Monday, March 16, 2015

CLARIFY Your Case: Tips on completing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

Form I-130 tips | CLARIFY Your Case: Tips on completing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
She visualizes: Tips on completing USCIS Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
He writes...

The visa application process consists of several forms and steps to build a successful case for a US visa. What worked best for us, and what I believe reduced processing times of our Form I-130 is an acronym I created: CLARIFY.

During the time period I submitted my Petition for Kira, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received a total over 126,000 petitions just like mine at all of its field offices and service centers. My petition joined over 57,000 other petitions at the Nebraska Service Center at which there was a published processing timeframe of five months.

There are people, not computer scanners, who are going over the petitions, and applications are reviewed in the order they’re received. So it’s safe to assume that if anything was missing or incorrectly filled out, my petition would have gone to the bottom of the pile, so to speak.

I attribute CLARIFY to what helped me have my petition approved in less than a month. 


The Petition is much more than the I-130 form itself. It’s also all the other documents that support the Petition. Therefore, it’s important to remember that the Petition is a data package that tells the USCIS not only who you and your spouse are, but also how and why your spouse’s immigration to the US would be lawful in order to maintain the integrity of the immigration system that it enforces and oversees.

Therefore, the more valid information you provide about you and your spouse, the better. The I-130 form and instructions outline in detail what the USCIS is looking for to “establish the bona fides of the [relative’s] relationship,” thus a successful Petition includes all of the information and documents the form is seeking. It should also be organized in a way that is clear and easy to follow, process, and approve.

I believe that the following also helped speed up the process for us: 

  1. Our original marriage certificate (see how we processed ours in two instead of six months)
  2. True-sized color copies of our passports (Kira also had her new passport with her married name processed and issued) 
  3. Documents, like the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) Guidance and Counseling Certificate, included to support the integrity of our relationship 
  4. Color photos, email correspondences, color screenshots of Facebook posts, copies of Fedex and US mail receipts for packages and letters sent and received 
  5. Affidavits from third parties about our relationship 
  6. Evidence of shared financial resources 


Keeping in mind that my Petition joined so many other petitions as previously mentioned, it makes sense to submit forms that are typed and easy to read. The Petition is one of several downloadable PDF forms on the USCIS website, so there is no excuse not to fill out the form on a computer and print it. There were some PDF form fields that didn’t have enough space for what I needed to fill in, so I just hand-printed information in those spaces. 


There is no substitute for accurate and correct information on a government form. The mission of the USCIS is to oversee lawful immigration to the US, and it does so with comprehensive tools and well-trained personnel to ensure the integrity of the system.

Common sense dictates not only to avoid lying, but also to avoid making things up that you may not know, or omitting things you do know or should have known. If you don’t know about something, and the information requested exists somewhere, you need to find that information and include it on the form. If you don’t know data that the form requests, and you list it as not applicable when it is applicable, chances are that the USCIS can and will find out, and will subsequently reject your Petition if it seems like you’re hiding something. 

Right forms: 

The best way to delay the processing of the Petition is to forget to include a form that is needed. The USCIS website does an excellent job at listing links to forms that they need from applicants for certain things. For the Petition, we also needed to include form G-325A, Biographic Information, from each of us. 


Like all forms from the USCIS, Form I-130 has an instruction guide that accompanies it. This seems to be a standard practice for all federal level forms. Tax forms, for example, have volumes of books of instructions for filling them out, and the instructions are fairly detailed and comprehensive.

My first grade teacher always told us, “If all else fails, follow the directions.” A staff member at either the USCIS of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) took a lot of time to spell it out for those filling out the Petition and other forms, and it’s obvious that the agencies truly want the applicants to get it right the first time. No one is trying to trick anyone, and with what seems to be volumes of information being requested on the form, the accompanying instructions are useful tools to keep things organized and less daunting.

A less obvious or apparent way to regard the form’s accompanying instructions is to look at the data points listed as little “hints” of what would be good to include to support the Petition. When the instructions said “you should submit,” I interpreted that as I “must submit” if it’s something that is applicable that I had available. For example, I included affidavits and financial co-mingling documentation even though the instructions said I “should” submit them. I also included as many photos, emails, and receipts as I could (up to 3 examples of each so as to keep the Petition package manageable) because, again, the instructions said that I “should” submit “any other relevant documentation” to establish that we were married. So, I did just that. 

