Late last week, news broke that USCIS plans on closing its international field office division by the end of the year. The rationale behind this decision is purportedly to reallocate resources and manpower to handle the growing surge of asylum applications, but many are understandably skeptical that this is another effort to fortify a virtual invisible wall. In practical terms, the phasing out of these offices will likely increase processing delays and contribute to a growing backlog that has already pushed cases significantly back.
There are currently 23 international USICS offices located throughout the world. These branches of USCIS are distinct and separate from the Department of State and handle various matters including but not limited to overseas adoption cases; overseas naturalization petitions such as by military personnel; refugee applications; and family petitions filed by US Citizens living abroad. For example, if certain criteria is met, a US Citizen living in England can potentially file the I-130 for his/her spouse directly with the USCIS office in London rather than having to file the petition here in the United States. Filing domestically inside the US would not only mean generally longer processing times, but also potentially being separated from one’s spouse (or immediate relative) for a considerable amount of time. This is especially the case if the US Citizen decides to remain in the United States during the process which can take up to and in some instances, more than twelve months. Contrast this with a US Citizen who is able to file the petition directly with the international field office abroad and stay with his/her spouse during adjudication of the petition. Sadly, many US Citizens who have benefited from local filing abroad include military staff members serving our country away from home.
Give this logistical shift, as well as the ethos it may represent, US Citizens living in foreign countries who intend on filing for family abroad should carefully plan their immigration goals. An immigration law firm that specializes in family petitions and keeps abreast of the latest developments, such as ours, can help ensure that you have a realistic and practical strategy.