Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is the first step you need to take in order to help a family member receive a green card in the United States. This form establishes a valid family relationship between you and the person who will receive the green card.
Once your form has been received, you will receive a receipt notice from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), known as Form I-797C – Notice of Action. The form will note whether the application has been approved or denied. It may also be sent if additional information is necessary. It is important to retain this form in a safe place as it will have your receipt number which must be used to track your case.
Once the form is received by USCIS, they will review the information. The law gives special consideration to immediate relatives if you are a United States citizen. This includes a parent, spouse or unmarried child who has not yet reached the age of 21. There is no waiting period and, if the relatives are outside the United States, they will be invited to apply for an immigrant visa as soon as the I-130 is approved. If they are already in the country legally and the application is approved, they may file for their green card. There is an unlimited number of visas available for immediate family members so processing times are quicker. If the applicant belongs to a category other than an immediate family member, the processing time may be longer as there are limited numbers of visas for non-immediate family members available.
It can take between 5 and 12 months for an application to be approved for immediate family members. USCIS reviews Form I-130 along with Form I-485 which is filed by the family member. If the application is approved, the green card will be issued. If the person is living outside the United States, the form is forwarded to the National Visa Center, who processes the form and schedules interviews at an embassy or consulate in the country where the family member is located.