What happens after I-130 approval?

Form I-130 is filed by a U.S. citizen or a green card holder to establish the relationship between them and an eligible relative to help them get a Green Card. Form I-130 is just the first step in helping a relative to come and live permanently in the U.S. with a Green Card.

General process after I-130 approval

After I-130 is approved there should be immigrant visas available for the beneficiary (The person who will be getting the Green Card). If visas are available then the beneficiary can apply for the Green Card.

If the person is in the United States legally when the visas are available, then they can apply for a Green Card by filing Form I-485 to adjust their immigration status from the current status to a Green Card holder.

If the person is outside the U.S. when the visas become available then they need to apply for an immigrant visa through the process called Consular processing where the next steps are carried out through the NVC (National Visa Center) with the help of a local U.S. embassy or a U.S. Consulate.

After going through the consular processing if approved the person can come to the U.S. with an immigrant visa and become a Green Card holder after crossing the port of entry. This is the general process after form I-130 is approved.

Availability of Immigrant Visas

Immigrant Visas availability depends on the relationship between the sponsor and the beneficiary. The relationship will place each beneficiary in any one of the preference categories. Based on which category you are eligible for a Green Card and also based on the beneficiary’s birth country the number of immigrant visas available will vary.

Below is a list of categories that immigrant visas become available for the family-based Green Card process.

  1. Immediate Relatives
  2. Family Preference Immigrants

Immediate Relatives

For people who fall under the immediate relative’s category, the number of visas available is unlimited. So if you fall under this category if your I-130 is approved, you can apply for the Green Card based on where you currently reside. If you are inside the U.S. legally you may apply for an adjustment of status, and if you are outside the U.S. you can follow the consular processing process to get your Green Card.

Family Preference Immigrants

There are five subcategories within the family preference category. They are

  • First preference (F1) – Unmarried Sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of U.S. citizens.
  • Second preference (F2A) – Spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents.
  • Second preference (F2B) – Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of lawful permanent residents.
  • Third preference (F3) – Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and
  • Fourth preference (F4) – Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older).

If you fall under any of these categories the immigrant visas available will be limited. For family preference immigrants there is an annual limit of 226,000 immigrant visas. This is further split into limits for each of the preference categories and also there is a limit for the number of visas available for people from each country which is 7% of the total visas available which is shared with the employment-based preference limit. So in any particular year, there is a limit of 25,620 immigrant visas available for both the family-based preference category and employment-based preference category.

To know if you are eligible for an immigrant visa you need to check the Visa Bulletin released every month by the USCIS.

How long will it take to get a Green Card after I-130 approval?

If you are an immediate relative and inside the U.S. you can apply for adjustment of status immediately and you would get your Green Card based on the processing time of Form I-485 which could be within 2 years.

If you fall under the family preference categories it would take a minimum of 7 years for some lucky people and more than 7 years for the vast majority to get the Green Card. People from Mexico whose I-130 was approved in September 1997 are eligible for a Green Card now. So it has been 25 years for these people.

Can you speed up the process to get a Green Card?

For some people, there may be ways to speed up the process to get a Green Card which mostly will depend on the change of relationship for example marriage. This will depend entirely on the sponsor and the beneficiary.

If you are interested in speeding up the process you can connect with an immigration lawyer to understand your options.