Beginning August 20, family immigration in Washington and throughout the country will be getting even more difficult, with the promulgation of new rules by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Almost daily, there is a new article or other news report on the status of various immigration law issues. However, this latest USCIS initiative caught a lot of people off guard. The change in procedure is trumpeted by supporters as being more "efficient and consistent and centralized." However, policy promoters appeared to have left out that the new procedures are more time-consuming and expensive for those seeking family immigration.
As of last month, all processing of the visa document known as I-130 will be handled through a central office in Chicago. The visa document specifically impacts American citizens who live overseas with their spouse and/or children who are noncitizens. Those who will be affected the most are military personnel with foreign immediate family.
Authorities say the new process could take up to five months. Once the initial processing is completed, the actual application for a visa must still be made to the U.S. State Department.
Applicants who live abroad that need to apply for the I-130 visa currently visit a U.S. Consular office in person, a process that takes only one to three months. Under the old procedure a face to face interview helped resolve many issues. Now, with the application process done primarily through paperwork, there are potential problems. Minor discrepancies in paperwork, easily resolved in personal interviews, will now add to delay. The likelihood of lost or misplaced paperwork and files will surely increase.
It appears the primary reason for the change was an attempt at saving money. Last year, for the first time, the U.S. State Department billed USCIS $3 million for processing I-130 visa applications. USCIS has decided it can do the work itself for less money. Whether or not it saves money is yet to be determined.
What is known is that the cost-cutting measure runs the risk of providing less efficient service, and that may cause employers of U.S. nationals to avoid transfer of employees with alien spouses, simply because the wait involved is too long and therefore too expensive.
Those seeking an I-130 visa will now have a tougher road to follow, notwithstanding the protestations of USCIS. Family immigration and immigration law in general is becoming more complex as the issues become more politically charged. In Washington, an attorney experienced in representing people seeking a visa to enter the United States may offer some perspective and guidance to those searching for answers.
Source: The New York Times, "U.S. Visa Rule Will Burden Families, Lawyers Say," Brian Knowlton, Aug. 14, 2011