Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Since a lot of you out there are expats in mixed-nationality relationships, I thought I would post something I found out about recently that was extremely shocking - yet it has received surprisingly little publicity:

As of yesterday, August 15, 2011, the US Embassies in France can no longer issue immigrant visas for US employment, fiancé visas or family visas. Everything must now be processed through the US Citizen and Immigration Services in Chicago! Meaning one office is going to process immigrant visas for most of the countries in the world. How insane is that?!

Here are the new instructions according to the American Embassy website:

Filing Instructions beginning August 15, 2011:

Beginning August 15, 2011, petitioners residing overseas who wish to file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, may do so as follows:

  • If the petitioner resides in a country in which USCIS has a public counter presence, the Form I-130 may be filed directly with the USCIS field office (see instructions below) or through the USCIS Chicago Lockbox at one of the below addresses.
  • If the petitioner resides in a country where USCIS does not have a public counter presence, the Form I-130 must be filed with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox at one of the addresses below, unless the petitioner requests and is granted an exception based on one of the criteria described below:

USCIS Chicago Lockbox addresses for regular mail deliveries:

P.O. Box 804625
Chicago, IL 60680-4107

USCIS Chicago Lockbox address for express mail and courier deliveries:

Attn: I-130
131 South Dearborn-3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

For additional information about how to file a Form I-130 with the USCIS Chicago lockbox, please see the USCIS website at or contact USCIS by phone at 1-800-375-5283.

First of all, lockbox?? WTF? Couldn't they have come up with a more professional sounding word than that?

Secondly, I looked at the USCIS website, and apparently there are still some embassies in Europe who are allowed to issue these types of visas: Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy and the UK. So if you're in one of those countries, you're fine - but everyone else has to go through the US, unless you have a situation that "merits exception", in which case you can request one of the above countries to review your application (in France's case, it'd be Italy).

As a side note, I also came across this on the website regarding student visas: According to the US immigration law, foreign students are not allowed to attend public secondary school in F-1 student status unless they reimburse the school authority for an amount equal to the school's per capita cost of education.

If I'm reading that right, does that mean foreign students now have to pay full tuition? There are so many great exchange programs out there where schools just "swap" students and each pays their normal home country tuition, but the above makes it seems like this would be no longer possible?

I don't know...It just makes me angry that 1) our consular services have to suffer because of the budget crisis and 2) that we are making it harder & harder for qualified students & workers to come to our country. All of that talent is going elsewhere in the world, where it's easier to get in and receive funding. A lot of those people are researchers and scientists, and now all that knowledge is being shared with other countries. It's like people don't realize the long-term impact this insular thinking will have on the US and our prosperity...Not to mention that if C & I ever decide to go back to the US, it is going to be one big pain in the heinie!



Blogger Gem said...

Sam, US Immigration has always been a pain. In regards to the lockbox, it's like a clearinghouse for all petitions to be sent there. Once the petition has been received, the applicatioj os sent to one of the 4 (yes, 4) Service Centers around the US. Supposedly the lockbox doles out the petitions so that no one service center is overwhelmed.

In regards to the F-1 visa you cited, it looks like this regulation concerns high school students. So, any F-1 student to come to high school in the US on an F-1 visa must pay tuition. I imagine this has to do with students coming to public school where tuition is not normally charged. F-1 students are usually degree-seeking students, while exchange students usually come on J-1
visas, so this stipulation would not apply to them.

Now, I certainly believe that the US Immigration system puts up many barriers for international students and researchers! For example, F and J visas are non-immigrant visas, which means that prospective international students must "prove" that they will return to their home country when they finish their degrees. Yes, way to keep the most qualified immigrants, US! In additio, since 9/11, student regulations have become quite strict, which discourages students from coming to the US and favoring countries like the UK, Australia, and even China. As a professional who works with these students and as someone wo sponsored the immigrant visa for my husband, I have first-hand experience about the lengthiness of the process and the roadblocks.

August 16, 2011 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger Gem said...

Oops, writing on my iPad, so lots of typos. Just wanted to add that each university can choose to charge in- or out-of-state tuition to its international students. Many private universities don't have a different scale, and most state universities will charge out-of-state. Exchange students are un cas apart, since their tuition is based on agreements between schools, and tuition is paid by the reciprocating partner.

August 16, 2011 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

I know it's always been a pain - my point is that they are now making it even worse! If I remember right, you guys were lucky and were able to get J's visa through the American Embassy in France, where they have (had) a relatively quick turnaround time. Imagine if you'd had to do it by mail through the US - it just multiplies the chances of paperwork getting lost via the mail, being moved around offices, etc. Plus even if there are four offices, those same four offices are going to now be handling way more applications than they are used to.

And F-1 visas are also for university students, not just high school students: An F1 visa is issued to international students who are attending an academic program or English Language Program at a US collge or university. J-1 visas like you mentioned are meant for people coming to do practical training (like what Fab did): "A J1 visa is issued to a student who needs to obtain practical training, which is not available in their home country, to complete their academic program. Traditional college and university students are typically on F1 visas, not J1 visas, though research scholars and visiting professors may be J1."

So it seems the new rules would also apply to university students as well. Whether or not they charge in-state or out of state is a moot point - there's still going to be a huge difference between paying 300€ a year and several thousand. Which will likely make studying abroad to the US a much more difficult thing for at least a lot of European students.

August 16, 2011 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Gem said...

Ksam, I just want to let you know I actually filed through USCIS for Jube's K-1 fiance visa. So I sent all my paperwork to the Vermont Service Center. I think you must have misunderstood my reference to 4 Service Centers, because I do think that it is a low number for all of the petitions filed :)

In reference to the student visas, I must respectfully disagree. I actually issue the visa documents for all of the exchange students who come to the university where I work, and they all come on J-1 visas. There are many different J-1 visa categories - they can be non-degree students, degree-seeking students, researchers, professors, trainees, interns, even summer work visas are J-1 visas! So I can assure you that the vast majority of exchange students come on J-1 visas and pay tuition to their home university, while the US institution receives the tuition from the American exchange student studying abroad.

If you have any questions about F-1 or J-1 student visas, I would be happy to answer, since it is a lot of what I do every day. As I said before in my e-mail, I do agree with your conclusion that we are making it very difficult for our international students and scholars - I just want to make sure we're focusing on the right thing and not a straw man.

August 16, 2011 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Gem said...

Also, I may not have expressed myself well in my previous post(s): F-1 visas are for all students, so secondary, AA, BA, BA, PhD, and everything in between. Generally, as I said before, they are degree-seeking students, so they usually all pay tuition unless they receive tuition remission in some way (scholarship, graduate assistantship, grant, fellowship, sponsor, etc.). I think that the paragraph you cited was especially meant for high school students at public high schools where tuition is not normally charged, sort of as a warning that they wouldn't be able to attend "on the tax payers' dime."

August 16, 2011 at 2:37 PM  

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