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U.S. citizens can file immigrant visa petitions for family members through U.S. Consulate on Okinawa

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Immigrant visas for families of U.S. citizens on Okinawa can once again be processed through the U.S. Consulate General in Naha, a service that stopped in late January.

"We are happy to once again be able to provide this important service to our military colleagues and their families," said Kevin Maher, U.S. Consul General in Naha.

American citizens must have resided on Okinawa at least six months to be able to file an immigrant visa petition for a family member to travel to the United States, according to Consulate officials.

Active duty military personnel and other Americans serving overseas on official government orders are exempt from the six-month residency requirement. There are also exceptions in emergency cases involving life and death or health and safety considerations.

Since late January, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) required U.S. residents living in Japan, including military members, to file immigrant visa petitions by mail with a USCIS office in California. A federal law enacted in July 2006, the Adam Walsh Act, requires background checks be performed before an immigrant visa petition is approved. Because consular posts overseas could not perform the necessary background criminal checks on American citizen petitioners, overseas processing of immigrant visa petitions stopped.

The change in policy means U.S. citizens can once again file form I-130 Immigrant Visa Petitions at the Consulate General in Naha. To comply with the Adam Walsh Act, information in the petition will be processed and transferred electronically to the appropriate USCIS office for review.

According to Kadena law center officials, it's important to get the paperwork process started early. "This process can take many months, so it's important to start early as soon as possible and not wait until you have PCS orders," said Capt. Kristina Penta, chief of general law.

Individuals who are in the country on a temporary status, such as students or tourists, cannot file immigrant visa paperwork overseas as they do not meet the six-month residency requirement, officials said.

For further details, go to the web site for the U.S. Consulate General in Naha at http://naha.usconsulate.gov and click on the link "Visas to the U.S."

To contact the U.S. Consulate in Naha:
Local address:
2-1-1 Toyama
Urasoe City
Okinawa, Japan 901-2104

APO Address:
PSC 556 Box 840
FPO AP 96386-0840

Local telephone: (098) 876-4211
DSN telephone: 645-7323.
Fax: (098) 876-4243.

American citizen services are available on a walk-in basis from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Consulate General does not accept inquiries by e-mail.