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Are there benefits to filing Form I-130 online?

Applying for a visa or green card requires a lot of documents, and for a long time, applicants had to send those papers through the mail. That is starting to change. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has slowly been adding options for people to file certain immigration petitions online.

Most recently this includes Form I-130, known as the Petition for Alien Relative. Form I-130 is essentially a first step for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor their loved ones to get a green card. As of November 2019, you can file Form I-130 online through USCIS. But does this actually make the process faster? Or easier?

Which loved ones are eligible through Form I-130?

Form I-130 does not grant a loved one permanent residency. Instead, it is how you, the petitioner, prove your relationship with the family member you are trying to help. This might mean providing a marriage certificate, birth certificates, adoption paperwork or other documents. Now, rather than sending this information in through the mail, you can do it online.

If you’re a U.S. citizen, can use I-130 to petition for your spouse, your unmarried or married child, a parent or a sibling. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you can only petition on behalf of your spouse or your unmarried child. Once you establish that relationship, it is possible for that loved one to apply for permanent residency.

What happens next?

Let’s say the government approves a Form I-130. If the petitioner is a U.S. citizen, a beneficiary the law considers an immediate relative – a spouse, an unmarried child under 21 or a parent – can often apply for a visa right away.

If the petitioner is a permanent resident but not a citizen, or if the beneficiary is not an immediate relative, then it can take longer. In those cases, the beneficiary can only apply for a green card after a visa number is available. That can take months.

Does filing online make things easier or faster?

Submitting documents online is naturally faster than sending them through the mail. However, nothing else about the Form I-130 process is different.

Filing the form online does not speed up the government’s review process, nor does it change what authorities want to see. They can still ask you to appear for an interview or to provide biometric information. They can also reject your petition.

While filing online is usually more convenient, that’s just one step in a longer process. If things move forward, there will likely be more applications to file and potentially some legal obstacles to work through, potentially with the support of an attorney.

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