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ResourcesVisa & Immigration LawUS Immigration LawWill the US Embassy Thailand Take Direct Consular Filings of I-130s?

Will the US Embassy Thailand Take Direct Consular Filings of I-130s?

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing the US Embassy here in Thailand.       

There has been a recent announcement, I received it as an automated email that came out in correspondence between myself on a case in the office and USCIS, Bangkok. In that automated response the following quotation was made:  "Please be informed our office is permanently closing on December 31, 2019. The last day that we will accept applications and petitions and be open to the public is October 18th, 2019. After October 18, we will only respond to email enquiries that relate to a case that is currently pending with our office. After October 18, the Embassy in Bangkok will assume responsibility for SOME services, note that I will get back to that in a minute, previously provided by USCIS to individuals residing in Thailand.  Please see the chart below for more details.

In that chart they notice service/form: Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative:

File your petition by mail with the USCIS lock box facility in Dallas. You can find additional filing information on the form I-130 web page

Quoting further, “USCIS may authorize the Department of State to accept a petition filed with the US Embassy or Consulate in limited circumstances to request to file Form I-130 with US Embassy in Bangkok. Please visit the Embassy’s website. Now, those limited circumstances truly are limited. It is my understanding that Direct Consular Filing that they really are only done in cases that require expedited actions. We are talking about major issues, life changing issues, emergency issues etc.  

This is a big departure from what we have been used to here in Thailand having a USCIS office and with this office closing, a major benefit to Americans resident in Thailand, in the form of being able to file an I-130, a petition for a marriage visa to the United States for one's, presumably Thai spouse although third country nationals can file here so long as the American citizen met the residence requirements in order to file here in the Kingdom. So in the past that benefit existed and that can result in the I-130 taking a matter of months as opposed to multiple months over a year, sometimes a year and a half in similar cases simply because the caseload here year was lower and there were just less logistical obstacles that had to be overcome in getting that case processed, most notably just geographic distance. In filing in the USCIS office here in Bangkok, you simply filed on one side of the street and once they were done with the case and had presumably approved it, they moved it across the street to the Embassy Consulate section of the Embassy; it literally went across the street you know as opposed to the geographic distance that has to be traversed of these petitions when they are going for from for example the USCIS lockbox in Dallas over to the National Visa Center in New Hampshire and then finally on to an Embassy or Consulate abroad. 

So as a practical matter, these locally filed by I-130s were a major benefit to American citizens who had spouses and were residing here in the Kingdom. That benefit is gone with the closure of USCIS. I don't think it is particularly prudent nor do I think it is warranted to presume that the Embassy is going to undertake those cases at nearly the level that USCIS Bangkok was processing them because quite frankly that is not their function.  DHS, specifically USCIS has to adjudicate a petition before the matter is brought before Department of State so I think unless you have got a major emergency or some other extenuating circumstances, it is simply not going to be possible to go ahead and file the type of cases at the US Embassy locally, what are called "Direct Consular Filings”. I don't think that is going to be possible on the level or in the case load level that we had seen when USCIS Bangkok was operational here in Thailand.