A new U.S. visa rule has upset many U.S. citizens who are expatriates, while also leading lawyers to foresee a significant lengthening in the visa processing times for foreign-citizen family members. As you may know, foreign citizens who wish to get a visa or a green card based on a marriage to a U.S. citizen must be petitioned for by the citizen spouse. Immigration authorities in the U.S. will from now on require all immigration forms I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) to be mailed to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Chicago. According to the authorities, centralizing the handling of the forms will make the process more consistent as well as more efficient. Yet while efficiency might improve for the U.S. citizens who petition for their foreign spouses from within the United States, those U.S. citizens living abroad who have previously been able to file all the paperwork at the U.S. Embassy in the country where they reside will no longer be able to. Before, this process would have taken just one to three months for U.S. citizen expatriates, involved a lot less risk of paperwork being lost, and could have normally been done without engaging the help of an immigration attorney. Part of the reason for the new rule is that the U.S. Department of State, that operates U.S. Embassies, charged the USCIS $3 million last year for processing the I-130 forms. Thus, the USCIS believes it would be more cost-effective to process the I-130 forms centrally. The USCIS estimates the new rule will affect only about 10,000 applicants this year, which is a relatively small number. U.S. expats, on the other hand, emphasize that many of those who will be burdened by the new rules are U.S. service members, and U.S. companies operating abroad. Furthermore, U.S. citizens living abroad say they do not see any important improvements with the new rule, and they complain that the USCIS did not do enough to warn them about it ahead of time. It will be curious to see the long-raging effects of this new rule and whether it was a positive measure or not.
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