U.S. Citizens May No Longer File I-130 Petitions While Living Abroad

In the past, a U.S. citizen or in some cases, lawful permanent resident who lived abroad and wished to file an I-130 petition for a foreign-born family member had an option to file the petition at an overseas USCIS office, but no longer.

** LEGAL UPDATE **

In the past, a U.S. citizen or in some cases, lawful permanent resident who lived abroad and wished to file an I-130 petition for a foreign-born family member had more than one option for where to file. One was to send the petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States; while the other was to approach an overseas USCIS office, in cases where it was more convenient or time-efficient.

USCIS has just announced, however, that the latter is no longer an option. It is closing many of its overseas offices, and going forward will allow Form I-130 to be processed only domestically, or in rare and urgent cases, by the Department of State (DOS).

There are only a few exceptions.

For one, eligible active-duty service members who are posted overseas can file Form I-130 locally with DOS.

Also, DOS can provide a blanket authorization for people to file Form I-130 locally, in cases of prolonged or severe civil strife or a natural disaster.

In addition, DOS will have discretion to accept Form I-130 if warranted by “exceptional circumstance,” such as:

  • medical emergencies requiring immediate travel (whether the U.S. petitioner or foreign-born beneficiary is the affected person)
  • threats to personal safety
  • an age-out issue, in which a beneficiary is within a few months of losing visa eligibility because of an age limit
  • U.S. petitioner's recent naturalization to U.S. citizenship, where the petitioner and family members have traveled for the visa interview, but due to the naturalization, one or more family members will need a new I-130 filed on their behalf
  • adoption of a foreign-born child who needs to depart the country in a hurry, provided the petitioner has a full and final adoption decree and meets other criteria for the child to immigrate, or
  • the U.S. petitioner has been living/working abroad but just got a job offer in or reassignment to the United States and must start very soon.

All other petitioners who live overseas will need to file Form I-130 either online or by mail through the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility, as per USCIS's online instructions to the form.

For details concerning this new procedural rule, see Chapter 3 of the USCIS Policy Manual.

Effective Date: February 1, 2020