Filing Green Card Applications Online

Erick Widman

USCIS made Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, available online in October 2019, adding to their list of applications and forms that can be e-filed. If you need to file an I-130, you can submit all required forms and supporting evidence electronically, as well as track your case and receive notices on the status of your application.

According to USCIS, Form I-130 is one of the most widely used forms, and their transition to online, paperless filing was done in order to make their agency “more effective and more efficient.” Online filing often results in quicker and more streamlined case processing. However, since online filing is a relatively new process for USCIS and is still being developed, there are many things to take into account when choosing the best way to file a petition.

Who Needs a Form I-130?

Form I-130 is often the first step for family members to apply for a Green Card. This application allows eligible relatives to immigrate to the United States, but it does not give any immigration status or benefit. Once the I-130 petition is approved, the immigrating relative can then complete the application for a Green Card.

There are eligibility categories that the family member must fall into in order to apply for their Green Card. The USCIS website has a list of the qualifying factors and the next steps to take for each. For many people, Form I-130 is the beginning stage of the path to obtaining a Green Card.

U.S. citizens can file I-130s for their spouses or children. Applicants over the age of 21 can also file for their mother, father, brothers, or sisters. Lawful permanent residents of the U.S. can file for their spouse or children. A separate Form I-130 must be filed for each relative. Eligible spouses may need to complete Form I-130A, which must be included with the I-130 at filing.

Filing an I-130 Online vs. By Mail

There are several reasons why it might make more sense for someone to file a physical copy rather than file online. If you’re debating whether to file your petition online or through a physical mailing, here are a few things to consider:

  1. The USCIS website is a government website, which means it is common to encounter a lot of glitches;
  2. If there is anything unique about your case (such as a special request or fee waiver), you may not be able to file online;
  3. Filing a physical copy allows you to manually fill in certain fields on forms, whereas online filing requires that you select only from the options available on the online form;
  4. If you file online, you will likely receive your receipt notices and biometrics appointment notice a week or so sooner than with paper filing;
  5. Online filing may be more convenient since it does not require printing or mailing forms and documents, and there will not be any confusion about the proper place to file the submission packet; and
  6. Online filing does not allow you to attach a cover letter or addenda with explanations, which means you may not be able to clarify details or special circumstances surrounding your application or any of your evidence.

Overall, extremely straightforward cases with no special circumstances can likely be filed successfully online, and this is a good option for many people. If you choose to file online, it is important to read the instructions carefully and complete each field properly so that the case does not get denied or returned for a simple error.

USCIS Online Applications and Forms

As of the beginning of January 2023, the following forms are available to be filed electronically with USCIS by creating an online account:

  • Form AR-11, Alien’s Change of Address Card
  • Form G-639, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act and Online FOIA Request
  • Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card
  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
  • Form I-134A, Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support (if filing as part of Uniting for Ukraine or the Processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans)
  • Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
  • Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  • Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status
  • Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA)
  • Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document
  • Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship
  • Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322.

Whichever way you decide to apply, whether utilizing the USCIS virtual system or through a paper application, keep in mind the requirements. Ensure you’ve included all the necessary supporting documentation, such as:

  • Evidence of your U.S. citizenship, lawful permanent residence, or U.S. national status
  • Evidence of your relation, such as birth or marriage certificate
  • The filing fee of $535

Some applicants may be required to include two qualifying photographs, such as a passport photo.

By increasing the availability of online applications and making documents like Form I-130 more accessible, USCIS is moving in the right direction. We hope that they will continue to make strides toward making the immigration system more effective.

Passage Immigration works every day to help people with their immigration needs, so please visit our website or call us at (503) 427-8243 if you need assistance.

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