Changes to Processing of I-130 Family Petitions Abroad


The I-130 family petition is normally filed within the United States at a centralized office. In certain circumstances, the petition may be filed directly abroad. This process is becoming more difficult as USCIS moves to close many of its international offices. USCIS just announced that it delegated some of its authority to process the family petitions to the Department of State. That change was effective February 1, 2020.

Most likely, the embassies and consulates processing these petitions are going to be slower than USCIS offices abroad, which often reached decisions much more quickly than USCIS in the states. Read the full announcement below.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that, as part of the adjustment of its international footprint to increase efficiencies, Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, will only be processed domestically by USCIS or internationally by the Department of State in certain circumstances beginning Feb 1, 2020.  

DOS will assume responsibility for certain services previously provided at USCIS international offices, services that DOS already provide in countries where USCIS does not have a presence. Eligible active-duty service members assigned overseas will file their Form I-130 locally with DOS, as will certain non-military petitioners who meet specific criteria for consular processing.  

“USCIS continues to modernize and become more efficient as an agency,” said USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans. “Since the Department of State has a much larger international presence, we have delegated authority to our State partners to accept and adjudicate petitions for immediate relatives abroad in certain circumstances. USCIS continues to expand online filing options, which are available to those filing domestically or those filing from abroad, saving applicants and petitioners time and money.” 

Generally, DOS will process Form I-130 locally if the petition falls under blanket authorization criteria, as defined by USCIS:

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. 

In addition to these blanket authorizations, DOS maintains the discretion to accept Form I-130 if a U.S. citizen petitioner meets the “exceptional circumstance” criteria as outlined in the Policy Manual update. 

All other petitioners residing overseas must file Form I-130 online or by mail through the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility for domestic processing.