What If I Change My Mind About Petitioning for My Family Member to Immigrate?

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and thinking about petitioning for a family member who wants to immigrate, you may be wondering what happens if you change your mind. What if something changes--perhaps in your relationship with the foreign-born family member, or your financial ability to sponsor the person--and you no longer want to help your relative immigrate to the United States?

The answer depends on how far along you and your relative are in the immigration process, as detailed below.

After Filing the Visa Petition But Before USCIS Approves It

If you have already sent in Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) but the case hasn't gone further than this, you can “withdraw” your petition. To do so, write a letter to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office that is processing your petition. Be aware that this may be a different office from where you filed the I-130. The letter should include:

  1. your name and date of birth

  2. your relative's name and date of birth

  3. the “receipt number” for the petition that you filed (listed on the Form I-130 “receipt notice,” Form I-797), and

  4. a statement that you want to withdraw the petition.

A few weeks after mailing, you should receive a letter from USCIS acknowledging that you've withdrawn the petition. If you do not receive such an acknowledgment, consider having a well-qualified attorney help you make sure that USCIS has “cancelled” the petition.

After Approval of the Visa Petition

Even after USCIS has approved the visa petition for your relative, you can still withdraw it until and unless:

  • USCIS has already made a “final decision” on your relative's adjustment of status application (Form I-485), or

  • your relative has received an immigrant visa and has begun his or her journey to the United States.

Just send the same sort of letter described above to the USCIS office that approved your I-130 petition.

After Approval of the Green Card Based on Your Petition

If your relative already has a green card, your options are limited. You can write a letter to USCIS. But USCIS will probably not respond to your letter unless you are telling it about some sort of fraud. And if fraud is involved, USCIS will want to know when you found out about the fraud and whether you were involved in it.

For example, if you allege that the immigrant married you for a green card rather than for love, USCIS may want to make sure that you weren't actually a willing, perhaps paid participant in this scam.

So, proceed with caution and talk to an immigration attorney before taking action.

Should You Tell USCIS Why You Changed Your Mind?

Telling USCIS why you changed your mind can be risky for two reasons. First, there can be penalties – including jail time and fines – if you lied on the visa petition. Second, USCIS might use information that you share with it to deny a petition that you file in the future – for the same or a different relative.

But if you withdraw your petition for reasons unrelated to fraud or misrepresentation – for example, your relationship has changed or you can't afford to sponsor your relative anymore – feel free to ask USCIS to cancel the petition. You shouldn't have any problems if you decide to file another relative petition in the future.

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