Filing Immigrant Visa ('Green Card') Petitions with the United States Embassy in London

You have met the man/ woman of your dreams, started planning the wedding, and are trying to juggle the demands of work, life, and now that gluten-free dietary request your Aunt has submitted for the wedding reception. Every married couple has experienced the joys and the challenges of planning their future life together. However, for British-American couples, or any other bi-national couple, carving out the seating arrangement is just the start of a series of decisions and tribulations to follow. The biggest decision often is which of the two countries to live in.

Couples who decide to start their new life together in America must first navigate the US immigration process. The US citizen spouse will be the 'petitioner' for US immigration purposes, and the British (or other nationality) spouse will be referred to as the 'beneficiary'. The US citizen must file an immigrant visa petition (I-130) for the beneficiary, along with a number of other forms and required documentation. The purpose of this petition is to allow the British citizen spouse, if abroad, to enter the USA as an immigrant and obtain his/her 'green card'.

Once decisions are made about moving to the USA and filing an immigrant visa petition, the next questions is where the couple is able to file their immigration documents. If the couple lives abroad, often the most convenient (and arguably obvious) filing location would be the local US Embassy. However, since 15 August 2011, US citizen petitioners residing outside the USA are no longer able to routinely file an immigrant visa petition for their spouse at the local US Embassy or Consulate, unless the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) "has a public counter presence" within the Embassy or Consulate.

In the UK, there is an Embassy of the United States in London, and a US Consulate in Belfast. Additionally, located in the near vicinity in the Republic of Ireland is the US Embassy in Dublin. Of these, the US Embassy in London is the only one that has a USCIS public counter presence. Therefore, US citizens who meet certain conditions are able to file directly with the London US Embassy. The remainder of petitioners must instead file their immigrant visa petition with USCIS in the United States. Presently, such petitions must instead be filed with the Chicago Lockbox, although filing locations can and do change frequently.

The only petitioners able to file their immigrant visa petition with the Embassy of the Unites States in London are those who:

  • Are US citizens (thereby excluding Lawful Permanent Residents of the USA); and
  • Have permission from the UK Home Office to reside legally in the United Kingdom, and have valid UK entry clearance as evidence; and
  • Have actually resided in the UK for at least 6 months following entry into the UK after the grant of UK entry clearance

Aside from reasons of convenience, filing an immigrant petition with the US Embassy in London is often much quicker than filing the same with USCIS. As of 4 March 2013, the Embassy of the United States in London was processing immigrant visa petitions filed on 1 February 2013, or approximately one month prior. In contrast, petitions filed with the Chicago Lockbox are sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing, and they take approximately 10 months to be processed. Whilst it is important to note that these processing times are subject to change at any time, the nine month difference in processing times cannot be ignored.

An immigrant to the United States herself, Attorney Hyde would be delighted to assess your family immigration matter and determine whether you are able to file your immigrant visa petition (I-130) with the American Embassy in London. Contact the American Immigration Law Office today to schedule your consultation.