Most Immediate Relative Petitioners Residing Abroad Now Must File Their I-130s in the U.S.

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In mid-August, USCIS announced that petitioners residing outside the U.S. in countries without USCIS offices will no longer be eligible to file immediate relative green card petitions, Form I-130, with the Department of State (DOS) nor have the option of filing at the USCIS overseas office governing their jurisdiction. Instead, they will be required to file only with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox. Petitioners residing in countries where a USCIS office is located will continue to have the option to file either with that office or with the Chicago Lockbox.

Why is this significant for some? Because, the processing time for the overseas filing of Form I-130 is significantly shorter than the time for processing through the Lockbox. So, in most locations, a petitioner who can file locally abroad may have his immediate relative issued an immigrant visa within two to three months of filing an application, whereas a petitioner filing via the Lockbox may not result in an immigrant visa being issued for nine or more months. Those who may be impacted may still be eligible for “local” processing if warranted by special circumstances and USCIS authorizes the DOS to accept and adjudicate an I-130 petition. USCIS provides examples of circumstances in which it would consider authorizing local DOS adjudication: certain military and medical emergencies; threats to personal safety; certain “aging out” cases; certain cases where the petitioner has recently naturalized; and certain cases involving adoption of a child.

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