While most immigrant visa petitions are filed in the United States, there are limited provisions for filing certain types of petition forms outside the United States, including the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.
Filing Form I-130 Petitions in Exceptional Situations
Petitioners may request to file at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in certain limited circumstances, as described in USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 6, Part B, Chapter 3, and only if filing for immediate relatives (spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21, or parent if the petitioner is 21 years of age or older).
Petitioners who believe that their situation merits an exception to routine filing directly with USCIS may contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to request acceptance for filing overseas. Each request for an exception will be evaluated individually.
If a consular officer in a U.S. embassy or consulate encounters an individual case that the officer believes has need of immediate processing of a Form I-130, the consular officer may, but is not required to, accept the local filing in exceptional circumstances, in accordance with the guidance from the USCIS.
Examples of exceptional circumstances include:
- Military emergencies – A U.S. service member, who is abroad but who does not fall under the military blanket authorization for U.S. service members stationed abroad on military bases, becomes aware of a new deployment or transfer with little notice. This exception generally applies in cases where the U.S. service member is provided with exceptionally less notice than normally expected.
- Medical emergencies – A petitioner or beneficiary is facing an urgent medical emergency that requires immediate travel.
- Threats to personal safety – A petitioner or beneficiary is facing an imminent threat to personal safety. For example, a petitioner and beneficiary may have been forced to flee their country of residence due to civil strife or natural disaster and are in precarious circumstances in a different country outside of the United States.
- Close to aging out – A beneficiary is within a few months of aging out of eligibility.
- Petitioner has recently naturalized – A petitioner and family member(s) have traveled for the immigrant visa interview, but the petitioner has naturalized and the family member(s) requires a new petition based on the petitioner’s citizenship.
- Adoption of a child – A petitioner has adopted a child abroad and has an imminent need to depart the country. This type of case should only be considered if the petitioner has a full and final adoption decree on behalf of the child and the adoptive parent(s) has had legal custody of and jointly resided with the child for at least 2 years.
- Short notice of position relocation – A U.S. citizen petitioner, living and working abroad, has received a job offer in or reassignment to the United States with little notice for the required start date.
The list of examples provided above is not exhaustive. The DOS may exercise its discretion to accept local Form I-130 filings for other emergency or exceptional circumstances of a non-routine nature, unless specifically noted below. However, such filings must be truly urgent and otherwise limited to situations when filing with USCIS online or domestically with an expedite request would likely not be sufficient to address the time-sensitive and exigent nature of the situation.
The DOS may consider a petitioner’s residency within the consular district when determining whether to accept a filing, but it is not required.
If your request to file an I-130 petition with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate is denied, then you must file the petition online or by mail to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox.
A visa applicant, for whom a petition is filed with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, must be able to remain in the country where the embassy or consulate is located for the duration of time it takes to process the visa application.