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TOKYO — U.S. embassies and consulates no longer can process visa applications for foreign family members, such as spouses, parents, children and siblings, who want to immigrate to America, according to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Instead, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services centers around the world will process the applications — officially called I-130 applications — to comply with a new law that prevents certain sexual offenders from sponsoring immigrants, according to the embassy and the Immigration Services Web site.

The I-130 application is one of the first steps toward immigrating a family member into America, according to the Immigration Services Web site.

The change means an extra layer of red tape in the application process, but will not require any additional travel or in-person appointments for the sponsors.

Applicants must mail the I-130 form to one of four stateside service centers for processing, according to Dan Kane, spokesman for the USCIS in Washington.

Tony Edson, deputy assistant secretary of state for visa services, said they are working on getting more specific instructions to embassies around the world, but embassy staffs have already received some directions on how to guide applicants through the process.

The Tokyo embassy’s Web site at mentions the change in its visa section, but asks customers to check back for more details.

“We regret any inconvenience this change causes to American citizens but the law is clear,” a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Tokyo wrote in a statement to Stripes on Wednesday. “We are consulting with [Immigration Services] to confirm that current procedures for checking criminal-history records in these cases comply with the Adam Walsh Act.”

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, signed into law this past summer, means to build on notification and screening procedures for sexual offenders outlined in Megan’s Law a decade earlier. The new version standardizes registration information, increases employment information and expands notification procedures about sexual offenders.

It also limits eligibility for applications of family-based immigrants.

If a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident has been convicted of certain sexual crimes involving minors, Immigration Services can reject the I-130 application, according to the embassy.

The Immigration Services, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, has access to criminal databases, while the local embassies and consulates do not, according to embassy personnel.

The application fee is $190, according to the Immigration Services’ Web site.

Embassies will continue to handle petitions involving orphans in inter-country adoptions, according to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

For more information and a list of processing center addresses, as well as directions for filing the petition, visit the Immigration Services at Click on the “Immigration Forms” link at the top of the page, and then scroll down to click on the link “Petition for Alien Relative.”

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