upgrade an i-130

Request Upgrade Of I-130 Petition After Naturalization (Sample Letter)

Permanent residents (or green card holders) who have filed the I-130 petition for a foreign spouse and/or child can upgrade an I-130 petition after naturalization.

Why is this important?

Well, if the petitioner is not a U.S. citizen, their foreign spouse will need to wait for a limited number of visas to become available. This is what’s known as your “priority date”. This waiting period can add an additional 3-12 months to the time it takes to process a relative visa.

If you haven’t heard of this preference system before, it only applies to foreign family members of permanent residents or green card holders. U.S. citizens don’t need to wait for a visa to be available for their foreign family to get a green card.

So, let’s take a closer look at the preference category and why it’s important.

The Preference Category For Family Based Green Card

Below are the preference categories for family members who are not considered “Immediate Relatives” for the purpose of getting a green card.

  • Family first preference.
    • Unmarried children, any age, of a U.S. citizen.
      • If a child of a US citizen gets married, they drop to 3rd preference but keeps the same priority date.
  • Family second preference.
    • (2A) Spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years old) of green card holders; and
      • If a child of a green card holder turns 21, they fall into category 2B and must wait longer.
    • (2B) Unmarried sons and daughters of green card holders, who are at least 21 years old.
      • If a child of a green card holder marries, they are no longer eligible for a  green card using I-130 petition.
  • Family third preference.
    • Married children of a U.S. citizen, any age.
      • If a child of a US citizen divorces (for reasons other than getting a green card) they move up to 1st preference.
  • Family fourth preference.
    • Sisters and brothers of U.S. citizens, where the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old

As the spouse of a Lawful Permanent Resident, you’ll be placed in the 2nd preference category (2A). This means that there are a limited number of visas available to you and you’ll need to wait until your priority date becomes current.

Once there is a visa available, your case will be processed by the National Visa Center (NVC) and forwarded to the U.S. consulate to schedule the interview.

What Is A Priority And Where To Find It.

The priority date the the date when USCIS has accepted the I-130 petition filed by your U.S. spouse. This basically holds your place in line and USCIS will work through the petitions in the order that they are received.

priority date

Case Example:

Samuel is a green card holder who filed the I-130 petition for his Nigerian wife Emma. Samuel has already submitted his application for US citizenship which has been pending for several months. It finally came time for him to go to the oath ceremony and receive his naturalization certificate.

Now that he is a US citizen, Samuel prepared to send USCIS the letter requesting to upgrade his wife’s I-130 petition. After 2 weeks, NVC sent a letter letting Samuel know he can now pay the visa fee online and his wife would need to complete form DS-260.

As you can see, Samuel was aware of the option to upgrade the I-130 petition for his wife. Otherwise, they would be waiting up to several years for her priority date to become current.

Most green card holders know the benefits of naturalizing so once you are eligible to apply for N-400, do it!

How To Upgrade An I-130 After Naturalization

You can only upgrade an I-130 petition if you (the petitioner) have completed the naturalization process. You won’t be able to submit this request before you successfully complete naturalization, so don’t try to jump the gun.

It’s also important to know that USCIS will not automatically upgrade your I-130 as soon as your N-400 naturalization application is approved. You’d think that their system would figure this out and do it automatically but it doesn’t.

So, you need to notify USCIS of your immigration status change as soon as you have your naturalization certificate in hand.

Case Example:

Danny (who is a green card holder) filed I-130 petition for his spouse and child in Panama. Because they are considered 2nd preference category, they must waiting until their priority date becomes current before a visa will be available for them. Danny also submitted the N-400 to naturalize and become a US citizen almost a year ago.

Six months after submitting the I-130, Danny became a U.S. citizen making his spouse and child eligible for the immediate relative category. This change in status means that they no longer need to wait for their priority date but instead, can apply for a visa immediately.

Generally, the naturalization process can take about a year for the US petitioner. It’s likely that you would have already applied for the N-400 before you submit the I-130 petition.

If you any questions, contact USCIS at (800) 375-5283.

Step 1: Make a Copy of your Naturalization Certificate

This is probably the most important thing to do when upgrading an I-130 petition.

USCIS wants proof that you as the petitioner has now become a U.S. citizen. Without the naturalization certificate, your request will likely be denied.

You should only send a copy of the naturalization certificate and keep the original in a safe place. On the letter you’ll send to USCIS, you can include a statement that the original certificate is available should they want to see it.

Step 2: Include The Receipt Notice (NOA1 or Form I-797C)

You should have received this notice within 2 weeks of submitting the I-130 petition to USCIS. Make a copy of it and include it with this request to show that you have a pending I-130 for your relative.

If you forget to submit the NOA1, USCIS may still process your request but it can be delayed as they will need to check their system to see if there is a pending I-130 petition.

Step 3: Write a Letter to Notify USCIS

Now it’s time to actually request to upgrade the I-130 petition and let USCIS know you’ve become a U.S. citizen through naturalization. The sooner you do this, the faster your spouse and child can get their visas.

The letter should be brief but have all the information about your case they need to pull up the file.

Don’t worry, you won’t need to write one yourself because I’ve already created a Request to Upgrade I-130 Petition Sample Letter you can download and add your information to.

Yup, I try to make it easy for you whenever I can. 🙂

upgrade an i-130


Information to include to upgrade an I-130 petition.

  • Case Number: Your case number or receipt number can be found on the I-797 Notice of Action (NOA1) that you received after filing the I-130 petition.
  • Petitioner: The U.S. spouse who filed the I-130 petition.
  • Beneficiary: The foreign relative (in this case it’s the foreign spouse of the petitioner.

Step 4: Mail your Letter and Evidence to USCIS

Finally, once you have the letter and proof of U.S. citizenship, it’s time to mail to to USCIS. Use the below address and request tracking info and return receipt to confirm it’s delivered and signed for.

The address you send the request to upgrade an I-130 will depend on where you live and what you applied for. Take a look at the table below to figure out where you need to send yours.

Note: You should be sending it to the same filing center that you sent the I-130 petition to. You can find the address on the Notice of Action you received after submitting the petition.

 Naturalizing After I-130 Has Been Approved

If your naturalization case gets approved after you’ve received the 2nd notice of action (NOA2), you’ll need to send the upgrade request to the National Visa Center (NVC) instead of USCIS.

The NVC will be the department that processes your case when the I-130 petition has been approved by USCIS. It’s too late to send the request to USCIS since they no longer have the case.

Follow the upgrade an I-130 steps above and use the address below:

National Visa Center
31 Rochester Avenue, Suite 200
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2915

If you any questions, contact the NVC at (603) 334-0700.

Final Thoughts On Upgrading An I-130

As a green card holder, your spouse and child have to wait for a visa to be available before they can move to the US. But, as a U.S. citizen, your family no longer need to wait months or years for a visa to become available.

There is no limit on green cards available for family members of U.S. citizens. Being an American has some really nice perks when it comes to U.S. immigration.

But remember, USCIS will not automatically upgrade an I-130 when you naturalize. It’s ultimately up to you to notify them of the change in your immigration status.

This is why knowing your immigration options is so important because I’m betting that not many people know about upgrading an I-130 unless they do their research or consult with an immigration attorney.

Once USCIS is notified that you’ve naturalized to become a U.S. citizen, they will quickly have the National Visa Center forward your relative’s case to the U.S. consulate abroad to schedule an interview.

Ready to upgrade the I-130 petition? Did you find the sample letter helpful? Let me know in the comments below.



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