What Happens After My I-130 Is Approved: Next Steps in the Family Immigration Process

The approval of Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, marks a significant milestone in the family-based immigration process. It signifies that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recognized a valid family relationship between the petitioner, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, and the beneficiary seeking to immigrate. However, this approval is the first step in a complex journey toward obtaining a green card.

Post-approval, the immediate focus shifts to monitoring the visa bulletin and priority date for the beneficiary’s visa category. The priority date must become current before the next phase can commence, which involves either adjustment of status in the United States or consular processing abroad. The specific pathway depends upon the beneficiary’s current residence and particular circumstances.

For those present within the U.S., an adjustment of status via Form I-485 may be filed, allowing them to apply for legal permanent residence without leaving the country.

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For those present within the U.S., an adjustment of status via Form I-485 may be filed, allowing them to apply for legal permanent residence without leaving the country. Beneficiaries residing outside the United States, on the other hand, proceed through consular processing, necessitating the submission of additional paperwork to both USCIS and the relevant U.S. consulate in their home country. The process varies slightly depending on whether the beneficiary falls under the category of immediate relatives or is subject to visa quotas.

USCIS Approval of Form I-130

Once the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, it indicates a recognition of a valid family relationship between the petitioner, who is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, and the beneficiary who wishes to immigrate to the U.S.

Key Steps After Approval:

  1. Notice of Approval: The petitioner and beneficiary receive an approval notice from USCIS.
  2. Priority Date: Beneficiaries in family preference categories should note their priority date, the date their I-130 was filed. This date determines their place in line for a visa.
  3. Visa Bulletin: Check the monthly Visa Bulletin issued by the Department of State to determine when a visa number might become available.

Immediate Relatives: Spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens fall into this category. They have visas immediately available.

Family Preference Categories: These are subject to annual limits, and there may be a waiting period before a visa number is available.

Next Steps Can Include:

  • Adjustment of Status: If the beneficiary is legally in the U.S., they may apply to adjust their status to a lawful permanent resident by submitting Form I-485.
  • Consular Processing: If outside the U.S., the beneficiary typically goes through consular processing for their immigrant visa.

Documentation Gathering: It is important to collect necessary documents such as police clearance, affidavits of support, and medical examination results in anticipation of the subsequent steps.

Petitioners and beneficiaries must stay informed of their case progress and any additional requests for evidence or documentation that USCIS may require following the approval of Form I-130.

Priority Date and Visa Bulletin

Once an I-130 petition is approved, the beneficiary’s next steps hinge on understanding their priority date and monitoring the Visa Bulletin.

Understanding Your Priority Date

A priority date is when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives the Form I-130 petition. This date is crucial as it determines the beneficiary’s place in line for an immigrant visa. Immigrant visas for family-based applications are subject to annual limits, and the priority date tells you when you can move forward with the visa application process.

Checking the Visa Bulletin

The Visa Bulletin is published by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). It is updated monthly and provides the latest priority dates that will be processed for immigrant visas. Beneficiaries should check the Visa Bulletin to see when their priority date becomes current. When a priority date matches or passes the dates listed in the Bulletin, an immigrant visa is considered available, and the beneficiary may apply for adjustment of status or consular processing.

National Visa Center (NVC) Processing

After USCIS approves Form I-130, the petition transitions to the National Visa Center (NVC) for pre-processing. This phase includes steps vital for an applicant to secure a visa for entry into the United States eventually.

Receipt of Approval by NVC

Once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the I-130 petition, it is forwarded to the NVC. The NVC’s role commences with receipt of the approved petition, at which point they assign a case number. This case number is crucial as it is used in all future correspondence with the center.

Submitting Visa Application and Supporting Documents

Applicants are required to submit their DS-260 online visa application. The NVC also requires a compilation of necessary supporting documents. These typically include civil documents like birth certificates, police clearances, and passport photocopies. The applicant must accurately complete and compile all requested forms and documents, adhering to the NVC’s specific instructions for submission.

Paying Required Fees

All applicants must pay the mandated fees, which include the Visa Application Processing Fee and the Affidavit of Support Fee. Payment of these fees is a prerequisite before proceeding with the visa application. They cover the cost of processing the visa application and the financial sponsorship documentation. Fees are generally paid online via the NVC’s Immigrant Visa Invoice Payment Center.

Interview and Medical Examination

Once an I-130 Petition is approved, the beneficiary must prepare for the visa interview and undergo a medical examination. These are crucial steps in obtaining a United States immigrant visa.

