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The processing time of Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, varies depending on the relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary (immediate relative or family preference category). Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (parents, spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) can obtain approval in approximately 5-9 months. As for the other categories it can take from 6 months to several years to receive an approval on Form I-130

The basic steps of Form I-130 processing include:

Receipt of the application (2-3 weeks after filing). USCIS will mail you a receipt notice known as Form I-797C, Notice of Action, confirming the receipt of your duly filed application, which you are recommended to save. If there are any mistakes/omissions in the submitted form, you will receive a Notice of Action or a Request for Evidence and that will significantly delay the whole process.

Review of the application (2-4 weeks after filing). Immediate relatives have priority over family preference categories. During this stage, if the petitioner or the beneficiary change a mailing address it is obligatory to inform USCIS accordingly.

Approval for immediate relatives (5-9 months after filing).The number of immigrant visas issued to immediate relatives, namely to the spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age and parents of U.S. citizens, is unlimited. So most Form I-130 petitions are usually approved within a 5-9 month period. Also, if you are in the USA and have filed an application to adjust status, USCIS will begin reviewing your Form I-485 at this stage.

Approval for family preference categories (6 months – 6 years after filing). Each year, a limited number of immigrant visas are available for each preference category. This backlog creates the wait. The visas are processed in the order in which the petitions are properly filed and accepted by USCIS. To be considered properly filed, a petition must be fully completed and signed, and the filing fee must be paid. Also, the availability of immigrant visa numbers depends on the date your petition was filed, the so-called priority date, so it is advisable to file as soon as possible. Even when USCIS approves your immigrant visa petition, you may not receive an immigrant visa number at once, it can take several years.

You can determine the estimated waiting time by visiting the USCIS official website, where normal processing times are listed. Or you can also check your case status online (egov.uscis.gov/processing-times) using your receipt number from the Form I-797C, Notice of Action. To check the place in line, it is also possible to monitor the U.S. Department of State’s visa bulletin (travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-bulletin.html).

Please note that an approved I-130 petition does not give the beneficiary automatic lawful permanent resident status or permission to immediately immigrate to the USA. Receiving approval of Form I-130 is the first step in obtaining family-based permanent residence in the USA. There are several more steps to finally obtain a green card, which depend on numerous factors, including whether the immigrant is adjusting status inside the USA or through consular processing at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy. Thus, after getting Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, approved you may need to submit Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, together with several other USCIS forms or you may need to submit DS-260 Visa Application.

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