What Happens After Filing Form I-130? You May Be Surprised.
Petitioning an immediate relative (such as a spouse, child, or parent) can be a long and difficult process. You may feel as if the immigration process is a complete mystery. So, the question is, what happens after filing form I-130?
There are several steps that happen after you send off your I-130 petition to USCIS.
As someone who has filed a petition with USCIS and waited outside the US for months, I get it! The waiting period is so difficult and all you want is more information on what is going on with your case.
Unfortunately, USCIS doesn’t give you a call weekly to update you. Checking your case status only gives you a general status that doesn’t often change.
You are left trying to search for other CR1 visa experiences to get an idea of what to expect.
Robert is a US citizen that met his Filipino wife Emilee, a year ago. After dating for 9 months, they decided to get married and file the spouse visa for her. They completed all the forms and included lots of evidence of their marriage and relationship.
After writing a check for the filing fee and putting together the entire I-130 packet, they mailed it to USCIS lockbox. After 8 days, Robert received the first notice of action NOA1. This letter stated that USCIS has accepted the petition and what the next steps were going to be.
What Happens After Filing Form I-130?
After submitting the I-130 to USCIS, your case will take several months to process.
Before your case can be adjudicated, there are several reasons why it could be rejected or delayed.
Hopefully, you’ve sent everything that was required for your application but if you didn’t, you can expect a request for evidence (RFE). An RFE is a letter from USCIS asking for more information or evidence.
Additionally, if you forget to sign the I-130 form, USCIS will reject your petition and return it to you. This is because if there is no signature, then it’s not a valid petition.
Finally, if you submit the wrong payment amount, the petition will be rejected and returned to you. USCIS only accepts exact payment for the filing fee and not a penny more (or less).
You Will Receive Your First Notice Of Action Letter
If all goes well after submitting your I-130 petition to USCIS, you will receive the first notice of action within a week.
This can be very exciting! 😝 It’s almost like you are getting an adrenaline rush so quickly after submitting your petition. But, I will warn you that this doesn’t last long.
Soon you will be in a “communication blackhole” where you won’t hear from USCIS for several months. This is the time where it can get really frustrating and I recommend that you connect with others who are applying for the same visa to provide moral support.
The first Notice of Action (NOA1) will include your name, your spouses name, your case number and additional information about USCIS processing.
Make sure to keep this Notice of Action as you may need it later on!
Next, you can check your case status on USCIS.gov using the case number on the letter. The case status will give you a generic status code and description on what is going on with your case.
Like most cases, yours will probably be in “initial review” for quite a while before you get a final decision. This is the time where patience is so so important.
USCIS Adjudicator Will Review Your I-130 Petition
This is where the fun begins! 😝
Finally, after months of waiting your case is now in front of a human being (the adjudicator) who will review your I-130 petition along with the evidence you submitted.
This review process can take several weeks depending on the case load of the adjudicator.
If all looks good, you will likely get your approval notice in the mail as well as an email and text message if you filed form G-1145. It’s time to celebrate!!! Go out and enjoy your success.
However, if something is missing from your case or you didn’t prove your case then you will receive a request for evidence (RFE). This document simply requests additional documents before a final decision can be made on your case.
An RFE is not a denial.
You have 30 days to respond to it so make sure that you don’t miss this deadline. Unfortunately, if you don’t respond within 30 days your case will likely be denied or rejected.
The status of your case will be “Initial Review” while the adjudicator is reviewing your file. If you are tempted to call USCIS customer service to get more information, don’t bother!
They will only have the information available on the USCIS case status website, that’s it.
I-130 Processing Times For Immediate Relatives
So, what happens after filing form I-130? As you can see, your case is reviewed by an adjudicator and a decision is made based on the information you’ve provided.
This is such a common questions with people who are applying for the I-130 for a spouse, child or parent. The processing times are posted on the USICS website to show a general timeframe.
There are no guarantees when it comes to USCIS processing!
Based on recent data, the I-130 application process is taking about 5-7 months to complete. This of course will depend on the country your family member is from and their history with US immigration.
Processing Times for California Service Center
Below are the processing times for the I-130 petitions that are adjudicated in California. There are different timeline for each service center and unfortunately, you can’t choose where your petition will go. It all depends on what state you live in.
Processing Times for Texas Service Center
I-130 processing times for Texas seem to be a little bit better than California but its still a long time to wait.
Processing Times for Nebraska Service Center
The Nebraska service center is the fastest currently with the I-130 so if your case is routed there, you should be pretty happy right about now.
Processing Times for Vermont Service Center
Finally, the Vermont service center is extremely fast when compared to the other three! Wow – if your case is routed here, count your blessings! this is the fastest I’ve seen in a long time.
Also, this timeframe is just a guide. There is no real exact amount of time you will be waiting. Remember, USCIS does process cases based on their date of submission.
This is especially so for those of you applying as a green card holder. You will likely be waiting much longer due to the priority date requirements before a visa is available.
Alternatively, if you’re applying as a US citizen then there no waiting period and a visa is available for your family members right away.
