Direct Consular Filing
A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) normally starts the marriage-based or family-based or green card process by filing a petition on behalf of a relative with United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) using the Petition for Alien Relative Form (Form I-130). This petition often takes several months to be processed. However, there is another process called Direct Consular Filing through which certain petitioners can file Form I-130 directly with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad through the Department of State and obtain approval in just a month or two, thereby greatly speeding up the process.
What is Direct Consular Filing?
Direct Consular Filing is only available to U.S. Citizen petitioners who believe that their situation is exceptional (exceptional circumstances must fall within certain categories described below) and are filing for immediate relatives (spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21, or parent if the petitioner is 21 years of age or older). These petitioners may contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to request acceptance for filing overseas, where each request for exceptional filing will be evaluated individually.
Exceptional Circumstances in Which Direct Consular Filing is Permitted
In cases of Direct Consular Filing, USCIS has delegated authority to the Department of State DOS to accept and adjudicate a Form I-130 filed by a U.S. citizen petitioner for an immediate relative. Petitioners must establish exceptional circumstances, as described in the USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 6, Part B, Chapter 3, or that the request falls under blanket authorization criteria defined by USCIS.
Though the DOS may exercise its discretion to accept local Form I-130 filings for other exceptional circumstances, the defined exceptional circumstances include: a) military emergencies (A U.S. service member abroad who does not fall under the military blanket authorization for U.S. service members stationed abroad on military bases); b) medical emergencies (a petitioner or beneficiary faces an urgent medical emergency requiring immediate travel); c) threats to personal safety (a petitioner or beneficiary faces an imminent threat to personal safety); d) close to aging out (a beneficiary is within a few months of aging out of eligibility); e) the petitioner has recently naturalized (the family member(s) requires a new petition based on the petitioner’s citizenship); f) adoption of a child (a petitioner has adopted a child abroad and has an imminent need to depart the country); and g) short notice of position relocation (an eligible petitioner living and working abroad receives a job offer in the United States with little notice before the required start date).
Blanket Authorization for Direct Consular Filing
In situations where there is a natural disaster abroad or prolonged or severe civil strife, USCIS may authorize a temporary blanket exception for DOS to accept Form I-130 immediate relative petitions from petitioners that are directly affected by the circumstances. Additionally, USCIS also grants DOS blanket authorization to accept Form I-130 immediate relative petitions filed by U.S. citizen military service members stationed abroad (with the exception of military service members assigned to non-military bases). This form of blanket authorization is not time limited.
Situations where the DOS Cannot Accept and Adjudicate Form I-130
Filings are limited to situations when filing with USCIS online or domestically with an expedite request would probably not be enough to address the time-sensitive nature of the circumstances. Furthermore, USCIS does not authorize DOS to accept a local filing abroad if the petitioner has already filed a Form I-130 domestically for the same beneficiary.
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