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US Marriage Visas: Direct Consular Filings (DCF) Overseas

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing Direct Consular Filing. Now what is that?  

In most cases involving spouses of American citizens especially or immediate relatives of American citizens for example step-children etc., you can, and often times will, routinely file that case with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service which is part of the Department of Homeland Security and then that petition needs to be adjudicated by that particular Agency before the case will be moved on to the Department of State to go ahead and deal with issuance of an actual visa.  Under certain circumstances in the past you would have situations where people could file an I-130 directly with the Embassy.  That was called a Direct Consular Filing. That was more widely acceptable in the past than it is now. There are now curtailments to that policy which are having a substantial impact with respect to people who live abroad.  Now let me be clear. There are certain jurisdictions, Thailand included, which have a USCIS office within their jurisdiction, within that given nation, and in those countries this isn't even really an issue because Direct Consular Filing was never something that was done because usually I-130s were going to go ahead and be processed by USCIS anyway. 

But that being said, this is about Direct Consular Filing specifically and the restrictions that have come about in the past roughly 5 or 6 years pertaining to Direct Consular Filings. In a policy memorandum dated May 14th, 2012, the memorandum subject line reads: Process for Responding to Requests by the Department of State to accept a locally filed form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.  Quoting directly, ”Based on recent discussion with DOS,  USCIS has determined it is more cost-effective for USCIS to adjudicate all I-130s with certain limited exceptions.”  So a few years ago, in the past, people who were living abroad could have issues filing their case in the United States and for that reason they opened up the lock box in the United States jurisdiction basically to be worldwide so there may be in certain circumstances there  maybe concurrent jurisdiction, most notably with respect to Department of State for a locally filed case,  but that concurrent jurisdiction is quite a bit more limited now in scope that the lockbox in the States he is curtailed.  I should say that the lockbox in the United States has widened their scope off jurisdiction which has thus curtailed the scope of jurisdiction of certain Embassies with respect to Direct Consular Filing.  “The current instructions for the form I-130 generally require a petitioner resides outside the United States file the I-130 by mail to USCIS domestic lockbox. The petitioner is allowed to file the I-130 with an international USCIS office if, and there is emphasis on if, the petitioner lives in a country where USCIS has an international field office and prefers to file with that office. Filing the I-130 with the DOS, Department of State, at an Embassy or Consulate is permitted only in "exceptional circumstances".  

Now quoting further in this policy memorandum, "the following are some examples of “exceptional circumstances” when USCIS will likely authorized DOS Department of State to accept and process an I-130 petition: military emergencies; medical emergencies; threats to personal safety; close to aging out -  specifically a beneficiary is within a few months of aging out of eligibility. Basically that individual would hit 21 or 18 depending on the statutory rules with respect to that given benefit, that individual is going to basically become of an age that they will no longer be eligible for that benefit; petitioners recently naturalized- a petitioner and family members have travelled for the immigrant visa interview but the petitioner  has naturalized and the family members require a new, stand-alone petition. Can’t happen. adoption of a child;  short notice of position relocation - for example a US citizen petitioner living or working abroad who receives a job relocation within the same company or subsidiary to the United States or an offer of a new job in the United States with very little notice.”  It goes on to state that this is not an exhaustive list of examples.  

So the thing to take away from this video I think and to take away from this whole issue is Direct Consular Filing so called DCFs are technically still allowed but they're going to be curtailed greatly with respect to the frequency of which they're going to be allowed or accepted for filing and processed directly with an Embassy or Consulate.  

It looks to me like moving forward and as has been evidenced in the past, I think the DOS is going to take far less of these cases on a direct Consular filing exempt under those circumstances mentioned or perhaps under another extenuating circumstance which warrants fast-tracking the processing of such a case.  

So those interested in getting into this further we have other videos on this channel with respect to so-called local filings of various immigration petitions and also the overall process of how the standard routine process works where you file with the lock box in the United States and process through that way. 

It should also be noted that the National Visa Center has changed some of their protocols with respect to online filing of documentation and that has speed up some of the process with respect to processing an Immigrant Visa case, mostly for immigrants, and for that reason direct Consular filing may not be so exigent when compared to times past because the overall processing time of an immigrant Visa case in my opinion moving forward is probably going to diminish a little bit on the DOS side especially with respect to the National Visa Center.