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!

Posted in Politics

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.

Posted in Green Card

How to Contact CBP for I-94 Issues

The I-94 automation process was implemented by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in April, 2013. The new process replaced paper form I-94 with an electronic version: A foreign national entering the United States no long receives an I-94 card stapled to their passport; instead, they will see a passport stamp, and must now go to CBP’s website to retrieve their I-94 information.

Note: Asylees and refugees should have received a hand written or stamped I-94 upon entering the U.S. and will not be able to retrieve I-94 information online. – CBP

The transition has caused some confusion among visitors. One particular issue is when a foreign national went to the CBP website to retrieve his/her I-94, and the system returned “Not Found” as a response.

CBP Info Center explains “What to do if your I-94 is ‘Not Found’ online.” In a nutshell, you basically need to make sure the information you enter on the I-94 website matches exactly what your passport is showing. This is especially important if you have a first name and middle name, as one or the other, or both, may have been entered into the system. CBP also suggests that you “try entering either your most recent date of entry or your original date of entry into the U.S.” I don’t quite understand what scenarios the last suggestion covers, but I guess it is saying that if you’re not sure, try all the entry dates you can remember.

If you still cannot retrieve your I-94, it’s time to contact CBP directly. You will need to find a CBP Deferred Inspection Site that is close to you and give them a call. If a CBP officer can sort things out over the phone, perfect! If not, you may have to travel to their facility. Make sure to set up an appointment on the phone if they don’t accept walk-ins.

CBP provides an Excel spreadsheet listing all Deferred Inspection Sites in the U.S. If you don’t have Microsoft Excel, try using Google Chrome browser to download and open it with Google Docs. We also published the list of Deferred Inspection Sites on a webpage here, but it is for reference only since we cannot keep up with CBP updates.

Other than I-94 Not Found issue, if you find error(s) on your I-94 you will most likely need to contact a Deferred Inspection Site or a CBP office at a port of entry (POE) to have it corrected.

Keep in mind that CBP is not the only agency that issues I-94, USCIS does too. If you change your status in the U.S., for example, USCIS will send you a new I-94 along with the approval notice. These types of I-94 forms will not be found in the CBP system. In addition, if there is incorrect information on USCIS-issued I-94, you will need to contact USCIS to correct them.

If you had a paper Form I-94 (issued by CBP or USCIS) but it has been lost, stolen, mutilated or destroyed, you will need to contact USCIS to replace it. You can download Form I-102 instructions to learn more.

Posted in U.S. Immigration, Visa

USCIS I-130 Processing Times to Improve in Coming Months

In a recent post I talked about USCIS’ significant delays in processing I-130 petitions filed by U.S. citizens for their immediate relatives. I also proposed a potential reason for the issue. Apparently USCIS has been fully aware of the situation.

In an email sent to stakeholders today, USCIS promised to speed up the adjudication of I-130 forms in the coming months. In fact, USCIS said the processing had already improved, with USCIS currently processing February 2013 petitions instead of October 2012, as published in most recent processing guidelines. By May of next year, USCIS expects to return to an average processing time of five months for these Forms.

Here is the letter from USCIS:

Dear Stakeholder,

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has received communications from the public expressing concerns regarding extended processing times for Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, filed by U.S. citizens for their eligible immediate relatives. USCIS provides information below in response to the concerns expressed.

USCIS is ever-mindful of the need to process a U.S. citizen’s immediate relative Form I-130 carefully and expeditiously. The need is defined by the immigration system’s goal of preserving family unity. It is for this fundamental reason that USCIS has been focused on addressing delays in the processing of these Forms I-130 for several months.

Through concerted efforts, USCIS is now adjudicating U.S. citizens’ immediate relative Forms I-130 filed as early as February 2013. This is a significant step forward, as previously published guidance reflected the processing of these Forms I-130 filed in October 2012. Furthermore, USCIS expects the processing of these Forms I-130 to be increasingly timely in the ensuing weeks, culminating in the return to an average processing time of five months for these Forms I-130 by May 2014.

USCIS has focused on these Forms I-130 for the very reason that affected members of the public have expressed their concerns; the importance of family unity. Last month, in an effort to expedite the adjudication of these cases, USCIS began transferring stand-alone Forms I-130 filed by U.S. citizens for their immediate relatives from USCIS’s National Benefits Center to its Nebraska, Texas, and California Service Centers. This shift improves USCIS’s ability to adjudicate the cases in a timely manner.

….. (standard language on checking/tracking case status)

We appreciate the concerns that members of the public have expressed on this important subject. We are mindful of those concerns and are addressing them with great diligence.

Kind Regards,
USCIS Public Engagement Division

Posted in Green Card, USCIS

Tips on Expediting USCIS Processing for Military Personnel

Author: Guy Pearson

Every year, many active duty military members seek expedite on their petition due to circumstances beyond their control. Whether it be a deployment, change of station or a humanitarian assignment, many need the option to speed up their process. Additionally, non-military members are eligible for expedite of their case as well.

