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In limited circumstances, I-130 petitions may be filed directly with a US embassy, which will forward the request to a USCIS overseas office for adjudication.  The I-130 is the first part of a family based immigrant visa petition. In 99% of all cases, the I-130 is filed in the United States even if the beneficiary plans to interview abroad at a US Embassy. Up until about 5 years ago, a petitioner living abroad may have been able to file at a local US Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over that person’s place of residence. Today, most people will need to file at the Chicago Lockbox first. This has added about 5 months or more to the process of obtaining a green card through a family relationship.
USCIS may authorize the Department of State, the US Embassy, to adjudicate their case in certain emergency situations, including when:

  • A U.S. service member stationed overseas becomes aware of a new deployment or transfer with very little notice.
  • A petitioner or beneficiary is facing an urgent medical emergency that requires immediate travel.
  • A petitioner or beneficiary is facing an imminent threat to personal safety.
  • A beneficiary is within a few months of aging out of eligibility.
  • The petitioner and family have traveled for the immigrant visa interview, but the petitioner has naturalized and the family member(s) require a new, stand-alone petition.
  • The petitioner adopted a child and there is an imminent need to leave the country.

Individuals who must file Form I-130 at the Chicago lockbox should use the addresses provided in the revised form instructions, also available on www.uscis.gov/I-130:

In the past 12 months, 481 requests for local processing of I-130s due to exceptional circumstances were made by The Department of State (The US Embassies) to  USCIS Field Office directors (Overseas offices)  from December 1, 2013 to November 30, 2014. Of those requests, USCIS permitted the Department of State to accept filing and adjudicate 80.7% (388). In general, those applicants that are not approved have failed to provide evidence that they face compelling circumstances requiring them to return to the United States before the case could be processed through the regular domestic procedures. If your case is accepted by a field office, the I-130 processing time would be greatly reduced.