U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents can file I-130 petitions for their alien relatives, or members of their families who would like to live in the United States.
This petition proves to the government that the citizen or permanent resident is truly related to the person he or she is filing for.
The I-130 form doesn't give anyone a legal right to live and work in the United States. It just proves that a foreign national is eligible for immigration benefits through his or her relationship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
The recent election makes changes to the immigration system likely.
Having an approved I-130 petition on file could help immigrants get quicker access to any new immigration benefits the politicians develop. It could also help them avoid being removed from the country.
There is some speculation that in the future it will no longer be possible to petition for certain family members (such as siblings of U.S. citizens or adult children of legal permanent residents). Filing an I-130 now guarantees you or your family member a spot on the visa waiting list.
Sometimes people living in the U.S. without papers don't request immigration benefits because they're afraid of being deported.
But attorney John Broyles said that - for the most part - they shouldn't worry.
"People sometimes have a lot of misconceptions about filing. The immigration service isn't going to deport you because you submit a petition," Broyles said. "In fact, you'll probably be better off if you have a pending application."
People who have committed very serious crimes or immigration violations are right not to apply, since they are likely already ineligible for visas. The immigration service prioritizes deportations of people who fit this description. An immigration attorney can tell you whether you whether your criminal or immigration histories disqualify you.
There is no limit to the number of I-130 petitions you can file for eligible family members.
To find out which family members citizens and residents you can petition for, click here.
The time between when you file an I-130 petition and when your family members actually receive their visas could be several years. To learn about wait time, click here.
Some people should not have I-130 petitions filed for them unless they are positive they are eligible for an immigration benefit. To learn about the permanent bar to admissibility, click here.