CIS Service Centers Implement Good Idea
September 9, 2004

Over the past year or so, processing times for family based, I-130 immigrant petitions have skyrocketed. Of particular significance are the extended processing times for visa petitions in the “Immediate Relative” or “IR” category, where visas are immediately available and the main obstacle to visa processing are stateside CIS service center delays, delays that have stretched to as long as 2 years. In the past month, however, CIS headquarters has issued a directive instructing the four regional CIS service centers to give first priority to adjudicating I-130 petitions in the IR category or other family preference categories where a visa is immediately available. The class of family members that come under the IR category and who will most benefit from this new policy are overseas spouses of U.S. citizens, under 21 year old children of US citizens and parents of adult U.S. citizens.

As stated, the IR category includes spouses of U.S. citizens, under 21 year old children of U.S. citizens and parents of over 21 year old U.S. citizens. For relatives such as these, no line for visa availability exists, just a line to have the I-130 petition approved by a CIS service center and ultimately forwarded to a US consular post for final immigrant visa processing.

It is important to note though, for those IR family members already in the U.S., immigrant processing in the U.S. is usually available (“adjustment of status) and the above CIS service center delays do not come into play since such filings are ultimately processed through a local CIS office, with employment authorization and sometimes advance parole travel documents available for applicants while the filing is pending.

But for those IR family members waiting overseas, processing times are slowly starting to shrink. For example, a U.S. citizen who is trying to facilitate the entry of his overseas spouse, under 21 year old child (or step child), or his parents, no longer will face a 2 year wait before the I-130 petition will be reviewed at a CIS Service Center, such as the Nebraska Service Center (the facility processing I-130 petitions filed by mainly Midwestern based U.S. family members). To this point, processing times have been reduced to 1 year for the IR category, and I expect that in the coming year, initial processing will be cut down to 6 months or less. And such reduced processing times may obviate the need for U.S. citizens to file the additional K-3 petition in order to speed up the arrival of an overseas groom or bride. All in all, with the implementation of the new directive, total processing time for the overseas IR family member can be expected to eventually be reduced to 12 months or less, taking into account CIS Service Center processing, National Visa Center processing and then finally the overseas’ U.S. consular post scheduling.

What does the new directive mean for other I-130 petitions for non-IR category relatives?

The I-130 for family members in any of the Family Preference categories (see below) will not be reviewed or processed until there is visa availability. That does not mean there will be additional delays for such family members or that such family member’s will be negatively impacted for the most part. Instead, CIS will not waste its resources in giving immediate attention to I-130 petitions for family members who will have to wait a period of anywhere from 4 to 30 years for visas to become available anyway.

More specifically, the following is a breakdown of the family preference categories and the approximate visa line for each category:

First Preference – adult unmarried child of U.S. citizen; 4 years, except much longer for those from Philippines (14 years) and Mexico (12 years)

Second Preference A – unmarried, under 21 year old child of Lawful Permanent Resident and spouse of Lawful Permanent Resident; 4 years, except longer for those from Mexico (7 years)

Second Preference B – unmarried, over 21 year old child of Lawful Permanent Resident; 9 years, except longer for those from Mexico

Third Preference – married child of U.S. citizen; 7 years, except longer for those from Philippines (16 years) and Mexico (12 years)

Fourth Preference – sibling of U.S. citizen; 12 years, except longer for those from Philippines (approximately 20 years)

Thus, for example, no longer will a U.S. citizen file an I-130 petition for an adult unmarried child and receive an approval notice within 2 years, and then be told that an additional period of years to wait for visa availability will be required. Instead, although the I-130 petition filing date will establish the family members place in line (priority date), adjudication of the petition will only take place once that family member’s place in the relevant visa line becomes current – and as set forth above, that could mean anywhere from 4 to 20 years.

Copyright © 2004-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois