A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Delay in immediate relative I-130 processing

U.S. citizens who filed immigrant visa petitions on behalf of their family members may have noticed the current delays in the processing of these I-130 petitions.  It is now taking about eight to ten months to process these petitions, and the delay has caused problems for many immigrant families.  Before the backlog of cases is cleared, it is very important for applicants to understand their options and plan their cases carefully in order to alleviate the impact caused by the current delay.

U.S. Citizens' right to petition for close family members
One of the many benefits of being a U.S. citizen is the ability to petition for one's immediate relatives to immigrate to the United States.  Immediate relatives (IR) include one's parents, spouses and minor children. Under the current immigration policy, immediate relatives are exempt from the annual visa quota and can immigrate to the United States as soon as their petitions are approved by the U.S. government. Hence, the processing time of their cases has a direct impact on how soon they can immigrate to the United States.

Delays in immediate relative I-130 petitions
The first step of the immigration process is to file an immigrant visa petition (Form I-130).  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, is charged with the responsibility of adjudicating all immigrant visa petitions.  It has been the practice of the USCIS to process IR petitions expeditiously as they are not subject to the visa caps.  Consequently, the processing times of IR petitions have traditionally been shorter than those in other visa preference categories (such as those filed by permanent residents).  However, since early 2013, the processing of the IR petitions has slowed down significantly.  As of October 31, 2013, USCIS reports that it was only processing IR petitions filed in February 2013. The agency is aware of the issue and is taking measures to remedy the situation.  For example, the agency has been transferring cases between service centers to fully utilize the agency resources.

Know one's options and plan carefully
In light of the current processing delays, intending immigrants their petitioners should plan their cases carefully in order to avoid lengthy delay of their cases.  First of all, they should know their options.  For example, rather than filing an immigrant visa petition for a foreigner, a U.S. citizen may use a fiancee visa petition instead. Currently, the K-1 fiancee petitions (I-129F) are taking about five months to process, which is a lot faster than an I-130 petition.  In order to apply for a fiancee visa, the parties must not be married.  Couples who can delay their marriage should consider filing for the fiancee visa classification.

If a couple is already married and has a pending I-130 petition, they can file an K-3 visa petition to allow the foreign spouse to first come to the United States while waiting for the processing of the I-130 petition. As of October 31, 2013, the processing time of the K-3 (I-129F) petition is about five months.  However, it is not unusual for USCIS to adjudicate both the K-3 and I-130 petition simultaneously.  Hence, delays in I-130 processing could also slow down adjudication of the K-3 petition.

Upon approval of the I-130 petition, the case is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing and preparation for the consular interview.  Nowadays, NVC requires substantial amount of documents and information from the parties.  To speed up the immigration process, the parties should plan a head start with NVC processing.  For instance, the parties should have their original or certified documents ready including birth certificates, marriage certificate, divorce judgments, etc.  The beneficiary can also obtain the police clearances in advance but should be mindful of their effective dates.  The petitioner should also have their financial documents ready early on, including their federal tax returns, employment verification documents, proof of assets, etc.

Conclusion
USCIS has announced that it intends to bring the processing time back down to five months - the agency's target processing time for immediate relative petitions.  Before this goal is achieved, it is important for immigrant families to carefully consider their options and plan their actions accordingly.  For cases with unusual delays or special circumstances, the parties may contact Congressional members and USCIS Obudsman for assistance.  As a last resort, the parties may also file a Writ of Mandamus with the federal court to request that their I-130 petition be adjudicated.


7 comments:

  1. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/give-us-citizen-i-130-i-129f-petitions-proper-priority/FxWZpJFF

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  2. The NVC is really killing husbands and wives by separating us sooo long. I pray we get out of this soon as I am missing my wife so much

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  3. My wife and I filed for I-130 and I-129F on August 2014. Still nothing from USCIS as of May 3rd 2015.

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  4. My wife and I filed for I-130 and I-129F on August 2014. Still nothing from USCIS as of May 3rd 2015.

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  5. We filed on november 2014 ,and still waiting on adjudication is now may 2016

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  6. We filed on november 2014 ,and still waiting on adjudication is now may 2016

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