USCIS Transformation Program: One Billion Over Budget, Four Years Behind Schedule

Remember the transformation program USCIS launched years ago to convert their paper filing system to electronic filing? Well, after 10 years and billions of dollars, it is far from done. The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently released a report detailing their progress, and it isn’t pretty:

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) currently expects that its
Transformation Program will cost up to $3.1 billion and be fully deployed no later
than March 2019, which is an increase of approximately $1 billion and delay of
over 4 years from its initial July 2011 baseline. In March 2012, the program
began to significantly change its acquisition strategy to address various technical
challenges (see table).

So in short, the USCIS program is $1 billion over budget and 4 years behind schedule. If this were to happen in the private sector, I don’t know how many companies would be able to survive after a failure of this magnitude. USCIS initially awarded the contract to IBM, which was never mentioned in the GAO report, but later switched to other suppliers. Hopefully this time they can get their act together and accomplish something.

USCIS I-485 Statistics – January to March, 2015

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published the latest performance data of I-485 Applications to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Below is a summary of the total number of I-485 cases by category. For more detailed statistics including service center and field office data, please click here.

 I-485 Applications Performance Data (1/1/2015 – 3/31/2015) : Received Approved Denied Pending
Family-based 71,400 58,697 8,203 188,987
Employment-based 30,846 26,232 1,667 122,812
Humanitarian-based 37,846 35,802 1,162 94,316
Others 6,240 6,440 784 16,964
Total 146,332 127,171 11,816 423,079

Notes:

  • Family-based: Applications based on a family relationship with an LPR (legal permanent resident, a.k.a. green card holder) or a U.S. citizen.
  • Employment-based: Applications based on employment status, or as an entrepreneur to create a commercial enterprise.
  • Humanitarian-based: Applications covered by Refugees & Asylum, Battered Spouse, Children & Parents and other special humanitarian programs.
  • Received: The number of new applications received and entered into a case-tracking system during the reporting period.
  • Approved: The number of applications approved during the reporting period.
  • Denied: The number of applications denied, terminated, or withdrawn during the reporting period.
  • Pending: The number of applications still awaiting a decision as of the end of the reporting period.
  • Source: Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Performance Analysis System (PAS) , March 2015

Visa Bulletin Tracker – All New Interactive Chart

We’ve just published a new visa bulletin tracker – an interactive chart showing all cutoff dates for all EB2 and EB3 categories, for the past 10 years. Our goal is to provide an easier way for applicants to see the full history of cutoff date movement for their category. The chart is not intended to be a visa bulletin prediction tool, but hopefully with the overall trend it’s showing, along with other information such as DOS’ own prediction, one can have a general idea of visa availability in the coming months.

The visa bulletin chart contains data for all countries in EB-2 and Eb-3. Each series (line) represents one category, and can be turned on or off by clicking on the legend. If you’re using a mobile phone or tablet, simply tap on the color squares to show/hide lines. To zoom in, drag on the chart to select an area so you can see more details. Right click will reset the chart to default. Cutoff dates will appear in tooltips when you mouse over the lines or tap on them if you’re on mobile.

EB1, EB3 Others, EB4, and EB5 are not included in the visa bulletin tracker to avoid making an already busy chart too crowded, but cut-off date for these categories are always available from our Visa Bulletin Toolbox page.

Visa Bulletin Tracker

Visa Bulletin Tracker

Redesign of ImmigrationRoad.com

If you’re a returned visitor to our website today, you’ll see a completely different layout and design. With weeks of hard work, we’ve now made immigrationroad.com fully responsive. What it means is that whether you’re using a smartphone, a tablet or a desktop/laptop computer, you will have the same viewing experience because the website automatically adapts to your screen’s size: No more need to zoom and drag just to read the entire page. It is also compatible with all modern browsers including Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and IE 9+, and will display beautifully on Windows, iOS or Android devices.

Other than its look and feel, the new website should also load faster thanks to page speed improvements. CSS, Javascript and images are optimized to provide a better surfing experience. Navigation menu is also redesigned to provide a more touch-friendly interface.

Your favorite tools all remain intact. The green card tracker, visa bulletin toolbox and immigration flow chart all function exactly the same as before.

Having said all this, I personally will miss our old website. After all, I designed it from the ground up and wrote every line of code to make it beautiful, clean and functional. But things have changed. Nowadays a significant portion of our visitors come through a phone or pad, so we have to adapt too. I hope you like the new design, especially if you’re a mobile user. And if you do see a glitch or have a suggestion, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

new immigrationroad website

How to Deal with Solicitors Knocking on the Door

Below is a message from the San Diego Police Department addressing residents’ concerns about solicitors in the neighborhood. Although some information may be specific to the city, or to California, it’s still useful to the general public in many ways. I’ve lived in San Diego for many years and never knew solicitors were required by law to show their police-issued picture ID when they go from door to door! I hope I never have to use this – I always politely turn them away – but if it comes down to it, I’m sure most solicitors who knock on my door will walk away if I ask about their Police Registration Card.

