February 19, 2007
One of the recently-enacted provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act has had a serious and probably unintended impact on the immigration process. The intended immigration impact was to prevent U.S. citizens who had been convicted of certain crimes against minors (e.g., kidnapping, sexual crimes, child pornography, etc.) from filing family-based immigration petitions. This law represents the first time that the U.S. government investigates a U.S. citizen relative to determine whether or not a visa can be obtained for the foreign national family member. The unintended consequence of the law resulted from the Department of State’s inability to conduct the necessary criminal background checks at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. As a result, all immigrant relative petitions must now be processed by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service offices. This means that the option of filing an alien relative petition directly with the U.S. embassy and getting a relatively quick decision is no longer available. All alien relative petitions must now be forwarded to USCIS and the influx of new petitions is likely to further slow the agency’s processing times.