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Live Abroad

Jan 2, 2006
Is U.S. Residency Required to Immigrate my Family?
- Atty. Robert Reeves Email this article

U.S. citizens who reside abroad frequently encounter problems when immigrating their foreign spouse and children to the United States. To initiate the visa process, a U.S. citizen may file a visa petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the regional office having jurisdiction over the place where they intend to reside or with the USCIS office connected with the U.S. Consulate or Embassy having jurisdiction over the area he or she is now living. The petitioning process is only the first step. Some overseas offices have refused to accept family immigrant visa petitions or have discouraged overseas filings. However, one can always file in one of the four regional service centers in the United States by mail.


After the visa petition has been approved, the U.S. citizen petitioner commonly experiences difficulties with the affidavit of support domicile requirement. U.S. residency or domicile is necessary to complete the immigrant visa processing. The petitioner must accept legal responsibility for financially supporting his family members. The law requires that he sponsor them by completing and signing a document called an affidavit of support. If the primary sponsor does not have sufficient income, a second sponsor will be required to execute an affidavit of support. The secondary sponsor can be anybody with adequate income who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, at least 18 years old and domiciled in the United States or one of its territories. The petitioner will still need to file the affidavit of support and meet the domicile requirement.


U.S. domicile is defined as the place where the petitioner has a residency in the U.S. Many U.S. citizens temporarily reside outside the U.S. for employment purposes. Petitioners who can show that they have a domicile in the U.S., but who are now living temporarily abroad because of certain types of employment shall be considered to have retained their domicile in the U.S. The following are the qualifying types of employment: employment by the U. S. government, an American institution of research, an American firm or corporation engaged in the development of foreign trade with the U.S., a public international organization in which the U.S. participates by treaty or statute; and authorization to perform ministerial or priestly functions or being engaged solely as a missionary of a religious denomination having a bona fide organization in the U.S. and is stationed abroad pursuant to that calling. Usually, these categories do not encounter substantial problems establishing domicile in the U.S.

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