Who is eligible?

Anyone serving on active duty or a reserve component in Title 10 status and facing a pending deployment, permanent change of station, or a humanitarian assignment have the opportunity to petition USCIS for an expedite on their case. One of the biggest challenges facing active duty military families is that there are circumstances beyond their control that force them to make decisions that are not always their first preference. USCIS knows this, and is very helpful when it comes to dealing with the military. Upon setup of their hotline (1-877-CIS-4MIL) for military members, they offer the opportunity to K1, K3, IR-1, CR-1 applications the chance to request that USCIS moves their case along faster than normal processing times for the benefit of the military member.

How to expedite

If you are currently on active duty and seeking expedite on your petition, you will need to provide the USCIS with proper reasoning and documentation to support the reason. Many folks expedite their cases over an impending deployment, so they would send the USCIS a copy of their deployment orders. USCIS officially states that they require the following:

  1. A letter written and signed by you that explains why your application or petition should be expeditiously processed,
  2. A copy of your military orders or a letter from your commanding officer regarding your deployment or situation, and
  3. 3. Any other information you feel will support your request for expedite.

I have seen quite a few get expedited just from a letter of Commander, but it is ultimately up to the USCIS to decide this. My wife and I received expedite from simply providing a letter signed by our Unit Deployment Manager that I was inside of my bucket to deploy.

Tips for non-military members seeking expedite:

There seems to be confusion on whether the USCIS allows expedites in other situation. The answer is yes. When calling their hotline, they mention that they do review expedites on a case-by-case basis, and it does have to meet the threshold for a ‘emergency’ type situation. Officially, USCIS states that you must meet the following conditions:

  1. Severe financial loss to company or individual
  2. Extreme emergent situation
  3. Humanitarian situation
  4. Nonprofit status of requesting organization in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States
  5. Department of Defense or National Interest Situation (Note: Request must come from official United States Government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to our Government)
  6. USCIS error
  7. Compelling interest of USCIS

If you feel you meet the requirements above, give the USCIS customer service a call to request expedite. Note: you must provide proper documentation within 20 business days to be eligible, otherwise it will be denied.

Whether military or non-military, you will have to either fax or mail these requests to them, and wait (sometimes up to 60 days) for a response. However, if you don’t hear anything back within 30 days, you can always call to check on the status of your expedite.

Guy Pearson is currently in the United States Air Force and co-founded immiTranslate.com, which provides certified translation services to United States visa applicants and their attorneys. He and his wife went through the K1 visa process in 2012, and are celebrating one year of marriage in December.

Posted in U.S. Immigration, USCIS

USCIS Pending I-485 Inventory (10-01-2013) Released

USCIS today released the pending employment-based I-485 inventory with data as of October 1, 2013. Our green card tracker has now been updated with the new inventory data. If you have questions about the data or how the tracker works, please visit our FAQ section and/or leave a comment below.

The Consular Processing (CP) inventory is supposed to be published by the Department of State very soon. New information will be included in the tracker as soon as they are released.

Below is a graph showing all pending cases for the past two years, for China EB-2:
China EB2 Pending I-485

India EB-2:
India EB2 Pending I-485

India EB-3:
India EB3 Pending I-485

Posted in Green Card

One Day, Sanity Will Return to California

In an earlier post I said that California politicians are really good at passing stupid laws. They wasted no time to present a perfect example: CA Co-Ed Bathroom Law.

AB 1266, signed into law by Governor Brown two months ago, allows K-12 students to use either boys’ or girls’ bathroom at school, simply based on their “self-identification.” Yes, a high school boy can one day decide he’s female and start using girls’ restrooms, showers and lockers. Under the law, he has a right to join a girls’ sports team too. The next day, he can change it back to be a boy if he feels like it. There is no requirement for medical proof, or official approval – just whatever a student feels at the moment.

When I first heard about it, I thought it was a joke. I couldn’t believe anyone would even come up with an idea like that. But liberals in California not only proposed it, but managed to enact it into law. They claim it is for the protection of transgender kids. They pretend none of the existing anti-discrimination laws work. And they completely ignore the privacy of millions of other children!

Enough is enough.

At some point, you just have to stand up and say no to these guys.

Fortunately, there are a whole lot of people who feel the same way. Privacy For All Students, a non-profit organization, is fighting to overturn AB 1266. They are collecting signatures from CA registered voters for a referendum. If enough petitions are signed before November 8th, AB 1266 will be put on this year’s ballot and its fate will be determined by voters. If you’re a concerned parent, this is the last week to sign the petition and please act now.

Posted in Politics

Is DACA Linked to USCIS I-130 Processing Delays?

Recently many I-130 petitioners have received a USCIS letter stating that their case would be further delayed by about six months. The letter also says the delay is caused by workload factors not related to their case. A reader suggested DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) as the reason, so I dug up some data published by USCIS. Since the start of DACA in August, 2012, the total number of pending I-130 petitions has jumped from 208K to 320K, a 60% increase. This number only includes immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and new filings for the same period of time have remained steady.

