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

It's possible to back out of sponsoring a family member for a green card, but you might need to act quickly.

By , Attorney Temple University School of Law
Updated 2/17/2023

If you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident thinking about petitioning for a foreign-born family member who wants to immigrate, you might be wondering what happens if you change your mind. What if something changes—perhaps your relationship with the person falls apart, or your income goes down and you can't afford to sponsor them—will you be able to back out?

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

Can You Back Out After Filing the I-130 Petition for Your Relative But Before USCIS Approves It?

The first step in petitioning for a family member to come to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident is to fill out Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), created by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If you have already sent in Form I-130 to USCIS but the case hasn't gone further, you can "withdraw" your petition. To do so, write a letter to the USCIS office that is processing your petition. Be aware that this might be a different office from where you first filed the I-130. The receipt notice you got from USCIS should give you the office address, and you could doublecheck with USCIS's Contact Center.

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 you filed (listed on the Form I-130 "receipt notice," Form I-797)
  4. a statement saying that you want to withdraw the petition, and
  5. assuming it doesn't reflect badly on your behavior and compliance with U.S. law, your reason for requesting that the petition be withdrawn.

A few weeks after mailing, you should receive a letter from USCIS acknowledging that you've withdrawn the petition.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 qualified attorney help you make sure that USCIS has "cancelled" the petition.

Can You Back Out After USCIS Has Approved the I-130 Petition for Your Relative?

Even after USCIS has approved the I-130 petition for your relative, you can still withdraw it if you act quickly, ideally before either:

In other words, you'll want to interrupt the process before your family member receives approval for a green card. Start by sending the same sort of letter described above to the USCIS office that approved your I-130 petition. Then also sent a a signed written statement to the National Visa Center (NVC), an intermediary between USCIS and overseas U.S. consulates, using its Public Inquiry Form.

Can You Back Out After the U.S. Has Approved Your Relative's Green Card Based on Your Petition?

If your relative already has either received an immigrant visa (from an overseas U.S. consulate) and traveled to the United States with it (thus becoming a U.S. lawful permanent resident upon entry) or received USCIS approval for a U.S. green card (after submitting an adjustment of status application), your options are more limited.

You can write a letter to USCIS requesting that the petition be rescinded. But the agency will probably not respond unless you are telling it about some sort of fraud. 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 might want to make sure that you weren't actually a willing, perhaps paid participant in this scam. (Penalties for marriage fraud can be severe.)

Proceed with caution and talk to an immigration attorney before taking action.

Should You Tell USCIS Why You Changed Your Mind About Petitioning Your Relative?

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 I-130 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 what if you withdraw your petition for reasons unrelated to fraud or misrepresentation? Let's say, for example, that your relationship has changed or you can't afford to sponsor your relative anymore. In such situations, you should feel free to ask USCIS to cancel the petition. What's more, you shouldn't have any problems if you decide to file another family-based immigration petition in the future.

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