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USCIS Updates the Process for Accepting Family-based Petitions Abroad

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Pasricha & Patel

USCIS has announced that as of February 1, 2020, the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative will be processed exclusively by the USCIS in the United States, and by the U.S. Department of State (U.S. embassies and consulates abroad) only in special circumstances.

This means that for U.S. expatriates who reside outside the U.S. and who were previously able to submit Form I-130 petitions with their nearest USCIS international offices are now required to either file their I-130 petitions online, or via mail through the USCIS Dallas lockbox for U.S. domestic processing.

The U.S. Department of State, through its U.S. embassies and consulates abroad will still be able to accept Form I-130 petitions that are filed locally in connection with those petitions that fall under blanket authorization criteria, which are defined by the USCIS as:

  • 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.

This updated process can be viewed as part of the USCIS’s explanation about their overall strategy in the last few years to reduce the number of USCIS international offices abroad and become more modern and more efficient.

However, the concern that we share with many U.S. expats is that this means a reduction in local, on-the-ground USCIS services for the expat community as a whole, which will negatively impact and extend the feedback time that the U.S. expats and their family members would normally receive with their filed and pending applications if they were filing at their local USCIS international offices. Now, they will have to wait for response from the USCIS here in the U.S. for their filed and pending petitions, which can take longer time for adjudication and response.

It is a situation that is worth monitoring over the coming days and months.

Should you have any questions about this latest development, and whether this will impact your currently filed and pending petitions, or if you have general questions about the immigrant petition process, we encourage you to contact our office to schedule formal consultation so we can discuss this matter further.