Road to Approval: A Practical Form I-130 Checklist for Petitioners

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is used by U.S. citizens or permanent residents to establish the qualifying relationship with certain alien relatives who wish to immigrate to the United States. The required documents may vary based on the specific relationship, but here is a general checklist of documents commonly required for filing Form I-130:

  • Completed Form I-130: Ensure that all fields are accurately filled out.
  • Filing Fee: Include the appropriate filing fee with the form. Check the official USCIS website or contact USCIS for the latest fee information.
  • Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Permanent Residency:
    • For U.S. citizens: A copy of a birth certificate, passport, certificate of naturalization, or certificate of citizenship.
    • For U.S. permanent residents: A copy of the green card (Form I-551) or other proof of permanent residency.
  • Proof of Relationship:
    • Marriage Certificate (for spouses)
    • Birth Certificate (for children)
    • Adoption Decree (for adopted children)
    • Family Bible records, school records, or other documents that show the family relationship
  • Passport-Style Photos: Include passport-style photos of both the petitioner and the beneficiary.
  • Proof of Legal Name Change: If either the petitioner or beneficiary has changed their name, provide legal documentation of the name change (e.g., marriage certificate, court order).
  • Proof of Termination of Previous Marriages: If either the petitioner or beneficiary has been previously married, provide divorce decrees or death certificates to prove the termination of those marriages.
  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864): This form is required to show that the petitioner has the financial means to support the intending immigrant.
  • Financial Documents: Include supporting financial documents such as tax returns, W-2s, and pay stubs to demonstrate the petitioner’s income.
  • Proof of U.S. Domicile: Provide evidence that the petitioner is domiciled in the United States. This can include a copy of a lease agreement, mortgage statement, or utility bills.
  • Translation of Documents: If any document is not in English, provide a certified English translation.
  • Filing Location: Verify the correct filing location for Form I-130 based on the petitioner’s place of residence. Check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information on where to file.

Proof of marriage to be submitted with Form I-130

When filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, to establish a qualifying relationship with a foreign national relative, U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents are generally required to provide evidence of the relationship. This evidence helps to prove the bona fides of the relationship and supports the petition.

If you are filing as the spouse of the beneficiary, proof of marriage is a crucial component of the supporting documentation. Here are some common documents that can serve as proof of marriage:

  • Marriage Certificate: A government-issued marriage certificate is often the primary and most essential document to prove the legal marriage between the petitioner and beneficiary.
  • Photographs: Include photographs of the couple together at various times throughout their relationship. These should show the couple engaged in various activities and events, demonstrating the authenticity of their relationship.
  • Joint Financial Documents: Documents showing joint financial responsibilities or ownership, such as joint bank account statements, joint leases or mortgages, or joint utility bills, can be submitted.
  • Affidavits: Affidavits from friends, family members, or other individuals who can attest to the authenticity of the marriage and the relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary may also be submitted. These should be notarized.
  • Insurance Policies: If the couple has joint insurance policies (e.g., health insurance, life insurance), these can be included as additional evidence.
  • Birth Certificates of Children: If the couple has children, their birth certificates can be included as evidence of the marital relationship.

It’s essential to review the specific requirements outlined in the Form I-130 instructions and USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) guidelines, as requirements may change, and additional evidence may be requested based on individual circumstances. Keep in mind that providing a variety of evidence is often helpful in establishing the credibility of the relationship. Always consult the most recent USCIS guidelines or seek advice from an immigration attorney for the latest information and guidance.

What to do if some Form I-130 required documents are missing

If some required documents for Form I-130 are missing, it’s important to take the necessary steps to gather and submit the missing information promptly. Failure to provide all required documents may result in delays or denials of the petition. Here’s what you can do:

  • Review the USCIS Instructions:
    • Carefully review the instructions provided by USCIS for Form I-130 to identify the specific documents required for your situation.
  • Contact USCIS:
    • If you are unsure about which documents are required or if you are missing specific documents, contact USCIS for guidance. You can call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to seek assistance.
  • Prepare a Cover Letter:
    • Include a cover letter explaining the reason for the missing documents. Clearly state which documents are missing and the steps you are taking to obtain them. Express your intention to provide the missing documents as soon as possible.
  • Submit Incomplete Package with Explanation:
    • It is generally advisable to submit the completed Form I-130 along with the documents you currently have, even if the package is incomplete. Include the cover letter explaining the missing documents. This way, your petition is in the USCIS system, and you can follow up with the missing documents later.
  • Gather Missing Documents:
    • Act promptly to obtain the missing documents. This may involve obtaining additional records, certificates, or collaborating with relevant authorities. Ensure that the documents are accurate, complete, and in the required format.
  • Submit Missing Documents as Soon as Possible:
    • Once you have gathered the missing documents, submit them to USCIS as soon as possible. Include a cover letter explaining that you are submitting the missing documents to complete the petition.
  • Follow Up:
    • After submitting the missing documents, follow up with USCIS to ensure that they received the additional information. You can check the status of your case online through the USCIS Case Status website or by calling the USCIS National Customer Service Center.
  • Consider Legal Assistance:
    • If you encounter difficulties in obtaining certain documents or if you have concerns about the application process, you may want to consult with an immigration attorney for guidance.

Remember that timely and accurate submission of required documents is crucial for the processing of your Form I-130 petition. It’s essential to stay informed about the specific requirements for your case and to communicate with USCIS as needed.

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