Recent Changes on Petitioning Relatives from Abroad

At the end of January, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services made an announcement about a change in how they will be accepting the popular form, Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The change was rolled out as a way to “increase efficiencies”.

Basics on Form I-130

The form is used by United States citizens or lawful permanent residents to establish their relationship to an eligible relative who themselves want to apply for permanent residence. Form I-130 is the first step of the process, after which the applying party can fill out the next steps:

  • If the relative is already in the United States and a visa is available, they may be eligible to get their Green Card by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status if they entered the country lawfully. There are numerous restrictions to this, so make sure the person is eligible before filing.
  • If the relative is ineligible to get their Green Card in the United States by filing Form I-485, or if your relative lives outside the United States, they may apply for an immigrant visa with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country. For more information on ineligibility, please visit USCIS’ Green Card webpage.

Updates to the Process

With this latest change, DOS will process Form I-130 locally if the petition falls under blanket authorization criteria, as defined by USCIS:

  • Temporary blanket authorizations for instances of prolonged or severe civil strife or a natural disaster; or
  • Blanket authorization for U.S. service members assigned to military bases abroad.
  • If a United States. citizen petitioner meets the “exceptional circumstance” criteria.

For all other petitioners residing overseas, Form I-130 should be filed online or by mail through the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility for domestic processing.

What to Expect

On the face of it, this does seem to be a change that was made for the sake of efficiency. If the Department of State is taking over some of the duties of USCIS, our main question would be whether they are properly equipped to handle the volume of incoming applications and also aware of the requirements as USCIS would have upheld them.

In any case, you are likely going to be better off utilizing the services of a qualified immigration attorney to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Send me a message to get started!