Below is the pending I-130 data for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, published by USCIS:

Pending I-130 vs DACA

On the other hand, more than 500,000 DACA applications have been processed relatively quickly, especially when compared to typical USCIS processing times.

Although this data point is hardly conclusive, it does suggest that USCIS may have pulled a considerable amount of resources away from handling regular immigration cases. It is possible that USCIS had no other choice, considering the surge of DACA applications last Summer. In addition, DACA was implemented under an executive order, rather than a new law passed by Congress, so it probably left USCIS very little time to get ready. What is unclear is whether USCIS was also ordered to assign top priority to DACA cases, at the cost of others that have already been waiting in line.

What is more, DACA is valid for two years and renewable. If Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) doesn’t pass, it means that every two years there will be a rush of DACA applications and the temporary delay of processing other cases could very well become permanent.

For people not familiar with immigration issues, I-130 is the only way a U.S. citizen can bring an immediate relative – such as a spouse, parents or children – to live in the U.S. as a permanent resident. DACA is a government policy to defer removal action and grant work authorization to certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several key guidelines.

DACA statistics:

DACA Statistics

Posted in Green Card, USCIS

Quick Survey on Government Shutdown

With the government shutdown heading into its second week, we’ve heard news reports on visitors blocked out of national parks, people cancelling their wedding plans, but what about immigration? Have you noticed anything that is affecting your visa, green card or citizenship application? Please let us know:

Posted in Politics

Impact of Government Shutdown on USCIS and Other Immigration Agencies

It is official: The United States government is shutting down. Last-minute negotiation, or the lack of it, wasn’t able to bring the two parties together and as a result, about 800,000 government workers will be sent home without pay tomorrow. Although it sounds ridiculous to a lot of people around the world, a government shutdown is actually not that uncommon in the US: This is only the 18th time!

During the shutdown, essential government functions will continue as usual, such as homeland security, law enforcement and air-traffic control. Non-essential activities will be greatly reduced. The impact on immigration agencies will vary. We have listed below some contingency plans issued by the government and will continue to update this post as we learn more, or until the fiasco is over:

1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
USCIS is primarily funded by application fees, so its operation doesn’t depend on the Annual Appropriated Funds. The government shutdown therefore has minimal impact on USCIS. According to the DHS contingency plan, 12,205 of USCIS’ 12,558 employees (97%) will be retained during the federal funding hiatus. It is expected that green card petitions and visa applications will continue to be accepted and processed as usual. However, since immigration processes may involve several different agencies and some of them may be affected by the shutdown, it is possible that there will be further delays.

All USCIS local offices remain open.

E-Verify has been taken offline and is currently unavailable. To minimize the impact on both employers and employees who need the E-Verify service, temporary policies have been put in place during the shutdown.

2. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
CBP is slightly more affected by the shutdown as compared to USCIS, with 6,888 employees (out of 59,561 or roughly 12%) being sent home. Border inspection at ports of entry are expected to operate normally.

3. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
According to DHS, 4,016 ICE employees (out of 19,810 or 20%) will be affected by the government shutdown. Essential law enforcement activities will continue without interruption.

4. Office of Foreign Labor Certification (Department of Labor)
According to the OFLC contingency plan, the labor certification process is practically suspended. This is going to have the biggest impact on the legal immigration process:

OFLC functions are not “excepted” from a shutdown and its employees would be placed in furlough status should a lapse in appropriated funds occur. Consequently, in the event of a government shutdown, OFLC will neither accept nor process any applications or related materials (such as audit responses) it receives, including Labor Condition Applications, Applications for Prevailing Wage Determination, Applications for Temporary Employment Certification, or Applications for Permanent Employment Certification. OFLC’s web site, including the iCERT Visa Portal System, would become static and unable to process any requests or allow authorized users to access their online accounts.

5. Visa Issuance at Embassies and Consulates (Department of State)
The Department of State will continue passport and visa operations as well as provide critical services to U.S. citizens overseas.

6. Diversity Visa – Green Card Lottery (Department of State)
DV-2015 started on October 1st, 2013 and so far appears to running as planned.

7. Visa Office (Department of State)
November 2013 visa bulletin was released on schedule and it is likely that future visa bulletins will too.

8. Passport Services (Department of State)
The Department of State will continue passport and visa operations as well as provide critical services to U.S. citizens overseas. Processing time for passport applications remain at four weeks or less for routine service and two weeks door-to-door for expedited service.

9. Immigration Courts (Department of Justice)
Immigration courts nationwide are continuing to adjudicate detained cases. Court functions that support the detained caseload will continue, but other functions are suspended. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is processing emergency stay requests as well as cases where the alien is detained, including case appeals, motions, federal court remands, and bonds. The stay line is open (for emergency stay calls only), but all other telephone lines have been switched to closed status. The BIA Clerk’s Office staff is accepting all filings and will be open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Posted in Politics