Written by attorney C. C. Abbott

Immigration: Common Misunderstanding about the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative

I-130 Petition for Alien Relative

The I-130 Petition is one of the most misunderstood documents filed with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Briefly, it is the document that establishes a relationship between the petitioner and a relative to enable the relative to qualify for an application to apply to become an immigrant to the United States.

Filing the I-130 with USCIS

Currently, when an I-130 Petition is filed with USCIS the petitioner will receive a document by mail titled Receipt Notice I-797C, Notice of Action. The Receipt Notice will have a receipt number, a received date, a priority date, a notice date, and the complete name of the beneficiary. This document is a receipt. It does not indicate that USCIS has approved either the existence of the relationship, approval of the I-130 petition, or granting of permanent residency to the beneficiary.

Approval Notice - Need to Wait for Priority Date

If the I-130 is approved by USCIS, the Petitioner will receive a I-797, Notice of Action that will sate within the "Notice Type" box "Approval Notice" and the relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary USCIS that has been approved. The approved relationship is important to review because the time one has to wait before the beneficiary can file an I-485 Application to become a permanent resident is different for the different relationships.

Waiting for Priority Date Becomes Current

The approval of the I-130 Petition does not automatically grant the beneficiary the immediate right file for permanent residency unless the beneficiary is the spouse of the US Citizen petitioner and is physically present within the United States. All other beneficiaries will have to wait until the I-130 Petition becomes current. This is referred to as the Petition's priority date. The relationship of the petitioner and the beneficiary and the nationality of the beneficiary effects the waiting time. This fact also leads to confusion because the current priority date for different categories of beneficiaries does not necessary lessen as months or even years pass.

The Monthly Visa Bulletin Provides Priority Cut-Off Dates

The US Department of State publishes a monthly document called the "Visa Bulletin." This monthly bulletin lists priority date for availability for immigrant visas based on the category of family sponsorship as well as per the county limits for China (mainland born), India, Mexico, and the Philippines.


The I-130 Petition is necessary to establish the family relation between the petitioner and the beneficiary. It is important to be accurate with all information provided in the document. The filing and approval does not grant immigration status to the beneficiary, but it does provide a basis for the beneficiary to apply for an immigrant visa when the priority date becomes current.

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