Must Petitioner of Permanent Resident Application Move to the United States with Beneficiary?

A United States citizen may sponsor close family members for immigrant visas while living abroad with the understanding that at the end of the process the petitioner will relocate to the United States along with his/her relatives.  For immediate relatives, the I-130 petition may be filed at a U.S. Consulate close to where the petitioner and beneficiary reside.  The petition bypasses the usual procedure of initial approval by a USCIS service center and then transfer to the National Visa Center before the interview is ultimately held a the U.S. Consulate in the beneficiary’s home country.  Instead, the petition is filed by mail at the U.S. Consulate, which subsequently will call the petitioner and beneficiary in for an interview to check their documents, ensuring that the case is potentially approvable.  The case is then forwarded to the U.S. Consulate responsible for processing immigrant visas in the beneficiary’s country of residence.

All of the usual evidence is requested by the consulate, but one extra piece of evidence is required as well.  The beneficiary must bring evidence to the consular interview demonstrating that the petitioner has taken steps to relocate him/herself to the United States.  This evidence can include an apartment lease in his/her name, a deed to a home, utility bills in petitioner’s name, a  job waiting for petitioner in the U.S., and/or a letter from a school in the U.S. stating that the petitioner’s children have been enrolled for the subsequent term, etc.  The evidence generally shows some credible financial commitment already taken by the petitioner to reestablish residence in the United States.  Without proof of this nature, the visa petition will not be approved.

Understandably, many petitioners are wary of selling their home in the foreign country and purchasing a new home in the United States BEFORE the beneficiary’s (his/her spouse, for example) immigrant visa has been approved.  In fact, the State Department expressly discourages beneficiaries from selling their property in the foreign country or making any plans to relocate UNTIL the immigrant visa has been approved and issued.  However, when a United States citizen is married to a foreign national, their property is jointly owned.

How then can the visa be approved?  It’s a Catch 22.  If the petitioner is unwilling or unable to show he has taken steps to move to the United States before his family member’s visa is approved, the beneficiary may attend the consular interview without such evidence.  If the consular official tells the beneficiary that all other requirements have been satisfied and the visa WILL be issued  after evidence of the petitioner’s steps to change his/her domicile have been submitted to the consulate, the petitioner may then feel safe in taking these required steps.  The documentary evidence that is subsequently acquired can then be couriered or faxed to the consulate along with the beneficiary’s passport, for the visa to be issued.  Generally another interview will not be required.  It is recommended that competent immigration counsel be consulted prior to filing an immigrant petition under similar circumstances.