from USCIS. This 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 petition. If the petition is denied, USCIS will provide a denial notice stating a reason. It's 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.
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.