Per an email I received from the head of the French chapter of Democrats Abroad, as of this Monday, August 15th, the US State Department will no longer allow US consular services to process visas for the non-US family members of expats in many countries, including France. This means that instead of an expedited process, all such persons will have to apply by mail, with resulting delays, risk of losing important papers, and so on.
Here is much of the email:
Effective August 15, 2011, most Americans will no longer be able to use the US Consular Sections in their countries of residence for immigration matters. The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will require that you petition directly with the USCIS in the United States to bring your foreign family with you when choose to move back to the US (form I-130,Petition for Alien Relative).
This USCIS regulatory change is billed as a cost-cutting measure. [snip]
The following information comes from The American Immigration Lawyers Association via Democrats Abroad.
If you are married to a non-U.S. citizen or have children who are not U.S. citizens, I - I30 will hamper your ability to move back to the United States or visit as a family. Foreign family members of Americans living overseas will no longer be able to go through local consulates for visitor and immigration visas to the States. Requests for visitor visas will be delayed and likely refused because routinely Americans trying to bring in any foreign visitors are suspected of trying to circumvent immigration laws. Original documents risk getting lost in overseas mail.
The official USCIS comment period for this change, announced in the Federal Register, ended July 18. However, if you wish to contact your US Representative or US Senator in this regard please do so.
The visa tit-for-tat policies of the Bush state department were bad enough, but it boggles my mind that this measure is being put into effect while there is a good guy heading the executive branch. This supposed cost-saving measure will be very costly to families.
[I apologize that I won't be able to respond very much to comments: I am writing this from London Stansted airport en route home to France, and I don't have a UK power adapter. I will stay online until my power dies or until my flight opens for boarding, whichever comes first, and will check back in tomorrow morning.]