Can one file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative from outside the United States?
Yes. A U.S.C. spouse who resides outside of the United States can file an I-130 from outside of the United States, which is known as Direct Consular Filing. Direct Consular Filing allows eligible candidates to speed up the process in which a beneficiary will be allowed to enter the United States. This can then result in an expedited process for obtaining a green card (permanent residency).
Who is eligible to file an I-130 Petition from outside the U.S.?
In order to file a Form I-130, Petition through a Direct Consular Process, the Petitioner should have U.S. Citizenship and have lived abroad for a minimum of six months, although there are some exceptions such as certain family emergencies, members of the military.
How does one file an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative through Direct Consular Process?
Direct Consular Filing is similar to filing an I-130 Petition in the United States. The petitioner files an I-130 at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their country. The I-130 petition is not sent to a United States Citizenship Services office in the United States. Instead it is processed at the consulate overseas. The consulate then renders a decision on the petition. In the event that the petition is approved, the beneficiary is eligible to apply for an immigrant visa.
How long will the Direct Consular Filing Process take?
Filing directly with a U.S. Consulate is often quicker than filing with a USCIS office within the United States. The reason for this is that the application does not need to go to the extensive applications that are submitted to USCIS. Furthermore, different consulates have different processing times. Generally, one should expect a decision within weeks.
What if there is no USCIS office at the consulate? where I can file an I-130 Petition?
Fortunately, a U.S. Citizen can file an I-130 Petition via mail as well. These I-130 petitions are to be filed with USCIS Chicago Lockbox. Keep in mind that the petitioning U.S. Citizen will either way have to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the consular officer that he or she is permanently relocating to the USA. Purchase of a real estate, renting an apartment in the USA or taking other important first steps are helpful in proving intent to relocate.
What countries have International Immigration Field Offices?
As per the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website, there are international field offices in the following countries:
- Austria — Vienna Field Office
- China — Beijing Field Office
- China — Guangzhou Field Office
- (USCIS Guangzhou office at a new location on July 29, 2013)
- Cuba — Havana Field Office
- Dominican Republic — Santo Domingo Field Office>
- El Salvador — San Salvador Field Office
- Germany — Frankfurt Field Office
- Ghana — Accra Field Office
- Greece — Athens Field Office
- Guatemala — Guatemala City Field Office
- Haiti — Port-au-Prince Office Field Office
- Honduras — Tegucigalpa Field Office
- (The Honduras Field Office Closed Permanently on June 20, 2013)
- India — New Delhi Field Office
- Italy — Rome District Office
- Italy — Rome Field Office
- Jordan — Amman Field Office
- Kenya — Nairobi Field Office
- Mexico — Ciudad Juarez Field Office
- Mexico — Mexico City District Office
- Mexico — Mexico City Field Office
- Mexico — Monterrey Field Office
- Peru — Lima Field Office
- Philippines — Manila Field Office
- Russia — Moscow Field Office
- South Africa — Johannesburg Field Office
- South Korea — Seoul Field Office
- Thailand — Bangkok District Office
- Thailand — Bangkok Field Office
- United Kingdom — London Field Office
As always, the complexity and accuracy that is required to file petitions is such that it is always advisable to hire an experienced immigration attorney to represent you in the process.