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How to Fast Track your I-130 Petition for a Family Based Green Card

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In some circumstances it is possible for a US citizen or Green Card holding spouse to access a fast track way to sponsor their spouse for a Green Card. This is possible if they are eligible for Direct Consular Filing. While there is no guarantee that a petition will be accepted by a local consulate, when successful this type of filing can cut almost one year of processing time from the ‘normal’ I-130 process filed directly with USCIS.

What is Direct Consular Filing?

Direct Consular Filing is when a sponsoring US citizen or Green Card holding spouse files form I-130  Petition of Alien Relative outside of the United States. This form would be filed at a local U.S. Consulate instead of with USCIS in the United States.

In our recent experience, Western European Consulates such as London, Frankfurt, Paris and Naples are taking around three to four months to process entire Immigrant Visa cases from start to finish when using the direct consular filing route. In extremely urgent cases such as those involving life or death we have seen the I-130 be processed in as little as five days at the US Consulate Amsterdam (although we must stress, the circumstances in this case were extremely rare). When you consider that receiving an Immigrant Visa after filing an I-130 at USCIS in the United States currently takes around 14 months, the Direct Consular Filing route is extremely appealing for those who can make use of it.

Who can Use Direct Consular Processing to Receive an Immigrant Visa

Direct Consular Filing is only available to those who meet the following conditions:

  1. The sponsoring spouse is a US citizen or Green Card holder who is currently outside of the United States for an extended period of time.
  2. The sponsoring spouse can prove that they temporarily live in a country other than the United States. In most circumstances this would require the US citizen or Green Card holder to have an additional passport or residence permit but some consulates also accept proof such as marriage visas for the country of residence.
  3. The sponsoring spouse’s permanent home is or will soon be in the United States.
  4. Exceptional circumstances apply (see below)

Exceptional Circumstances

Qualifying exceptional circumstances include:

  • Medical Emergency which affects either the sponsoring spouse or the spouse seeking the Green Card and requiring urgent travel to receive care in the United States. This can include where the spouse is pregnant and the expectant mother will soon be unable to fly.
  • Military Deployment on short notice.
  • Job Offer or Job Relocation to the United States for the US citizen when there is short notice for the employment start date.
  • Threat to the Personal Safety of the petitioner or their spouse.
  • Close to Aging Out
  • Green Card Applicants have Recently Naturalized –  this requires a new stand alone petition for the sponsored spouse.
  • Adoption of a Child Abroad when the petitioner has a final adoption decree and the child has been in the applicant’s legal custody for at least two years.

How long does Direct Consular Filing Take?

Our current experience with the Western European consulates has been that Immigrant Visas are issued in around three to four months after the initial request.

How much does Direct Consular Filing Cost?

There is no fee to request Direct Consular Filing. If you feel you might qualify, it is often a good idea to request. The worst that can happen is a delay to the normal processing time by about one week. The usual fees for an I-130, Immigrant Visas etc still apply.

What are the Requirements to Directly File at a Consulate

There are some requirements you must meet in order to be able to directly file at a consulate:

Residence – The US citizen or Green Card holder must usually show that they have a valid passport or residence permit from the country in which the I-130 will be directly filed. In some cases it is possible to prove this with a temporary visa.

Financial support – as with a ‘normal’ Immigrant Visa process, the sponsoring spouse needs to be able to provide documentation to show they can financially support the immigrating spouse via Form I-864. In Direct Consular Filing cases, source of income and domicile can be complicated issues to prove.

Exceptions – There are some exceptions to the rule that petitioners need to be domiciled in the United States. These include US citizens employed by the government, religious, research or international organizations or those planning to be domiciles in the United States after the issuance of an Immigrant Visa

It is possible to travel to the United States on a B visa or the Visa Waiver Program (if eligible) while having a pending I-130. Be prepared for extra questions at the US border but so long as your trip is temporary and the activities you would carry out are permissible, it is allowed to travel to the United States in the interim.

How can an Immigration Attorney Assist you with Direct Consular Filing of an I-130?

Each of the Consulates have their own idiosyncrasies and interpretation of the regulations which allow for Direct Consular filing. Some require fees to be paid by US cashier’s check or US money order whereas others require in-person submission of the I-130 by the petitioner.

A US immigration attorney can assist you with putting together a request for Direct Consular Filing which has the greatest chance of success.

Further, A US immigration attorney would be able to prepare the entire application in a way which will be accepted first time, not include any mistakes at the time of filing and be able to guide you throughout the process, anticipating questions and requested documents before they are formally required. In short, a US immigration attorney can save you time and delay.

Blue Lake Law has extensive experience in Direct Consular Filing of I-130s and we would be happy to assist anyone who may be interested in this route to the United States. We can prepare the I-130, the DS-260, I-864 and prepare you for your medical examination and consular interview.

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