Important Changes in Procedures to File U.S. Immigrant Visa Petitions Overseas
PR0704E | Date: 2007-01-25
Recent legislation has led to changes in the procedures American citizens resident abroad will follow if they wish to sponsor an immediate relative (spouse, parent or minor child) for an immigrant visa.
Effective immediately, the immediate relative petition (I-130) must be filed with the Department of Homeland Security U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) office responsible for the petitioner's place of residence (that is, the place of residence of the American citizen who is filing the petition). Consular offices at U.S. embassies and consulates, as well as the American Institute in Taiwan, are no longer authorized to accept I-130 petitions, although they will continue to provide guidance to American citizen petitioners and their family members. Responsibility for acceptance and approval of immigrant visa petitions now rests solely with USCIS. American citizens should submit their I-130 petitions at the CIS office responsible for their place of residence.
If you are an American citizen resident in Taiwan and wish to file an I-130 petition, you should first contact the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov for the latest information on where to file your petition.
It is important to note that the American Institute in Taiwan will continue to issue immigrant visas once approved I-130 petitions are received. U.S. citizens who have filed I-130 petitions at the American Institute in Taiwan, but have not yet been issued an immigrant visa, should contact AIT's Immigrant Visa Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information regarding these changes please visit AIT's website at http://www.ait.org.tw
and the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov.
This procedural change may result in a processing delay for some applicants. The Department of State and the American Institute in Taiwan recognize and sincerely regret the inconvenience this may cause.
Please refer to the information below for more details.
Additional Information on Changes in I-130 Petition Processing
Due to provisions in the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, consular officers can no longer accept family-based immigrant visa petitions. We recognize that this change may inconvenience some families, but we have no alternative. We must comply with the law. Consular officers will work with affected petitioners and beneficiaries to ensure they have the information they need on the steps they need to take to complete processing of their cases.
As a result of the Adam Walsh Act, all family-based immigrant visa petitions (I-130s) must be screened to ensure the petitioner has not been convicted of specified criminal offences against a minor. Consular officers by law do not have access to this information. Thus, all I-130 petitions for family-based immigrant status must now be filed only with USCIS.
The Adam Walsh Act provides that persons convicted of specified sexual criminal offenses against a minor cannot file petitions for family-based immigrant visas. A criminal history record check is now required to determine whether a petitioner is eligible to file a family-based immigrant petition.
Consular officers at embassies and consulates overseas (including the American Institute in Taiwan) are not law enforcement officers and are not authorized to obtain information about arrests or convictions of citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States who file family-based immigrant visa petitions. The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers do have access to databases with this information and authority to use it, and are therefore able to make determinations of eligibility to file these petitions.
We deeply regret the inconvenience this change causes to American citizens but the law is clear.
We will continue to adjudicate petitions to classify an orphan as an alien relative (I-600), which are used in intercountry adoptions because these petitions are subject to extensive preprocessing and criminal record clearances. We are consulting with USCIS to confirm that current procedures for checking criminal history records in these cases comply with the Adam Walsh Act.
Questions and Answers
Q: This is a development that will delay the processing of many cases involving immediate relatives of American citizens. Is there some way this decision can be phased in? Is there some temporary work-around?
A: Unfortunately, no. After extensive study, our legal experts have determined that Consular officers can no longer adjudicate I-130s because they do not have access to criminal history record information, which is essential for a determination of whether a petitioner is eligible to file an I-130. As a result, consular officers can consider no I-130 petition clearly approvable, such that all I-130s must be adjudicated by USCIS.
Q: Can embassies and consulates work out a separate arrangement with a local USCIS office whereby thee consular officer could continue to accept petitions, and the USCIS office would take fingerprints and send clearance requests for I-130s?
A: No. These cases are not clearly approvable and therefore must be adjudicated by USCIS. However, USCIS offices overseas should continue to accept the I-130 for complete processing.
Q: Can consular officers continue to process I-600s?
A: Yes, pending further guidance from USCIS.
Q: Can consular officers accept payments for the I-130 filing fee?
A: No, because they are no longer permitted to accept the petition.
Q: Can petitioners give embassies or consulates their petitions for subsequent delivery to USCIS?
A: No. Modern courier services render this unnecessary and less efficient.
Q: How can a petitioner find more details about the relevant USCIS office?
A: If petitioners are resident in the United States (i.e., they have an active U.S. address and cannot substantiate residency abroad), they must file their petition with a USCIS domestic service center, coordinates for which may be found at www.uscis.gov. This precludes petitioners flying - or driving - to post from the United States with the intent of filing a petition outside of the U.S.
Q: Are there special exceptions for members of the military or the diplomatic corps?
A: No; the provisions of the Adam Walsh Act apply to all U.S. citizens filing a family-based visa petition.
Q: Why weren't embassies and consulates consulted before a decision of this magnitude was made?
A: The Department did not have the option of making a different decision. Implementation of this change in policy is based in law. We conducted a thorough review of the impact of the legislation on petition adjudication, and consulted with USCIS. The law requires a determination of whether a petitioner in a family-based immigration case has been convicted of a specified offense against a minor. Because consular officers do not have access to criminal history records, they must consider each I-130 petition to be not clearly approvable, such that USCIS adjudication is necessary. The circumstances required that the action be taken at this time.
Q: How can I contact the USCIS?
A: USCIS contact information may be found on their webpage at www.uscis.gov. USCIS can be reached through their National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833). The USCIS Ombudsman may be contacted at email@example.com.