Scheduling the Visa Interview

The National Visa Center (NVC) is responsible for scheduling visa interviews. After the I-130 approval, the NVC will provide instructions to the beneficiary detailing how to proceed. The beneficiary should wait for the NVC’s notification, including the date, time, and location of the visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Preparing for the Medical Examination

Before the interview, the beneficiary must complete a medical examination conducted by an authorized physician. They must:

  • Locate an approved physician in their country, often provided by the embassy or consulate.
  • Schedule and attend the medical examination, ensuring it’s done well before the interview to prevent delays.
  • Follow specific instructions regarding any necessary vaccinations or paperwork provided by the examining physician.

Visa Adjudication and Decision

After an I-130 petition is approved, the beneficiary must go through the visa adjudication process, which includes an interview, a decision on the visa application, and possible administrative processing. This section outlines what to expect during these crucial steps.

Attending the Interview

The beneficiary must attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. They must provide all necessary documentation, including a valid passport, photographs, and any additional requested paperwork. The consular officer will ask questions to determine the beneficiary’s eligibility for the immigrant visa.

Visa Approval or Denial

Upon successful completion of the interview, a consular officer will decide whether to approve or deny the visa application. Approval leads to the issuance of the immigrant visa, whereas a denial will accompany a written explanation of the grounds for refusal.

Administrative Processing

Some visa applications may undergo additional screening, known as administrative processing. This review period can take several weeks or months and is required to verify information or comply with U.S. immigration policies. The applicant should wait for notification from the embassy or consulate before inquiring about their visa status.

After Visa Issuance

Once granted an immigrant visa, the beneficiary can embark on the final steps to enter the United States. This phase involves receiving official documentation and fulfilling the final fiscal obligations.

Receiving the Visa Packet

After the visa is issued, the successful applicant will receive a Visa Packet from the consulate. This package must remain sealed, as it contains important immigration documents that should only be opened by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer upon the beneficiary’s arrival in the United States.

Paying the USCIS Immigrant Fee

Before traveling to the U.S., the beneficiary must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee. This fee is mandatory for processing the immigrant visa packet and creating and distributing a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card). Payment is made online through the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS). It is important to keep proof of payment for personal records.

Preparing for the United States Entry

After an I-130 petition approval, beneficiaries must complete several key steps to ensure a smooth transition to the United States. Furthermore, applicants can check the quick guide after approval, “can I visit us after I-130 is approved“.

Final Preparations Before Travel

Before departing for the United States, beneficiaries should ensure they have all necessary documents organized and ready for presentation. This includes:

  • The passport is valid for at least six months after planned entry.
  • Their visa packet is sealed and unopened, which should not be tampered with.
  • The Affidavit of Support from the Petitioner to show financial stability.
  • Medical examination results, vaccination records, and other health-related documents.
  • Confirmation of the USCIS Immigrant Fee payment for issuing a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card).

Beneficiaries must also carry evidence of their ties and intent to return to their home country if they apply for a nonimmigrant visa.

Port of Entry Process

Upon arrival at the U.S. port of entry, beneficiaries will undergo inspection by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. It’s important to:

  1. Present the aforementioned documents to the CBP officer.
  2. Be prepared for questioning related to their travel and intent in the U.S.
  3. Digital fingerprints will be taken, and a photograph will be captured.

The CBP officer must be satisfied that the beneficiary is eligible for entry under the visa category issued. They will stamp the passport if cleared, indicating admission into the United States.

Post-Arrival Procedures

Upon arrival in the United States, an individual who has had their Form I-130 approved will need to complete a few critical steps to fully integrate into their new country’s legal and social frameworks. This involves obtaining a Social Security Number and receiving their Permanent Resident Card.

Social Security Number (SSN)

The Social Security Number (SSN) is essential for employment, paying taxes, and accessing services in the U.S. New immigrants should apply for an SSN at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) office as soon as possible after arrival. Typically, one may apply for an SSN along with their visa application; if not, it is advised to wait 10 days post-arrival to allow the Department of Homeland Security time to update their records. To apply, one must present proof of immigration status, work eligibility, age, and identity.

Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) Issuance

The Permanent Resident Card, commonly called a Green Card, signifies one’s official status as a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. It is generally mailed to the immigrant’s U.S. address within 120 days after entry. If it does not arrive within this period, contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to inquire about the delay. While waiting for the physical card, the immigrant visa endorsed by the port-of-entry officer serves as temporary proof of permanent resident status.