General Information on Immigrant Visas
To enter the United States to reside permanently, you need an immigrant visa, even if you do not plan to seek employment. To obtain an immigrant visa, you must be sponsored by either:
- U.S. employer (employment-based immigrant visas), or
- close family relative who is an American citizen or a legal permanent resident (family-based immigrant visas).
Once a person enters the U.S. on an immigrant visa, he or she is issued a so-called “green card” by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which identifies the person as a legal permanent resident. To maintain status as a legal permanent resident, a person generally cannot be outside the U.S. for more than one year at a time.
Important Notice: Changes to Filing I-130 Petitions Overseas Effective August 15, 2011
Effective August 15, 2011, petitioners residing overseas will no longer be able to routinely file Forms I-130, Petitions for Alien Relative, with U.S. Embassies and Consulates except in locations where U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has a public counter presence within the Embassy or Consulate (Note: US Embassy Reykjavik does not have a USCIS public counter). Petitioners residing overseas in countries where USCIS does not have a public counter presence will be required, starting August 15, 2011, to file their Forms I-130 by mail with the USCIS Chicago lockbox. U.S. Embassies and Consulates that do not have a USCIS presence will only be able to accept and process Forms I-130 in exceptional circumstances, as outlined below.
Forms I-130 that were properly filed at an Embassy or Consulate overseas where USCIS does not have a presence before August 15, 2011 will not be affected by this change.
Filing Instructions beginning August 15, 2011:
Beginning August 15, 2011, petitioners residing overseas who wish to file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, may do so as follows:
- If the petitioner resides in a country in which USCIS has a public counter presence, the Form I-130 may be filed directly with the USCIS field office (see instructions below) or through the USCIS Chicago Lockbox at one of the below addresses.
- If the petitioner resides in a country where USCIS does not have a public counter presence, the Form I-130 must be filed with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox at one of the addresses below, unless the petitioner requests and is granted an exception based on one of the criteria described below.
USCIS Chicago Lockbox addresses for regular mail deliveries:
P.O. Box 804625
Chicago, IL 60680-4107
USCIS Chicago Lockbox address for express mail and courier deliveries:
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
For additional information about how to file a Form I-130 with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox, please see the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov or contact USCIS by phone at 1-800-375-5283.
Filing at USCIS Overseas Field Offices:
From August 15, 2011, petitioners residing in a country where USCIS has a filed office, with a public counter, may choose to file the Form I-130 either through the Chicago Lockbox or at the USCIS field office. Petitioners should contact the USCIS field office with any questions regarding the filing of petitions. For more information on where USCIS has overseas field offices and contact information, please visit http://www.uscis.gov/international.
Exeptional Filing at U.S. Embassies or Consulates without a USCIS Field Office:
Beginning August 15, 2011, petitioners who do not reside in a country with a USCIS field office, but who believe that their situation merits an exception, may request an exception to allow the Consular Section at the Embassy or Consulate to accept the filing. Each request for an exception will be evaluated individually.
A petitioner seeking to file a Form I-130 at an Embassy or Consulate where USCIS does not have a presence should contact the Consular Section to request consideration of the request for exception and explain the circumstances in detail. The Consular Section will then relay the request for an exception to the USCIS field office with jurisdiction over the Embassy or Consulate. The determination of whether the case presents exceptional circumstances that warrant an exception to the general filing process will be made by USCIS. USCIS will be publishing guidance on the circumstances that may qualify as exceptional on their website.
Please contact the Consular Section at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
There are five categories of employment-based visas. For a further description of each one, click here for more.
The Embassy cannot process these kinds of visas until a petition has been filed with and been approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The spouses, children, parents, brothers and sisters of American citizens are eligible for family-based immigrant visas. Only the spouses and children of legal permanent residents, however, are eligible for such visas.
The Embassy cannot process these kinds of visas until a petition has been filed with and approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. more.
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