If you have more than one person who can file a green card (I-130) petition for you, it’s probably a good idea to spend the money to do it. Why? Because one of your petitioners might die while you’re waiting for your visa and, if you live abroad, your case will automatically terminate. This just happened to a client of ours –  the family waited over 20 years for their visas when the father petitioner died less than one month before the visas were available. We’re now requesting humanitarian reinstatement to revive the petition but we don’t know if the government will approve the request. If you have just one petition and that petitioner dies while you’re waiting, the I-130 is automatically revoked by law. The only option at that point is to request humanitarian reinstatement. There’s no government fee for this request but it takes a long time and is not automatic.

Deciding if you can file multiple petitions is complicated of course. There are many different family members who can file for you. A U.S. citizen can apply for their adult children (married or single) and for sisters and brothers. There are quotas and long long waits in these categories. As of June 2015 the backlogs are over 20 years for Filipino siblings or married children, and 15 years for single children. Mexican relatives also have to wait many years, and the other countries have visa backlogs of 8 to 13 years in these categories. A U.S. citizen can also file for a fiance, spouse, child under 21, and parent. There’s no quota in these categories so if you provide all the required information, these can normally be processed in less than a year.

What can you do? More than one U.S. citizen can file for you, so if you have three U.S. citizen sisters and brothers, each one can file for you. Your mother and father can both file for you if it’s a parent petition. The cost is $420 for the I-130 petition filing fee to get things started. You won’t have to pay anything else until a visa is available – many years later – and it’s legal to have more than one petition filed. You can then see which petition goes fastest and proceed on that one.

Your situation is better if the immigrant or a family member was residing in the U.S. when the petitioner (U.S. citizen or green card holder) died and continued to reside in the U.S. You can read up on all the details at the government’s USCIS website or arrange an initial consultation with us to consider your options.