Dealing with solicitors can be uncomfortable and in some cases, dangerous. This is especially true for new immigrants who may be more likely to fall victim to fraudulent activities due to lack of experience or their language barrier. The tips offered below will surely come in handy when you hear the knock next time.

Solicitors, Peddlers, and Interviewers
Officer Matt T. from San Diego Police Department

It has come to the attention of our department more and more of late that peddlers, interviewers and solicitors are canvassing our city streets. In tough economic times, the water is warm and conditions are ripe for fraud, elder abuse, financial crimes and just downright falsely represented charities that are tantamount to outright theft. Let’s dive into the waters headfirst and lay some terms out for understanding.

As the City’s Municipal Code defines it; “A solicitor is a person who goes from house to house, business to business, without an appointment, or to one house, street, sidewalk, alley, plaza, park, public place, by foot or vehicle, who sells or solicits for value of goods. They make work for themselves or for a business.” San Diego Municipal Code 33.1401 And most importantly, “All persons working as interviewers, solicitors, peddlers or vendors of merchandise, services, magazines, etc. are required to obtain a Police Registration Card. When operating, the card MUST be displayed on the front of their person, and they MUST exhibit the card to any peace officer upon demand. (San Diego Municipal Code 33.1402)

This card is white in color, has a photo, tracking number, and identifying information along with official City of San Diego background /seal. Our SDPD Permits and Licensing Unit grants these passes after a background check, fingerprinting and collection of fees. If a person at your door is displaying a City ID, you can considerably better in dealing with them should you choose to. But do not forget, it is a legal requirement.

It is unlawful for ANY person to ring the doorbell of a residence, rap or knock on any door, or create any sound in a manner calculated to attract attention for the purpose of engaging in activity as a solicitor or interviewer if the occupants have posted on the premises “No solicitors,” “No soliciting,” “No solicitors or peddlers,” or any similar language clearly denying invitation and entry to solicitors. San Diego Municipal Code 33.1410

No person under 14 years old will be issued a Registration Card, and persons under 18 must have a work permit from their school. And a seldom known fact is that California Civil Code Section 1689 et. Seq., requires solicitors to provide a contract for buyers allowing a “3-day cooling-off period” for sales of $25 or more.

NO PERSON shall operate as a solicitor between the hours 8 p.m. and 9 a.m., except by appointment. San Diego Municipal Code 33.1410 California Penal Code, section 532(d), makes it a misdemeanor to make false representation in solicitation of charitable contributions.

So what does this all mean? In short, it is highly unlikely for a person who knocks on your door to be legitimately operating and in compliance with our Municipal Code and the State Laws. We as a Police Department feel strongly about identifying and contacting these persons, as a percentage of these are merely posing as solicitors for purposes of criminal enterprise. What better way to gauge home security, vacant status, yard security and valuables located within a home then knocking on the doors and looking in the windows, ostensibly to sell items or services? These solicitors are the smoke before the fire. Burglary series in our areas of San Diego have been canceled by arresting solicitor crews. Our recommended response is as follows:

When home and someone knocks on the door without appointment, we recommend you acknowledge the knock and let them know you are home. People have been surprised when a burglar using soliciting as a front thinks no one is home and enters the home after getting no answer on a knock. Ask the purpose of the visit and observe through a peephole. If it is a solicitor, ask to see the “Issued City License/ ID card of the person.” Do not open the door if it isn’t present or even if it is and you feel uncomfortable. Inform the person of your intention to call the police if they don’t have a license to solicit and then place a call to our non-emergency number of 619-531-2000. We would like you to report these persons as potential “casers” or suspects. Very rarely are good services and reputable companies using door-to-door solicitation as legitimate means of commerce. More than likely it will be someone using a ruse or scam to separate you from your money. All the stories of “helping get to a college trip” or “for poor children / women/ etc…” are by and large fictitious and should in no way be encouraged with your hard earned money. We regularly encounter vans full of out of state persons with criminal history staying in our motels / hotels for just this purpose.

Don’t be victims; call the police to report this activity. If the person refuses to leave or tries the door handle, call 911. Help us keep the streets clear of scams, fraud and burglary. Your vigilance is greatly appreciated. As you know now, a litany of laws exist for just this reason, and for good reason. The direct correlation between unauthorized soliciting and crime are well documented. Thanks for asking the question on the minds of so many!

