The following article examines recently announced changes to I-129F processing protocols and possible ramifications for American Citizens and their foreign fiances.

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In a recent news release from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) it was revealed that I-129F applications should no longer be sent directly to the Service Center with appropriate jurisdiction. Instead, the I-129f application will now be sent to a lockbox facility:

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced a change in filing location instructions and addresses for the Petition for Alien FiancĂ©(e) (Form I-129F). The new instructions, dated 6/14/10, are part of an overall effort to transition the intake of forms from Service Centers to USCIS Lockbox facilities. Centralizing form and fee intake to a Lockbox environment allows USCIS to provide customers with more efficient and effective initial processing of applications/petitions and fees.”*

There are those who ponder the implications of this announcement as changes to processing procedures could have an impact upon USCIS processing times. Prior to the introduction of this lockbox facility, K1 visa petitions were filed with an appropriate service center. Often, a USCIS Service Center’s processing time depended upon the overall caseload of that center. As a result, the processing times could fluctuate depending upon caseload and US Citizen petitioners were left in a situation where they could be “fortunate” and see their petition processed out rather quickly or “unfortunate” and see their petition processed out more slowly. The creation of a lockbox facility should result in more uniform processing times as the lockbox facility could forward a petition to the service center best equipped to process the case quickly.

Those investigating the K1 visa for the first time ought to take note of the fact that the USCIS adjudication process is only the first step in the overall K1 visa process as approved I-129f applications are sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) and finally to the Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction. The Department of State’s National Visa Center initiates a security clearance and acts as something of a clearinghouse for approved K-1 petitions routing case files to appropriate Consulates and/or Embassies. Once the case file is received at a US Consulate abroad, the proposed beneficiary will be subjected to the Consular adjudication process which includes, but may not be limited to, an in-person visa interview at an Embassy or Consulate facility. In certain cases, a 221(g) refusal notice is issued by a Consular Officer after interview if further evidence is required for the visa to be issued. That said, in a large number of cases, the visa is granted upon the Consular Officer’s finding that the underlying relationship is bona fide and all other requirements have been met.