Fill in everything: 

There is no room for error, and there is just as little room for omissions or oversights as there is for intentional mistakes or misinformation. As indicated in the instructions, the form needs to say “N/A” for items that aren’t applicable, and for those items where the answer is none, the space needs to read, “NONE.”

Nothing on the form must be left blank, except for the section marked by “For USCIS Use Only,” of course. One must assume that the USCIS will regard omissions or oversights as intentional, or possibly indicating that the person filling out the form is hiding something. Thus for example, and tying back to the “A” for Accuracy in our acronym, it would not be accurate to leave something blank if the item is known or should have been known. 


When I first prepared to begin the visa application process with Kira, we had many friends and relatives suggesting this person or that agency to help us with what could be an overwhelming immigration process. Typically, a field of work that is specialized or complicated will have specialists and professionals at the ready. I was referred to quite a few, but I passed on them, not just because of the (sometimes exorbitant) professional fees, but because Kira and I wanted the process to be meaningful and personal.

Were we taking a risk with doing the process ourselves? Of course we were. It’s akin to representing oneself in a court of law, or diagnosing serious ailments on the Internet. But with all the tools and instructions available to us, and the fact that we were educated individuals with decades’ worth of professional success under our belts, we were supremely confident in our abilities.

The “You” aspect behind the application process would be the documents and information that are unique to you, and that makes you as a couple stand out with integrity and not as a result of garden-variety documents or canned responses. When the application and Petition resonate with aspects of “you,” you feel like you then have “skin in the game,” as the saying goes. It is “you” who will be awake at 4:00am (if you live on the west coast) to call the service center or visa center to check on the status of some documents you submitted, and not the $500/hour immigration lawyer you hired because your brother’s friend’s sister pleaded for your business.

Additionally, in doing something yourself, you become intimately knowledgeable about what you’ve sent to USCIS or other agencies. This is helpful because if or when you have to produce (or reproduce) something in the future, you know where to find it, or be able to assert the document’s whereabouts or existence.

The Petition was a vital first step towards creating and achieving the life we wanted for AND with each other. We wanted to complete the process on our terms and by ourselves. We immensely enjoy accomplishing things together, and the Petition and the process as a whole were among the many of those things to come. #

Related Entries:

How completing our visa application on our own paid off


  1. Thanks for taking the time to write about this process, I can help to agree totally with your information, as a matter of fact I did exactly the same, however I don't have the skills to write the experience so well. I hope Kira is now with you and wish you the best. I wait patiently for Norma, my colombian wife, we started the process on 9/23/2014, currently we wait from NVC after gettingthe clearence form CEAC. Best regards, Al

    1. Hi Al, thanks so much for your comment. We're grateful for your kind words, and we hope that you and Norma are together soon. The process does take time, and waiting can be challenging, but there are so many positives at the end of the process when she finally joins you here in the US. Hang in there, and we wish you all the best.

  2. Hi there, I must say your blog is very helpful and lovely. I just wanted to ask about the afiidavits from third party that you have included in your petition, Did you have it authenticated in US embassy Manila? How did you do it? Thanks for the input in advance,Mrs.C

    1. Hi, Mrs C. Thank you for your question.
      We asked a close friend who attended our wedding and one of our cousins to execute affidavits. We requested them to have the affidavits notarized. There was no need to have the affidavits authenticated at the US embassy in Manila because that was not a requirement.

  3. Hi, I'm Abby. I'm married to a Romanian who now lives in London, Uk. I just want to ask few question if u dont mond hehe :-) I'm scheduled for a CFO Seminar on March 18,2016.. I just want to ask lang if its ok to attend the seminar without a passport & a visa yet? I can't get a passport coz DFA said I need to get a CFO Certificate first coz I'm married to a foreign national. I only have NBI & Driver's license. Ok lang ba na yun ang I present ko on the day of my CFO seminar? And what to wear po if u will attend the seminar? I mean, do I have to wear close shoes, simple shirt & a pants? Or I can wear something else? Please help me po :-) Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Abby. Yes, you may attend the CFO seminar even without a visa. You may present those government documents (NBI and driver's ID) for identification but make sure you bring all the other requirements for the counselling as well.

