Getting the I-130 Approval
Months after my husband filed a visa petition for me, USCIS sent us an I-130 approval. Before that, we had received another letter informing us that our petition got transferred from the Vermont Service Center to the California Service Center. It took about 5 months from the date of filing the I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative before we reached this milestone. A DCF (Direct Consular Filing) would’ve been faster, I’m sure, but we didn’t qualify for that and we didn’t mind the wait anyway.
Want to see our USCIS processing time? Here is our spouse visa petition timeline.
What Does an I-130 Approval Mean?
The USCIS letter of approval we got clearly stated that being approved did not mean I already got a visa! Nope! It simply meant I could proceed with my immigrant visa application once our case had been forwarded to the U.S. visa processing body — the National Visa Center. Sure, it was easy to get excited. But the battle was only half-won at this point.
I-130 Approval Form: Notice of Action
What does a USCIS approval letter look like? We received an I-797 Notice of Action form that looks a lot like this USCIS document exhibited at the Social Security Administration website. But the sample form there appears to be for a fiance rather than a spouse living outside U.S. borders. Also, keep in mind that USCIS changes its forms, so this is probably outdated. Our Notice of Action made it clear that the I-130 approval was not a visa, nor that I was approved for a visa.
You can also see a fulpage sample of an I-797 Notice of Action approval of an I-130 petition in the book Fiance and Marriage Visas: A Couple’s Guide to U.S. Immigration. See “Chapter 7: Overseas Spouses of U.S. Citizens.”
Checking USCIS Petition Status
To be honest, we didn’t bother to check the status of our I-130 petition before approval. We just waited. But even back then you could track the status of a USCIS case via the USCIS website. Nowadays it seems even easier with the redesigned tools they now have. The petitioner or applicant only needs his or her USCIS case number (shown in the forms) to look it up. Check out the case status page.
After the I-130 Approval…
As it turned out, the USCIS I-130 petition was the easy part! The real work would go into my immigrant visa application! Luckily, we had prepared ourselves in advance: We read the Visa Journey guide to the National Visa Center process and made sure we obtained all the required paperwork.