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USCIS Will Be Requiring Overseas Petitioners to File I-130 Stateside

Recently the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) Office of Public Engagement and its International Operations Division's Office of Policy and Strategy held a teleconference regarding potential changes to the adjudication of the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, when filed by petitioners residing outside the United States.

Form I-130 is used by petitioners who are seeking an adjustment of status and want a family member who is a U.S. citizen to file on their behalf for a family-based adjustment. Currently, petitioners living abroad may have a Form I-130 adjudicated by a USCIS field office or U.S. consulate in the particular jurisdiction. However, it has become quite costly to post USCIS employees overseas. In areas without USCIS officers, it must pay Department of State (DOS) employees to provide such services. Because of this, USCIS is currently conducting a broad review of all of its overseas operations.

Nearly all I-130 petitions are filed within the United States, which prompted USCIS to consider whether it would be cost-effective to adjudicate all petitions locally, including interviews. This is likely in anticipation of fewer resources to process such petitions. Opponents expressed concerns that the lack of interviews might increase chances of fraud. However, USCIS explained that the State Department regularly conducts such interviews (not USCIS) only after the I-130 is approved and the visa application is filed and considered.

USCIS has not yet changed its policy, and the specifics regarding the new process are still being finalized. USCIS suggested that it may begin in the spring of 2011. For instance, it is still contemplating the approach for addressing requests for evidence (RFEs) where the petitioner is outside the United States, as well as concerns regarding original documents mailed from overseas.

Petitioners having questions or concerns regarding the proposed changes should contact an experienced immigration attorney for further updates and details.

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