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Changes in I-130 Processing For Petitioners Abroad

According to a recent New York Times article, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/13/us/13iht-immigration.html, the new approach of the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) towards I-130 processing that has taken effect today appears likely to substantially lengthen the amount of time that Americans living overseas must wait before bringing along their noncitizen spouses or children if they return to the United States.

The USCIS’ new approach towards the processing of a visa document known as the I-130-which allows the entry of a citizen’s alien relative-requires those abroad to now mail their petitions to a central office in Chicago. According to the USCIS, this system will be more “efficient and consistent and centralized,” as Americans in the United States with foreign-national relatives are currently required to file their petitions in Chicago as well. Authorities predict a maximum processing time of about five months, after which applicants apply to the U.S. State Department for the actual visa. But the current system for those abroad relies on in-person visits to U.S. consular or immigration offices and generally takes just one to three months.

The USCIS has been seeking a more efficient method of processing I-130 petitions after the State Department billed the agency for its I-130 work last year for a total of $3 million. The USCIS has said that the change “will increase the efficiency of the relative petition filing process and give USCIS more flexibility in managing its workload.”

While the change affects a relatively small number of people, expatriates say the procedures will impose serious burdens on U.S. companies doing business overseas and that consular officials, in face-to-face interviews, are better situated to catch fraud, to understand local documents and languages, and to quickly resolve potential problems.

Should you have any questions or concerns surrounding the new I-130 filing procedures for those abroad, please contact our office.