I-130 Petition When US Spouse Lives Abroad
Here’s an interesting scenario…
What if the US spouse doesn’t actually live in the United States? This can be confusing to some people who keep reading about information for spouses that live in different countries. Specifically, the US spouse lives abroad with the beneficiary.
So, what happens after filing form I-130 when the US citizen spouse isn’t a US resident?
What the heck does this mean? Domicile basically means that you’ve made the US your permanent home and you need to prove your ties there before the immigrant visa can be approved for your spouse.
Sounds strange, right? This is what gets a lot of couples denied when both live abroad. It’s important to know what documents to include to prove domicile.
One major hurdle for you is not having a job in the United States. Because you have to financially support your foreign spouse once they become a permanent resident, you will need to show that your current income will continue.
This may be hard to do if you will be quoting your job abroad to move to the US. This is why USCIS wants to see that you have ties to the US before approving the spouse visa.
Here’s a list of documents you can use to prove domicile:
- Tax returns/transcripts
- Apartment lease/mortgage/deed
- Bank statements (current account)
- PO Box address
- Employed by US company
- US voting record
As you can see from the above list, many can be provided even if you don’t live in the US.
As a US citizen, you are required to file your taxes every year regardless of whether you live in the US or not. This is great because this can help you prove domicile.
Try to include as many of the listed documents as possible for best chances of passing the domicile test.
I-130 Petition Is Approved or Denied
This is it! This is what happens after filing form I-130.
The day you’ve been waiting for has arrived! It’s now time for USCIS to give you the final decision on your I-130 petition.
You’re nervous, maybe even a bit scared and excited. You head to your mailbox to find a letter from USCIS and you quickly tear it apart and start reading….
Notice of Action 2 – Approval Notice
“The above petition has been approved. We have sent the original visa petition to the Department of State National Visa Center (NVC), 32 Rochester Avenue, Portsmouth, NH 03801-2909. NVC processes all approved immigrant visa petitions that need consular action. It also determines which consular post is the appropriate consulate to complete visa processing.
The NVC will contact the person for whom you re petitioning (beneficiary) concerning further immigrant visa processing steps.
If you have any questions about visa issuance, please contact the NVC directly. However, please allow at least 90 days before calling the NVC if your beneficiary has not received correspondence from NVC. The telephone number of the NVC is (603) 334-0700.
The approval of this visa petition does not in itself grant any immigration status and does not guarantee that the alien beneficiary will subsequently be found to be eligible for a visa for admission to the United States or for an extension, change, or adjustment of status.”
When you get your approval notice, your case is then forward to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing.
Thankfully, the NVC doesn’t hold onto your case for too long. Just long enough to have you complete the I-864 affidavit of support and online forms DS-260 and DS-261.
You will also need to pay the immigrant visa fee and the affidavit fo support fee.
Once all of these steps are complete, the visa interview will be scheduled and you will need to schedule your medical exam as well. Remember, the medical must be completed before the visa interview.
What Happens If I-130 Is Denied?
Ok, let’s talk about the bad stuff for a minute.
Of course we all want our petitions to be approved and quickly. But not everyone will have a happy ending. If you’re in this situation, I want to first say “take a deep breathe!”
There are options if your I-130 is denied.
First, you will receive a letter from USCIS explaining why your I-130 petition was denied or rejected. This is important because you shouldn’t take any steps until you know the reason for the denial.
Second, you will need to decide whether you want to appeal the denial or reapply for the I-130 again. Here are pros and cons for both options:
Appeal – Pros
- Gives you the chance to plead your case
- Can get the denial overturned
- Can be simple if USCIS made a mistake
Appeal – Cons
- It’s just as expensive as filing again
- You have a high chance of another denial
- It will take longer to process an appeal
Reapply – Pros
- You are starting with clean slate
- You get a new adjudicator looking at your file
- Can sometimes be faster than an appeal
Reapply – Cons
- The original I-130 denial will be in your file
- You will need to explain why you were denied the first time
- You are paying the filing fee again
So, after carefully looking at the pros and cons between appeal and reapply for the I-130, what do you think?
Sometimes I understand why someone would choose to appeal a denial of the I-130 because of their emotions such as anger and shock. But, when you truly think about it, it’s better to simply apply again with a stronger case.
The reason I lean towards applying again is because it can save you money and time in the long run. You get a new pair of eyes looking at your case and you are kind of starting fresh with new evidence.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which way you will go but it’s important that you know the good and bad for each option.
Conclusion: What Happens After Filing Form I-130?
So, the answer to this question can really vary. The process for the I-130 is usually the similar for US citizens vs Green Card Holders.
The main thing I want you to walk away with is that the length of time it takes to get approved is somewhat out of your control. Sure, you can make sure to submit a strong case so that you remove all possibility of denial or an RFE but this may be difficult.
My advice is to find a hobby after you send the I-130 to USCIS.
Keep your mind busy so that you aren’t worrying about how long it’s taking to process the petition. If you think about it, the time it takes is actually not that long in the grand scheme of things.
It just feels like forever when you are in the waiting game. Trust me – I’ve been there and it’s really tough on the mind.
Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community, the My Path To Citizenship Blog and Podcast.
After successfully navigating the hurdles of US immigration. She now dedicates her time to helping other couples achieve their goals of starting their new life together in the US.