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Mar 19, 2024 | Nancy Chen

Family-Based Immigration Petition: How Long It Takes and More

Your family member who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can file Form I-130 with the USCIS.

If you are a family member of a citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States, you have the option of becoming a U.S. LPR if your family member files a petition for you. This article introduces you to how to file such a petition and what processes are usually involved.

As a newsroom devoted to covering immigrant communities, Documented has compiled a comprehensive guide for immigrant New Yorkers. This article is part of the guide.

How to file a family-based immigration petition

Your family member who is a U.S. citizen or LPR needs to follow the instructions and file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. In most cases, the petition should be filed in the country. Filing certain types of petitions outside the U.S. is also possible.

The USCIS says they generally approve your Form I-130 if you and your relatives can establish certain family relationships. You then need to wait for your petition to be approved before your case is transferred to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) for pre-processing. With the information you would receive from the Welcome Letter from NVC, you can log into their Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to manage your case.

Also Read: What Happens at the National Visa Center

Even if the USCIS approves your petition, you may not get an immigrant visa number immediately because there is a limit on the number of immigrant visas issued each year.

After receiving your Welcome Letter, you pay your processing fees, which include the immigrant visa application processing fee and the affidavit of support fee. Wait up to a week for NVC to process your fees, after which you can access Form DS-260, Application for Immigration Visa and Alien Registration.

Documents needed to file family-based immigration petition

The petitioner, i.e., your relative who sponsors you to come to the U.S., should complete Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. This means that they have the financial responsibility to support you here.

You can visit the Department of State’s website to see the financial evidence you need to submit. In short, they include IRS Tax Transcript, evidence of income, Social Security Administration earnings statement, proof of relationship, proof of domicile and proof of U.S. status.

After paying your fees and the CEAC status shows “PAID,” you and all the qualified family members immigrating to the U.S. should complete Form DS-260. Please print the confirmation page and bring it to your interview.

Also Read: How to Sponsor a U.S. Visa for a Family Member

As an applicant, you must obtain civil documents to be submitted. Civil documents include but are not limited to: birth certificates, court and prison records, marriage documentation, military records and photocopy of valid passport biographic data page. You can visit the DOS website for more specific guidelines on required documents. You need a certified English translation if the documents are not in English. You should also submit a statement signed by the translator. This is to prove that the translation is accurate and that the translator is competent to translate.

Scan and save all the necessary documents. Visit the DOS website to see the file requirements. Please do not mail any documents to NVC unless they specifically ask you to do so. Instead, submit all these documents online and bring them to your visa interview.

What can I expect before, during and after the interview?

The NVC will schedule a visa interview with you and notify you, your petitioner and your attorney (if applicable) about the time of the appointment. Before going to your interview, you should first book and complete a medical examination and get the required vaccinations from an embassy-approved doctor. Then, register for courier service and follow other pre-interview instructions. Make sure to get all the documentation ready for the interview. Otherwise, your application process will be delayed.

Also Read: Everything To Know About the Immigration Medical Exam

On the scheduled date and time, you should bring your appointment letter, passport, two photos of yourself, DS-260 confirmation page and all of the original or certified copies of supporting documents with translations if applicable. Bring your visa fees if you haven’t paid yet.

All individuals immigrating to the U.S. are required to attend the interview. If you cannot make the interview, please let the U.S. Embassy or Consulate know as soon as possible.

If your visa is approved, you will be notified about when and how your passport with the visa will be returned to you. Remember to pay USCIS after receiving your visa so that they will issue a Permanent Resident Card to you. The primary applicant should enter before or simultaneously with other family members with visas when coming to the U.S. If your visa is denied, you will receive a notice of why it is denied. Sometimes, it is because you haven’t provided all the supporting documents. Others may require further administrative processing.

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