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Catch 22

by Nolan Rappaport

On June 9, 2010, I used FedEx to file an I-485 adjustment of status application, an application for a travel document, and an I-360 immigrant visa petition for a religious worker. USCIS is required by a court order to accept concurrent filing of an I-485 with an I-360 if it is based on religious worker status.[1] But when the lockbox electronically scanned the applications, it rejected the adjustment application and the application for a travel document but accepted the I-360. I have not received a Form I-797c Notice of Receipt for the I-360 yet.

The rejection notice says that the adjustment of status application cannot be filed unless a Form I-797c Notice of Receipt is included to show that the I-360 has been received. In other words, we rejected the I-485 because it was received with an I-360. If you want the I-485 to be accepted now, you will have to prove that we have received the I-360.

If the author of Catch 22, Joseph Heller, were still alive, I would tell him about this situation. In his book, Army Air Corps Captain John Yossarian devises multiple strategies to avoid combat missions, but the military bureaucracy is always able to find a way to make him stay. He told them he was crazy, which justified not sending him out on any more missions. But it was perfectly rational for someone not to want to go on those missions. Ergo, the Army concluded, Yossarian was not crazy.

The rejected applications did not reach me until July 8, almost a month after they were rejected. This might just have been an amusing story to tell my friends over a beer but for the fact that my client's mother had just died and he needed a travel document to attend her funeral in Nigeria.

I called USCIS customer service to straighten this out. I spoke to several USCIS representatives. They all told me the same thing. This was service error. The lockbox should have accepted the adjustment application and the travel document application with the I-360, but it was not programmed to do it. File the applications again. But, I responded, I cannot file the applications again until I have proof that the I-360 was filed, which I do not have yet.

I took the problem up a level and spoke to a supervisor. He was apologetic, but he said I would have to comply with the lockbox instructions. He explained that there was no way to get the applications into the hands of a human being unless I resubmitted them via ordinary mail. That would take too long.

Bottom line. My client is going to miss his mother's funeral.

I do not understand how USCIS can use a computer system to reject applications and not have a program that would allow human intervention in the event of an error.

I am new to private practice, so I sought advice from experienced immigration practitioners. One of them said, "Welcome to immigration Hell."


1 See note to Section 22.3(b)(1) of the online USCIS Adjudicator's Field Manual. The note was added on June 11, 2009.

About The Author

Nolan Rappaport works for Steptoe & Johnson as a part of the Immigration practice in the International Regulation and Compliance group. Nolan previously served as a Governance Support Specialist at TKC Communications. He also previously served as Congressional Counsel at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.