It’s now faster for immigrants to help their relatives become U.S. residents. Here’s how

Immigrants who obtain legal permanent resident status in the United States and those who, later, become naturalized U.S. citizens, often long for their close relatives — both abroad and inside the country — to follow their successful immigration journey.

There are several ways to help an eligible family member to immigrate to the U.S., but almost always this complex process begins with the submission of an essential form to establish the relationship between the applicant and the beneficiary.

It’s called Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and it’s the first step in sponsoring a relative to come to the U.S. Only after the U.S. government approves this petition, can the family member apply to become a permanent resident, that is, a green card holder.

Now, for the first time, immigrants will be able to carry out this process electronically. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it made the form available for digital completion and filing.

“Form I-130 is one of the most widely filed USCIS forms,” said USCIS acting director Ken Cuccinelli, in a news release.

“As we continue our transition to paperless operations, petitioners can now experience the convenience of filing electronically,” the Trump official added.

Read more: Here’s a fast and easy way for foreign visitors to extend their stay in the U.S.


The first step is creating an online account — which can be opened on and offers a secure way for immigrants to submit applications and review their status as the process moves along.

Having filed, once the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency has verified the family relationship and, consequently, approved Form I-130, the relatives “must wait until there is a visa number available before they can apply to become a lawful permanent resident,” authorities explain.

The next step, if the family member is already in the United States, is to apply with USCIS by submitting Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

If the foreign citizen lives abroad, then he or she must apply for an immigrant visa through the State Department’s consular offices around the globe.

Here’s what it takes for an immigrant to get a green card — and not lose it


Immigration authorities state that if the petitioner is a U.S. citizen, he or she can file for:

▪ A spouse

▪ Unmarried children under 21 years

▪ Unmarried sons or daughters 21 years or older

▪ Married sons or daughters of any age

▪ Brothers or sisters (the petitioner must be over 21)

▪ A mother or father (the petitioner must be over 21)

Read more: Here are some of the worst mistakes immigrants make applying for legal papers

For immigrants with legal permanent resident status, those eligible for sponsorship are:

▪ A spouse

▪ Unmarried children under 21 years

▪ Unmarried sons or daughters 21 years or older

For more details, read the official USCIS instructions for Form I-130


Since the U.S government has given users the ability to apply for immigration benefits online, more than a million people have used the online tools available at the USCIS website.

In addition to I-130, the benefit request forms that can be submitted electronically are:

▪ I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status

▪ I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card

▪ N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings

▪ N-400, Application for Naturalization

▪ N-565, Application for Replacement of Naturalization/Citizenship Document

▪ N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship

▪ N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322

▪ G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative

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These new rules make it much more difficult to become a legal immigrant in the U.S.

USCIS says these are the advantages of the digital resources and tools it provides to help immigrants obtain and track benefits such as visas, work permits, green cards and citizenship through naturalization:

▪ The online account provides a convenient and secure way for immigrants to send their applications and review the status of their applications or petitions during the decision process.

▪ It simplifies the way to pay the fees required.

▪ The USCIS electronic archive is compatible with cell phones and tablets, so immigrants can use those devices to access their accounts.

▪ Applicants can update their personal information online.

▪ In one single operation, immigrants can submit their application, upload supporting documents and pay the fees.

▪ Applicants can access all their information in real time and review the full history of their interactions with USCIS.

▪ The electronic application form is easy to use because it groups together all related questions on one screen. It asks only those questions required by the information provided by the applicant.

Read more: Immigrants facing deportation don’t always have to leave the U.S. Here’s what they can do

Daniel Shoer Roth is a journalist covering immigration law who does not offer legal advice or individual assistance to applicants. Follow him on Twitter @DanielShoerRoth. The contents of this story do not constitute legal advice