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.
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 there is often 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 authorities 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 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 on 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. Waits for people from Mexico and the Philippines tend to be longer than for other people.
Green cards are allotted based on the “priority date,” or date that USCIS received your petition for your relative. You can find the visa bulletin, with the most up-to-date priority date information found within the Visa Bulletin on the U.S. Department of State website.
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 a visa becomes available before coming to live with you. Approval of the I-130 confers no rights to enter or live in the United States.
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). A waiver may be available for your relative to excuse the unlawful presence. Having an approved I-130 alone, however, will not solve the problem of unlawful presence.
This article discusses the version of the form dated 02/27/2017, expiring 07/31/2018. As of December 2018 this was still the most current version of the form. Check the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) website for the most up-to-date version. USCIS will not accept old versions.
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 the last page, in Part 9: Additional Information. Make sure to write the page number, part number, and item number that you are supplementing. If you run out of room in Part 9, you can also attach an additional piece of paper to the end of the form. On every sheet of additional paper, indicate the item number that your answer refers to, and date and sign each sheet. (If you're filling in the form on a computer, you will notice that you can't type certain things in the boxes.)
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 question is none, like if you have no prior spouses, write "none."
Part 1: Relationship
Question 1: Check the fourth box, "Child."
Question 2: Check the box that best describes your relationship with your child and the circumstances of his or her birth.
Question 3: Leave blank.
Question 4: This asks whether you were adopted. Being adopted does not preclude you from sponsoring your own adult child.
Part 2. Information About You:
Part 2 asks for information about the petitioner—that is, you, the U.S. lawful permanent resident.
Question 1: You will find your Alien Registration Number (known as an A-Number) on your green card.
Question 2: If you have an online account with USCIS you can write the account number, but it is not required.
Question 3: Enter your Social Security number.
Questions 4a-c: Enter your last name (surname) in capital letters (LIKE THIS), but your first and middle name in lowercase letters.
Questions 5a-c: 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.
Questions 6-9: Self explanatory.
Questions 10a-i: Enter your mailing address. If you’re living in the U.S., you need only indicate your state. Province, postal code, and country should be filled in only if you are living abroad. 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 11: Mark whether your current address is the same as your physical address. If it’s not, make sure to include your physical address in the next question.
Questions 12a-15b: Write your physical address history for the last five years, starting with your current physical address and going back chronologically. Include the dates that you resided at each address location.
Question 16: List how many times you have been married, including your current marriage. If you’ve never been married, put “0.”
Question 17: This refers to your most recent marital status. For example, if you are currently married but previously divorced, simply check "married."
Question 18: Write the date of your current marriage; if you are not currently married, put N/A.
Questions 19a-d: "Place" of marriage means the city and state or country where you were married.
Questions 20a-23: Add the names of any current or prior husbands and wives. If currently married, list your current spouse first. For previous marriages, include the date the marriage ended. If your previous spouse died, the marriage ended on the date of death. If you got divorced, look for the date the judge signed the final divorce decree.
Questions 24-35: Information about your parents. For a parent who is no longer living, write “deceased” and the year of death in city/town/village of residence.
Question 36: Mark ‘lawful permanent resident’ for your status.
Questions 37-39: As a green card holder, you do not answer these questions.
Questions 40-41: 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.
Questions 42-49: List your employment history for the last five years, starting with your current job or most recent job. If you are have no job, put “unemployed” in question 42.
Part 3: Biographic Information
Questions 1-6: fill in your biographic information. In Question 1, select only one box. In Question 2, select all applicable boxes.
Part 4: Information About Beneficiary
Part 4 asks for information about your son or daughter, referred to as "the beneficiary."
Question 1: 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 he or she had applied for some kind of immigration benefit while in the U.S. or had been placed into removal (deportation) proceedings. See a lawyer to make sure this history doesn't affect your child's future immigration prospects.
Question 2: Your son or daughter would not have an online account number unless he or she already paid the USCIS immigrant fee, after someone else petitioned for them.
Question 3: 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 4: Provide your child's full, current name.
Questions 5a-c: You need not mention personal nicknames of your son or daughter, but should include any first or last names by which he or she has been commonly known, and which therefore might have made it onto paperwork that will, now or later, be submitted to U.S. immigration decision-makers.
Questions 6-9: Self explanatory.
Question 10: This question asks if anyone has ever filed a visa petition for your son or daughter (most likely also on Form I-130). Check ‘unknown’ only if your son or daughter does not know whether someone has filed a petition for him or her. Checking that someone else has filed for the petitioner (for example, a pending F4 sibling petition by his or her U.S. citizen sibling does not preclude you from filing an F2B petition. More than one petition can be on file for someone at once.(See Can More Than One U.S. Family Member Petition for the Same Immigrant?.)
Questions 11a-11h: List your son or daughter’s current address. If he or she lives somewhere without a street number, enter as much identifying information as you can (such as district or neighborhood).
Questions 12a-e: Put the address in the U.S. where the beneficiary intends to live, if it’s somewhere different than your address. If it’s the address you already listed on Question 11, you can leave it blank.
Questions 13a-f: Answer this only if your child is currently living in the United States. Leave blank if he or she is living in another country. 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.
Questions 17-24: These questions relate to your child’s marital history. Your child is not eligible for approval of this petition if currently married. However, if he or she is divorced, you can still file the I-130 petition. If your child is divorced, put the name of your child’s prior spouse and the date the marriage ended.
Questions 25-44: These questions ask about your son or daughter’s current spouse and children. Your child should not have a current spouse. However, if he or she has children under the age of 21, those children may be included in this visa category as "derivative beneficiaries’" so long as you do not become a U.S. citizen.
Question 45: 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 46: 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.)
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.
Questions 47-50: These questions deal with your son or daughter’s passport or travel document. Most beneficiaries will have a passport. However, some applicants, such as refugee or asylees, do not have passports and can be issued travel documents by the Department of State instead.
Questions 51-52: List where your son or daughter currently works. If he or she is currently unemployed, enter “unemployed” on Question 51a.
Questions 53-56: 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.
Questions 57-58: 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.
Questions 59-60: Leave blank, because you are not filing for your spouse.
Questions 61a-b: You should answer this 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 answer Question 62. If your son or daughter will not be adjusting status, put “N/A” and skip to Question 62.
Question 62: If your son or daughter will apply for a visa abroad, list the U.S. consulate nearest to where he or she currently lives. 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.
Part 5: Other Information (More questions for you, the petitioner):
Questions 1-5: These questions are 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 eventually approved or denied).
Questions 6-9: These refer 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.)
Part 6: Petitioner's Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature
These questions are aimed at finding out whether you understand English and therefore the contents of the petition you prepared, as well as whether you had help preparing it. Don't forget to sign your name in Question 6.
Part 7: Interpreter’s Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature
If assisted by an interpreter, he or she must sign under Part 7, filling in the needed information.
Part 8: Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of the Person Preparing this Petition, If Other Than the Petitioner
For your protection, it is best to have an attorney or accredited representative prepare your forms for you. If assisted by an attorney, he or she will sign under Part 8, filling in the needed information.
You will need to gather copies (not originals) of the following documents along with the signed forms and filing fees:
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.
A few weeks after sending in the visa 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. 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 (called a Request for Evidence or RFE) 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 send 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 denial. 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 2018, the adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens are waiting longer than 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.