      There is no dress code but make an effort to dress appropriately. Your photo will be taken and will appear on your CFO certificate

      You can read our entry on CFO (see link below) and look into the thread for some of the most frequently asked questions. Best of luck to you.

  4. What document/s did you have to submit to prove "shared financial resources"? Thank you!

    1. The most common way to show "shared financial resources" is through bank statements that show that the account is a joint account in both of your names. Other ways are through loan documents in both of your names, property titles, or receipts of money transfers through reputable money transmittal agencies, which is what I furnished.

      Good luck!

  5. Hi ask ko lng po kng need ko pb umattend ng CFO Siminar kc po yng fiancee ko sa Australia sya mg apply ng 461 VISA..wait ko po reply nyo..thanks for have a good day

  6. Hello good day! Been new here and i really need ur guidance, thank you for this blog its very informative. Im a nurse working here in qatar. My fiance and I are planning to get married in Philippines April of next year. I've been reading blogs on what to do's since my fiance has a very short 3 weeks leave for our wedding. He is a US citizen from Hawaii but he is a Filipino national. I read your blog from the beginning of your journey on processing everything. I am from davao but we are planning to apply our marriage license and get married in Marikina since the certificate of no marriage from US embassy is not honored in davao. I search the LCR marikina about the requirements and state that one of us must be resident there, well my fiancé has relative there so do u think it is ok to file a marriage lic there? I'm kinda praning na because we are both outside the country and planning for wedding is so stressful. Please give me your idea. Second thing is based on understanding the requirements for visa application in the US that we should need to provide are Marriage contract NSO copy, New passport with husband surname, and CFO certificate right? If this will all be completed how am i going to send to US? It can be a regular mail? Or anything necessary? Thank you so much..

    1. Thank you for your questions, Jean.

      Re your question about your marriage license requirements, please refer to this entry:

      The marriage requirements are standard and all local government offices, including Davao should honor these documents. Please note that the US embassy does not issue Cenomar for its citizens but the Affidavit in Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Marry. Also, the place where you acquire your marriage license does not dictate where you should hold your wedding so you can get married anywhere regardless of where your license comes from.

      Re your question about the requirements for visa application, the blog entry above already specifies this in detail. Please note that your fiance/future husband should be filing and sending the petition.

      For questions about the CFO, we have several entries on this but you can start with the entry below, which would lead you to other links that would be helpful to you:

      This site already contains the answers to most of your questions, make sure to maximize the search button at the upper right side of the the page.

      Good luck!

  7. Hello guys please help, I attend already cfo seminar.
    And now,Just got back in the Philippines, to get my 9 years old Son, and I buy tickets already for December 31/2016
    Do he really need cfo sticker???
    Or he can fly without cfo sticker
    Or I can get cfo sticker in airport. Before leaving the country?
    Please help
    Thank you

    1. Hi, Angelica. We are sorry that we were not able to answer your query earlier. We hope that you were able to resolve this and that you're already here in the US with your son. Happy New Year!

  8. panu po ba mag palit ng schedule appointment sa guidance and couseling ? lumagpas na po kasi yung schedule ko . march 7 po yung sched ko . pero hindi po ako nakapunta ano lo kayang pwede kong gawin ??

    1. Thank you for your question, Alvin. We have a separate blog entry that addresses your question, please check this link's question and answer #2 Good luck.

  9. Hi ask lang po..i have a fiance in norway and he is a filipino citizen w/ permanent fiance visa is approved and had attended the cfo pdos and have only cfo sticker on my question is do i have to attend GCP to have a certificate or sticker is just enough?..becoz i have read some other blog that after i get married and have to change my surname i should have the GCC certificate but i only have cfo sticker..

  10. Helow guys. .i am already married now to my american husband. .and i have an appointment already for my cfo seminar.. My problem now is i only have 1 valid id which is postal it possible that i can attend the seminar? Thank you😊