Reluctant Petitioner

June 20, 2013 | Family Petition

Q. My half-sister, a U.S. citizen, petitioned for me in June 2003. In 2010 my mother received a letter from the USCIS requesting additional documents which sent in. Meanwhile, my sister lost her home, job, and car and it took a toll on her mentally. My family members say she has schizophrenia and I know she is seeing a doctor for depression. She stopped taking her medicine and her condition has worsened.

She refuses to speak with me or her other siblings. My mother called her to find out if she heard anything from the immigration office and she responded by saying it was denied. When we requested a copy of that letter she ended the call.

When I checked online, the status still says ‘initial review’. I don’t believe it was denied.

My concerns are:

1) Where do I go from here?
2) I would like to contact the immigration office, to see if my case can be reopened. 
3) Seeing that she is unfit to continue this process, would it be wise to tell the immigration office that I want to continue on my own.  
4) What is an “Immigration File #” (A#)? I have no such number. I suppose my sister has it but there is no way to get it from her. 

Thanks in advance. 

-Cindy B., New York

The I-130 petition was filed by your sister, the petitioner. Therefore it is her case; not yours. That’s why she is the one who is receiving any/all USCIS correspondence pertaining to the petition. Anyone can check the case status of an application via the USCIS website using the case receipt number, but to obtain additional information or documentation pertaining to the case, the requester must be the one who actually filed/signed the form. As the petitioner, your sister can make the request. You cannot. Even if you did learn that the case had in fact been denied, you lack the authority, or, the standing, to reopen the processing of the I-130.

You say that your sister is unfit due to medical reasons to continue this case. Unfortunately, you cannot continue the processing of the I-130 without your sister’s support. And in any event, even if USCIS approves the petition, you will need an affidavit of support from your sister to get permanent residence.

The law allows for self-petitioning in only limited situations. This includes an abused spouse or child of the petitioner, or where the petitioner dies after filing the I-130.

An “Alien Registration Number” or “A” number, is a number that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assigns to foreign nationals in the United States who the immigration authorities have arrested or who have applied for immigration benefits. The “A” number is assigned to the foreign national until they either naturalize or die. If a foreign national has not been arrested by the immigration authorities and has not applied for an immigration benefit, then most likely s/he does not have an “A” number. When a petitioner files an I-130 on behalf of an immigrant relative, no “A” number is automatically assigned to the relative beneficiary. It is not until the relative beneficiary files an application for permanent residence on his/her own behalf that USCIS assigns that person an alien number. Unless you have separate dealings with immigration, you don’t yet have an “A” number.

It is unfortunate that you are caught in this situation where you must rely on a family member to petition for you to gain lawful permanent residence and the family member no longer appears to care about pursuing the petition. If you cannot resolve the situation with your sister and there is not another family member who can petition for you, you might look into what your potential options are under the pending proposal for immigration reform.