International Students Statistics – April, 2014

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently released statistics on foreign students currently studying in the United States. As of April 1, 2014:

  • There are currently 1,015,178 F & M students studying in the United States
  • There are currently 188,382 J-1 exchange visitors in the United States
  • 29% of all F & M students in the United States originate from China
  • 56% of all F & M students in the United States are males
  • There are 351,397 F & M students studying in science, technology, engineering and mathematics
    (STEM) fields in the United States
  • 85% of the F & M students in the United States originate from Asia
  • 43% of all F & M STEM students study engineering

Below is a graph showing the top 10 countries that send the most students to the U.S. As to destination, California, New York and Texas lead all states in the number of international students enrolled.

Foreign Students by Citizenship

Vote NO to SCA 5

Nowadays California politicians can do nothing to surprise me anymore. The fight to stop their idiotic Co-Ed Bathroom Law isn’t over yet, and now they’re pushing for SCA-5.

If you don’t yet know what SCA5 is all about, below is a Change.org petition with some background information. Basically, SCA5 wants to add race as a factor for college admission.

As an immigrant and minority, I prefer a level playing field. Whether it is going to college or looking for a job, I want my children to be able to compete with their character, dedication and abilities, not the color of their skin. Racial preference is never a good thing in the long run, no matter how sugar-coated it is.

Dear California State Assembly Members,

1/30/2014 marked the darkest day in California’s recent history of politics. On this day, the California Senate approved SCA-5, which would appeal provisions of Prop 209 and allow the State of California to discriminate an individual or group’s rights for getting public education on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

To understand SCA-5, we have to remember what Prop. 209 is. In November 1996, Proposition 209 (also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative) amended the state constitution to “prohibit state government institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity, specifically in the areas of 1) public employment, 2) public contracting or 3) public education.” In the 18 years that Prop 209 has been in effect, California has become the most diversified state in the US. Also, comprehensive measures have been introduced to help students from disadvantaged families to obtain higher education, which have our full support.

Now SCA-5 seeks to REMOVE any mentioning of “public education” in Prop. 209. This will roll back the clock to unfairly discriminate a student simply based on her/his race. If it succeeded, what will be the next in its supporters’ mind to be removed among the the rest two areas (public employment and public contracting) in Prop. 209?

The 14th Amendment of the US Constitution clearly states that no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. The SCA-5 is wrong and in violation of the US Constitution.

We hereby urge you to vote NO to SCA 5!

Green Card Application Timeline for Parents of U.S. Citizen

After nine months, my parents’ green card applications were approved today. They didn’t have to go to an interview. Below is a brief timeline for their adjustment of status process.

  1. February 2013:
    • Completed medical exams.
    • Sent both applications (in separate envelopes and clearly labeled) in one package to USCIS in late February.
    • Each application included concurrently filed I-130 and I-485, as well as I-131, plus supporting documents.
  2. March 2013: Received I-797 receipt notices in early March and biometric appointment notice in late March.
  3. April 2013: Competed fingerprinting.
  4. May 2013: Received Advance Parole (travel documents). Since we didn’t apply for EAD, this just came in as a paper document – not a card.
  5. August 2013: Received a Notice of Potential Interview Waiver Case and warning of additional six-month delay.
  6. November 2013: Received email about improvement on I-130 processing.
  7. December 2013: Both I-130 and I-485 were approved on 12/4.

Since March 2013, their case status on the USCIS online status check system never changed until today. The I-130 was stuck at Initial Review and I-485 at Acceptance. On December 4, however, I-485 status was updated and jumped directly to step 5: Card Production Ordered (last step on the status graph). Four hours later, the status went back to step 3 – Decision – with the following message:

On December 4, 2013, we mailed you a notice that we had registered this customer’s new permanent resident status. Please follow any instructions on the notice. Your new permanent resident card should be mailed within 60 days following this registration or after you complete any ADIT processing referred to in the welcome notice, whichever is later. If you move before receiving your card, please call our customer service center at 1-800-375-5283.

The first status update for I-130 was a message I’d never seen before:

On December 4, 2013, your Alien Registration Number was changed relating to your I130, IMMIGRANT PETITION FOR RELATIVE, FIANCE(E), OR ORPHAN.  Please check our website at www.uscis.gov for further updates on your case.  Please wait until the end of normal processing time before calling customer service at 1-800-375-5283 for live assistance.

Again, four hours later the message changed to the approval notice:

On December 4, 2013, we mailed you a notice that we certified our approval of this case and sent it to the appropriate appellate body for review. They will notify you directly when they make a final decision. If you move while this case is pending, follow the instructions provided in the notice and use our Change of Address online tool to update your case with your new address or call our customer service center at 1-800-375-5283.