Q: I’m planning to file an application with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjust my status to that of legal permanent resident, based on my marriage to a US citizen. I understand that this can take a long time, and I heard that there is a way to pay a special fee to get an application on the fast track. Is this true?
A: Currently USCIS offers what it calls “premium processing” for a $1225 fee (in addition to the normal application fees) only with regard to certain employment-based visa petitions. Other applications, such as those to adjust immigration status based on family relationships, are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Processing times vary with the type of application and the particulars of individual cases. Adjustment of status cases based on marriage to a US citizen, for example, have been taking on average around three to four months from the date of filing to the adjustment interview in the USCIS Boston regional office. Applications for naturalization have generally been taking a little longer.
USCIS does provide what it calls “expedited processing” for no extra fee in cases where its “expedite criteria” have been met. USCIS stresses very strongly that it will expedite processing only when there is, for example, an “extreme emergent situation,” or the likelihood of “severe financial loss,” or a humanitarian situation. Our experience is that USCIS means what it says about its strict criteria for accelerated processing, and such requests are granted rarely. Still, cases do arise when the agency will accept an accelerated processing request. If you think you may have such a case, let us know, and we can help you to evaluate your chances.
Here are some other points about case processing:
Applicants can track the processing of pending cases with USCIS online at www.uscis.gov or by calling the agency’s customer service center at 1-800-375-5283. When checking case status, have the application receipt number and other documentation from USCIS ready.
Make sure that USCIS has current address information for mailing notices of action and other important communications to applicants. Address changes can be submitted online; this should be taken care of as soon as an applicant moves to a new residence. We have seen numerous instances where applicants wonder why they have not heard from USCIS for many months, and it turns out that mail from the agency was returned as undeliverable.
IIC also provides on its web site current average processing times for different types of applications filed at various USCIS offices and processing centers, so applicants can determine whether their applications are taking longer than usual. We note, however, that the average times given have in some instances been out of date, with the actual processing times being somewhat faster or slower.
Processing and individual case status information for the types of applications filed with the State Department at the national Visa Center (NVC) can be obtained by e-mailing NVC at NVCINQUIRY@state.gov (preferred method) with the case number and other particulars, or by telephoning NVC at (603) 334-0700. For applications in process at a particular US Consulate abroad, visit the State Department’s web site at www.state.gov and follow the relevant links to the web site for that Consulate. (Each Consular office has its own web site, and processing and contact procedures vary somewhat from office to office.)
Keep in mind that processing times refer to the amount of time it takes the government agency to get to a particular application that is actionable when filed. This is different from the waiting time, for example, for visa numbers to become available in categories other than immediate relatives of US citizens. The waiting time in such cases can last many years under current law, based on the limited number of visas that Congress provides each year.
IIIC can assist applicants with case status and processing time inquiries. If you have questions about this or any other aspect of immigration law, visit one of our weekly legal clinics for a free, confidential consultation.
Disclaimer: These articles are published to inform generally, not to advise in individual cases. US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the US Department of State frequently amend regulations and alter processing and filing procedures. For legal advice seek the assistance IIIC immigration legal staff.
IIIC supports the Boston Trust Act
The Government Operations Committee of the Boston City Council held a public hearing on July 31st to take up a proposed ordinance creating a Trust Act for Boston. This proposed legislation is in response to the implementation of the Secure Communities program (S-Comm) by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The purpose of the program, as stated by ICE, is to remove serious and violent criminals who pose a threat to the community.
However, in Massachusetts, of the more than 1,400 people who have been deported under S-Comm, since in 2008, only one third of those deported had been convicted of a serious crime. Half had not committed any crime at all.
More importantly, Secure Communities hinders community policing by driving a wedge between officers and the communities they serve. A national study by the University of Illinois Chicago found that nearly half of the immigrants surveyed were less likely to call police if witness to or victim of a crime out of fear of inquiry into their immigration status.
The proposed ordinance of City Councilor, Josh Zakim, is designed to rebuild the trust lost between police and the immigrant communities they serve. It is a common sense approach in that local police are not in the business of enforcing Federal immigration law and detaining non-criminals at the city’s expense.
Several states, including Connecticut and California, as well as 150 communities across the country have enacted similar legislation in an effort to remedy the inequities and unfairness brought about by the S-Comm program. Even Janet Napolitano, former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who once oversaw the implementation of this program, endorsed the California Trust Act after leaving office.
The Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) supports the passage of the Boston Trust Act and some of its staff members were on hand to testify at the hearing. Boston Mayor, Martin J. Walsh, has stated that if such a measure is passed by the City Council, he will sign it. So, let’s all get behind Mayor Walsh and give him an opportunity to do just that!
How does one voice an opinion about the Trust Act? In this magical age of electronic communication you can just press the “easy button” and contact not only your City Councilor but all thirteen Councilors with one email message. Simply email: email@example.com. On the subject line, caption it “Boston Trust Act”. In your message identify yourself as a Boston resident and, if you wish, give your home address. Explain briefly why the issue is important to you and what action you would like the Councilors to take. That’s it! You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you were part of the democratic process beyond just casting a ballot once a year in November. And remember, if you are not yet a U.S. citizen you are still represented by your Council member and your opinion does count.
Immigration reform update
Once again, immigration has taken the spotlight since the unaccompanied children started arriving through the southern border, overwhelming the efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick recently announced his decision to assist the Federal government in re-locating the children pending immigration processing. Although the number of children and the locations in Massachusetts where they would be housed are as yet undetermined, much vocal opposition has already been raised by local officials and there have been demonstrations on both sides of the issue. As this drama plays out, many hard decisions and much soul searching lie ahead for the residents of Massachusetts who will seek to do the right thing in the face of this unprecedented crisis.
Although no comprehensive immigration reform legislation is likely in the coming months, there is momentum to seek administrative relief for many of the policies that adversely impact immigrants. The Irish International Immigrant Center is working with the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers (CIIC) to encourage the White House to affect policy changes in the Department of Homeland Security.
In the absence of congressional reforms, these small but important policy changes could remedy some of the immediate concerns facing many immigrants.
Ironically the current influx of unaccompanied minors has forced the leadership in Congress to take up a debate when it was not expected to touch any immigration matter until after the November elections. By returning it to center stage, this debate will surely increase the importance of immigration issues in the minds of many voters.
Have you always wanted to know how to make the most of your computer, laptop or the internet? This fall, the IIIC will hold a series of workshops that will help you develop the skills you need to pursue employment and succeed in the 21st century workforce. The workshops will help you develop skills using Word, Excel and other programs used in the business world. To learn more call Sarah 617-542-7654 ext.36
Join us on Saturday October 4th 2014, at Pope John Paul Park, Dorchester for the IIIC's ‘Together For Hope" walk for suicide prevention. The IIIC is hosting this 2-4 mile walk in Dorchester, starting at 10am and ending at about 12pm. Suicide has become a disturbing trend and we are passionate about preventing it. With this issue close to our hearts, the IIIC invites you to join our team ‘Together for Hope’ and walk with us to raise awareness about suicide and how it can be prevented. All proceeds from the walk will go to the IIIC's Wellness Services which include counseling, crisis case management and suicide prevention workshops.
To become a walker on our team please contact Danielle L. Owen 617 542-7654 ext 14 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will have a Free Brunch locally for all our walkers and their families later that morning.
“May the first of your harvests for the year--whether from your garden or from your life--be bountiful!” - Old Irish saying at the beginning of the Lughnasa Festival.