If you are a U.S. citizen or a Green Card holder, you can sponsor certain family members for a Green card by filing Form I-130. You generally have to file the I-130 petition with USCIS, but there are certain scenarios when you could file it at a U.S. Consulate abroad.
Where do I file the I-130 petition?
If the person who is being sponsored for a green card lives in the U.S. at the time the I-130 petition is filed with USCIS and the green card category for this person is current, this person could Adjust status in the U.S. by filing Form I-485.
On the other hand, if the person who is being sponsored for a green card lives outside the U.S. (or does not qualify for the Adjustment of Status), he/she will have to go through a process called Consular Processing (the Beneficiary will have to attend a green card interview at a U.S. Consulate abroad).
Please note that in both scenarios above, the I-130 petition would have to be filed with USCIS in the U.S.
The question that sometimes arises is then:
Is there a scenario when you could file the I-130 petition with a U.S. Consulate abroad and the Consulate would adjudicate the petition?
Yes, in certain very limited circumstances: when filing an I-130 with USCIS & asking USCIS for an expedite request would not be sufficient.
Please note that the U.S. Consulates abroad do not normally adjudicate the I-130 petitions but could do so in very limited circumstances, if you meet the following requirements:
1. You as the petitioner are a U.S. citizen;
2. You are filing the I-130 petition for your immediate relative, which means:
- parent (if you are 21 years old or older), or
- a child (if the child is unmarried and under the age of 21); and
3. There are exceptional circumstances, such as:
- Medical emergency (of either you or the beneficiary)
- Threats to your or your immediate relative’s personal safety
- Your immediate relative is close to aging out (e.g. your child will soon turn 21)
- The U.S. citizen petitioner that is living and working abroad has received a job offer from a U.S. employer with a little notice for your required start date
- USCIS may issue a temporary blanked authorization for the U.S. Consulates to accept I-130 petitions for certain applicants
- Please note that the list is not exhaustive and you may qualify for other reasons if you can demonstrate that exceptional/extraordinary circumstances exist.
Please note that some Consulates may require that you reside within the Consular district where the I-130 petition will be filed.
Does Consulate have to accept the I-130 filing?
No. The Consular officers have discretion to accept the I-130 filing. Filing an I-130 petition at a Consulate abroad is specifically not allowed in the following 2 scenarios:
- If the U.S. citizen travels outside the U.S. for the purpose of filing the I-130 petition (as explained above, you should live and work in the country where you will be filing the I-130 petition), or
- If the U.S. citizen already filed an I-130 petition with USCIS
How do I file an I-130 at a U.S. Consulate?
You should check a website of the particular Consulate where you will be applying/reach out to the particular Consulate and ask what is the procedure to submit the exceptional circumstances request/the supporting documentation.
For example, some Consulates may first want to submit an explanation why you think you qualify for the I-130 Consular filing and if the approve the expedite filing request, and then submit the I-130 supporting docs.
Please note that the U.S. Consulates may only adjudicate petitions that are clearly approvable (if the petition is not clearly approvable, the Consulate will transfer the petition to USCIS).
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