-- US Immigration Enforces New US Visa Rule ~ Travel and Immigration 101

Saturday, September 24, 2011

US Immigration Enforces New US Visa Rule

 The US immigration agency is enforcing a new set of rules that can make life harder for Americans and their non-citizen spouses living overseas. The new process of obtaining an immigrant visa increased from three months to a minimum of five. Sometimes it may take as long as three years, The New York Times reported on Aug. 14.    
Ukraine is no exception. Americans married to Ukrainians residing in their home country will have to go through a long and complicated visa process if they decide to leave. The US Embassy in Ukraine estimates that the rule will affect approximately 5,000 Americans internationally. In an effort to centralize the process, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security now requires applicants abroad to mail the visa document called I-130 to a central immigration office in Chicago, whereas before it was enough to contact a local consulate.

“This is making a simple process complex,” said Reno Domenico, head of the Ukrainian branch of Democrats Abroad. “The new process is very impersonal, even though they say it will be a simplified process. From our experience, we don’t believe that it will be the case.” Following the submission of I-130, the families will have to wait approximately five months for the processing results, which is nearly twice as long as it was before.

After I-130 is processed, the applicant will have to submit an application to the U.S. State Department for the actual US visa. So, the entire process of bringing the family to the U.S. might take from one to three years. The options for temporary visits to the U.S. by non-citizen spouses, while the application is pending, may be limited, said Dominico.

“We suspect there will be problems with getting visitor’s visas,” he said. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services, however, assure that new rules will improve the overall system. In the interview with The New York Times on Aug. 14, spokeswoman Edna Z. Ruano said that the mail-based approach would save many Americans trips to consulates or embassies abroad and will be a step towards full transition to the electronic process. The background to this rule, according to Ruano, is financial strain on the immigration services. Last year the State Department billed the agency $3 million for its I-130 work. As a result, the agency has decided that “it is more cost effective for U.S.C.I.S. to adjudicate all I-130s, with certain limited exceptions.”

But it is an unpopular decision. “From the administrative point of view, this decision might be reasonable. However, from a human standpoint it is a terrible idea. Even though Ukraine is our home now, the new rule is taking away the choice to return to the U.S. whenever we want,” commented Scott Lewis, executive vice president for Willard. In rare situations, such as medical emergencies, threats to personal safety or some adoptions, the State Department will process applications, speeding the process.

Daniel Cisek, deputy press attache of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, said that any exceptions will be approved by the local Citizenship and Immigration Services office, which for Ukraine is in Moscow. “We estimate this will affect less than 20 applicants per year in Ukraine,” Cisek said.  


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