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Navigating Exceptional Circumstances: Filing an I-130 Petition at a U.S. Consulate

15th February 2024

For U.S. citizens residing abroad facing extraordinary circumstances, expediting the processing of an I- 130 petition for an alien relative becomes paramount. In such exceptional cases, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) offer a specialized procedure allowing for the filing of the I-130 form directly at a U.S. consulate, thereby facilitating swifter resolution of familial immigration matters.

When Can the DOS Accept Consular Filed Petitions?

While I-130 petitions are typically submitted to the USCIS within the United States, the DOS possesses the authority to accept and adjudicate family-based petitions under exceptional circumstances. These may include medical emergencies, sudden job relocations, threats to personal safety, or immigration-related issues such as imminent aging out of immigration benefits or exclusion of derivative family members. The DOS evaluates each case individually, considering the unique circumstances presented.

Eligibility Criteria for Consular Filing

Only U.S. citizens petitioning for immediate relatives are eligible to file directly at a U.S. consulate under exceptional circumstances. Both the petitioner and beneficiary must be physically present within the consular district, although residency within the district is not mandatory. Notably, the DOS cannot accept petitions from individuals who have already filed with the USCIS for the same beneficiary or those seeking to circumvent standard USCIS processing times.

Consular Filing Procedure

The petitioner must personally appear at the U.S. consulate with original documents to initiate the filing process. It is imperative that the beneficiary remains in the foreign country throughout the visa processing period. Prior to scheduling an appointment, individuals should contact the specific U.S. consular post to ascertain any consulate-specific procedures. Even in the presence of a USCIS office in the country, the DOS may still accept the I-130 petition under authorized circumstances.

I-130 Approval Criteria

I-130 petitions filed directly with a U.S. consulate bypass USCIS review and must meet a standard of being "clearly approvable" to proceed. If the consular officer deems the petition does not meet this criterion, it will be forwarded to the appropriate USCIS service center or district office for standard adjudication.

Conclusion

While the standard procedure entails filing I-130 petitions with the USCIS within the United States, individuals facing exceptional circumstances may explore the option of filing directly at a U.S. consulate for expedited processing. If you find yourself in such a situation, seeking guidance from an experienced immigration attorney can provide invaluable support and insight into navigating the complexities of the process.

At KPB Immigration Law Firm, we understand the intricacies of family-based immigration and are committed to assisting clients in achieving their immigration goals. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and explore your options for filing an I-130 petition under exceptional circumstances.