Expedited Immigrant Visas for Relatives of Expatriates

If you are a US citizen residing abroad and would like to sponsor an immediate family member to immigrate to the United States, you may do this in your resident country if there is a US Citizenship and Immigration Services office in that country. An immediate relative is a spouse, parent, and unmarried child under the age of 21. In limited circumstances, a petition may be submitted to the nearest consulate if USCIS does not have an office in that country.

What is the advantage?

Unlike petitions filed in the United States, which may take 6–12 months to process, a petition filed abroad can be adjudicated and a visa issued within 1–4 months.

What is the process?

The process is identical to the usual family immigration procedure — the submission of an I-130 petition by the US citizen to USCIS and after approval, the undergoing of the visa application process at the appropriate embassy. The first step is for the US expatriate to appear at the USCIS office together with the relatives for which he is petitioning. There is usually an intake interview — to ensure the bona fides of the marriage or the claimed familial relationship. If a sham marriage is suspected, the spouses may be interviewed separately.

After the petition is filed and approved, the petition is transferred to the Immigrant Visa Unit of the Consular Section of the Embassy. The IV Unit will appoint a visa interview, and usually within one week of the interview, the immigrant visa will be issued. The visa is valid for six months, allowing the visa holder to enter the US at any time within six months of issuance.

What do I need to do?

To file a petition this way, you will need to provide documentation proving that you have been living in the foreign country for at least six months. Possible documents include a multi-entry visa, proof of local registration, work contract, apartment lease, or US military ID and evidence that you are stationed overseas. You will also need to provide documentary evidence of your relationship to your relative, as well as photocopies of any visas to the United States that your relative has been issued in the past.

What are some problems encountered by Applicants?

  • Overzealous intake staff questioning whether the US citizen is really resident in the country
  • At the visa stage, the US expatriate must show that he is “domiciled” in the United States or works for an eligible organization outside the US
  • Accusations of sham marriages, particularly when the parties are recently married; have spent little time together; and/or there is a substantial age difference
  • The US expatriate must show that he will be able to financially support his relative in the US. This issue becomes acute when the expat is leaving employment in the foreign country and does not have a job lined up in the US yet.
  • The US expatriate must show that he has filed his taxes in the United States
  • If the parties were married in a third country, there may be delays in the processing of the petition and application to verify the validity of the marriage
  • Proper completion of the I-864 form
  • If the US expatriate is a naturalized citizen who had to meet certain physical presence requirements to naturalize, USCIS may look to reconcile his current residency outside the US with his naturalization process
  • Past completion of nonimmigrant visa applications (e.g., foreign spouse did not indicate true nature of visits to US)

How can White & Associates help?

While the process is not complex, many seek the assistance of White & Associates for a preliminary consultation in order to fully understand the process: the requirements, benefits, risks and obligations. The visa recipient must satisfy all of the requirements for admission to the United States. We help address issues that arise, including financial, tax compliance, naturalization process of the US citizen (if applicable), divorce validity, criminal, medical, visa overstays, domicile, fraud, and misrepresentation. To save time and ensure that the process will go as smoothly possible, White & Associates can assist you in preparing the necessary forms and supporting documentation for submission to the Embassy.