In The Military Overseas And Want To Bring My Partner To The U.S., What Visa Will She Need?
If you are considered “lawfully resident” in the country you are stationed in, then the quickest and cheapest way to be able to live with your partner in the U.S. is Direct Counselor Filing (DCF).
Direct Consular Filing is the unofficial term for filing an I-130 petition via a Consulate overseas, rather than through the US Service Center. While not everyone will qualify to do so, this process can expedite the speed in which a beneficiary can enter the United States and become a Green Card Holder (US Permanent Resident).
Current DCF procedures state that if a US Citizen lives overseas they may file the I-130 for a foreign spouse, child or parent at the US Consulate / USCIS Field Office governing their place of residence.
In most cases permanent residence abroad must be legally established for a period of six months prior to submitting an I-130 petition.
The Typical DCF Procedure To Process Your Application
1. You (and your spouse) will visit the US consulate to file your I-130 and required documents. Some consulates will accept the petition and supporting evidence via mail. Please confirm this via the consulate’s website (or on the phone if possible).
2. The I-130 will be adjudicated and either approved or denied. If it is approved the foreign spouse may apply for an IR-1 or CR-1 Visa (Immigrant Visa).
3. The foreign spouse will be required to submit a DS-230 Part 1 (visa application) as well as several required items on a checklist that the consulate will provide. The checklist will include items such as a Police Certificate, Birth Certificate, Previous Divorce Records, an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864), and others.
Note: As suggested above, if you had spoken with the consulate early on you may have already collected certain required documents. If you have them with you when filing for the Immigrant Visa you may be able to submit them with the visa application and thus expedite the processing of your case.
4. The US Citizen’s spouse will have their Immigrant Visa Interview. The US Citizen Spouse does NOT have to be present at the final interview. Once all paperwork and background checks are complete and assuming the interview goes well, the Immigrant Visa will be issued and attached inside the beneficiaries passport. The time delay from the interview to the visa being issued is typically a few days.
5. Immigrant Visas are typically valid for six months and can in some cases be extended (you must request this in advance of the visa expiration and receive approval by the embassy — do not assume this is possible unless confirmed by the consulate). The first entry into the US must be made before the expiration date on the Visa. This is very important.
6. The foreign spouse can now legally enter the US. At the Port of Entry they will have their Visa/Passport stamped indicating their legal status in the US. Their status is now that of a US Legal Permanent Resident. Within a few weeks an official Permanent Residence Card (Green Card) will arrive in the mail.
7. If on the visa application DS-230 II you applied for the Social Security number your Social Security Card will be mailed to you within a month of entering the US.
If you did not apply for the SSN on your visa application you can visit your local Social Security Agency to apply for one. Make sure to bring your passport/Visa and Green Card if you have received it.
Which Countries Have Direct Consular Filing Field Offices?
As per the USCIS website, there are international field offices in the following countries:
- Austria — Vienna Field Office
- China — Beijing Field Office
- China — Guangzhou Field Office
- (USCIS Guangzhou office at a new location on July 29, 2013)
- Cuba — Havana Field Office
- Dominican Republic — Santo Domingo Field Office>
- El Salvador — San Salvador Field Office
- Germany — Frankfurt Field Office
- Ghana — Accra Field Office
- Greece — Athens Field Office
- Guatemala — Guatemala City Field Office
- Haiti — Port-au-Prince Office Field Office
- Honduras — Tegucigalpa Field Office
- (The Honduras Field Office Closed Permanently on June 20, 2013)
- India — New Delhi Field Office
- Italy — Rome District Office
- Italy — Rome Field Office
- Jordan — Amman Field Office
- Kenya — Nairobi Field Office
- Mexico — Ciudad Juarez Field Office
- Mexico — Mexico City District Office
- Mexico — Mexico City Field Office
- Mexico — Monterrey Field Office
- Peru — Lima Field Office
- Philippines — Manila Field Office
- Russia — Moscow Field Office
- South Africa — Johannesburg Field Office
- South Korea — Seoul Field Office
- Thailand — Bangkok District Office
- Thailand — Bangkok Field Office
- United Kingdom — London Field Office
How Long Will It Take For Direct Consular Filing To Be Processed?
Every consulate is different, however, in many cases the processing time frame can be measured in weeks. For consulates with a higher case load or instance of fraud the processing time could be months.
Regardless, DCF will almost always be faster than filing with the USCIS in the United States. The reason for this is that the application is not backlogged with all the other applications that are submitted to USCIS.
When you enter the U.S. your spouse will immediately become a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) and their Green Card will be mailed to them shortly after arriving.
Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community, the My Path To Citizenship Blog and Podcast.
After successfully navigating the hurdles of US immigration. She now dedicates her time to helping other couples achieve their goals of starting their new life together in the US.