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Questions & Answers from CIS Ombudsman's Teleconference: "USCIS Receipting Delay - How Does This Affect You?," October 12, 2007

The following are questions and answers discussed during this teleconference. We will post answers received from USCIS as soon as we have them. We also plan to post any additional questions received by email. At the beginning of the call, USCIS Division Chief for Information and Customer Service provided the latest information on the frontlog and answered a few questions submitted to the Ombudsman prior to the call.

Q&As Discussed by CIS Ombudsman Based on Emails Received

1. FIFO Policy? - Is USCIS following the “First In First Out” policy in receipting applications? Many people have commented that their application arrived at USCIS specifically on July 2 or 3, but that they still do not have a receipt notice. Can you please explain why that may be? How can someone know if his case was not lost?

Response: We understand that USCIS’ policy still is to work cases on a first in first out basis. However, they use the first in first out policy by application type. For example, all of the I-485s are grouped together.

2. Posted Receipting Times – USCIS posts processing dates for which applications are now being receipted. However, these seem to be incorrect because customers who filed well before these dates still do not have receipts. Moreover, applications received after the posted dates have been sent receipt notices. Can you explain why?

Response: We understand USCIS is receipting the majority of cases according to the weekly “Receipting Update,” found at www.uscis.gov. If you have not received your receipt by the date indicated on the “Receipting Update,” please send an email to the Ombudsman at cisombudsman.publicaffairs@dhs.gov. Note that if you send an email on this or any issue to the Ombudsman, please be aware that we do not adjudicate cases. You will still need to follow USCIS instructions to address your case. In addition, if you want the Ombudsman to research your particular situation, please submit a case problem by using Form 7001, available at www.dhs.gov/cisombudsman.

3. EADs – What should an applicant do when it has been more than 90 days from filing and he or she has not received an EAD receipt notice or the EAD itself? How will USCIS be able to issue all of these EADs when it is delayed in issuing the receipts?

Response: We understand from USCIS that they intend to finish receipting and issuing all EADs by the end of October, if not before. If it has already been 90 days and you have not received the EAD, please call USCIS customer service (1-800-375-5283) and email our office at cisombudsman.publicaffairs@dhs.gov.

4. Travel – Can I travel without an I-485 receipt notice and no advance parole? Can I travel with a valid H-1 visa if my I-485 has not yet been receipted?

Response: USCIS provides two answers on travel and advance parole on their website’s “frequently asked questions” page, www.uscis.gov. However, this page only provides information for emergency travel. USCIS still needs to provide practical information on non-emergency travel. The website also says advance paroles (I-131s) should be sent receipts by the end of this month, but they still need to be processed.

5. Wait Times - How long should someone wait to receive a receipt for an application filed this summer before inquiring about it? Should an application be re-filed?

Response: We suggest that you review the weekly “Receipting Update” posted on www.uscis.gov, which has the receipting dates for each application type. If your application was filed before the date posted, go ahead and call USCIS customer service (1-800-375-5283) and email our office at cisombudsman.publicaffairs@dhs.gov.

6. Receipt Date on Notice – USCIS has indicated that the date of the receipt notice will be the date USCIS received the application in the mailroom. However, some receipt notices received indicate a later date. Can you please explain why this might be happening? What should an applicant do if there is this error?

Response: On USCIS’ website it says the agency will honor the actual date that an application was received in the mailroom. These are questions for USCIS and we will post their answers here when we have them. In the meantime, if you have specific examples, please email them to us at cisombudsman.publicaffairs@dhs.gov.

7. Errors on Notices – Many of the receipt notices have typographical errors, for example, in the applicant’s name. How should this or other errors be addressed? Due to the receipting delays, applicants are receiving different A-numbers on receipt notices for different applications. What should an applicant do in this case? A number of receipt notices have the notation “unknown” in the box “Notice Type.” What should an applicant do if this notation is provided?

Response: This is important for us to know and needs to be addressed. USCIS is striving to be customer service focused and wants to know about these kinds of issues. These are questions for USCIS and we will post their answers here when we have them. In the meantime, if you have specific examples, please email them to us at cisombudsman.publicaffairs@dhs.gov. Again, if you want us to research your specific case, please submit Form 7001, available at www.dhs.gov/cisombudsman.

8. Earlier Filed Applications – What happens to applications that were filed well before the influx of the summer? Will those applications be delayed in processing?

Response: These are questions for USCIS and we will post their answers here when we have them. As you might imagine, those applications will be subject to the regular application process, which may delays for security checks, etc. Last October USCIS met their processing times, but currently processing times are exceeding the time posted.

9. Processing – In what order will applications be adjudicated? Application date or receipt date?

Response: Usually it would be the receipt date. USCIS also says on their website that they will honor the actual date the application was received in the mailroom.

10. Call Centers – Are the call centers being kept informed about the receipting difficulties? Someone mentioned that the call center just indicated that the application was not in the system and that he should call back in 30 days. Another person said that USCIS indicated they should re-contact the agency in 90 days.

Response: This is an important issue for the agency. In this time of enormous delays and great anxiety for many customers, it is imperative that USCIS ensures that the call centers are well informed and can pass accurate and timely information to callers.

11. Matching - USCIS has said that the EAD and advance parole applications could be filed with the FEDEX receipt of the I-485. However, some of these are being rejected because the agency says it cannot find the I-485. What should an applicant do under these circumstances? Also, how will USCIS correlate those applications with the previously filed I-485?

Response: This sounds like a service error. However, these are questions for USCIS and we will post their answers here when we have them. In the meantime, if you have specific examples, please email them to us at cisombudsman.publicaffairs@dhs.gov. If you want us to research your specific case, please submit Form 7001, available at www.dhs.gov/cisombudsman.

12. Filed in One Service Center, Receipted in Another — What does it mean if I filed my application in one service center and it was receipted by another? Will I retain the date my application was first received by USCIS?

Response: To use its resources, USCIS has transferred cases in between the service centers to issue receipts. USCIS should be using the date your application was first received by the agency, not the date it was received by the second service center. We understand that the agency plans to put a “frequently asked question” discussion on this issue on www.uscis.gov, particularly regarding processing of transferred applications.

13. For the Future - What preventative measures has USCIS taken to ensure that receipt and case backlogs do not happen again in the future, or are they seen as an inevitable part of the current system?

Response: That is a great question. It is our perspective that USCIS had advanced notice for the current frontlog and receipting dilemma because both the increased fees and influx of employment based visa applications were both anticipated. We encourage USCIS to take this question seriously and consider how to avoid this system-wide problem going forward.

14. Applications Received? – One caller asked in writing whether the Texas Service Center has an estimate of how many I-485, advance parole, and employment authorization applications were received in July and August and what impact this will have on processing times for ancillary benefits?

Response: After the teleconference, the Ombudsman received for the first time an inventory on how many applications each service center has which still need receipts. We understand that USCIS intends to receipt all EADs and advance parole I-131s by the end of October.

15. Overall Processing Projections? - Are there any predictions on how the receipting delay will affect overall processing dates?

Response: We do not have any predictions about how the receipting delay will affect overall processing. However, as you might imagine, due to the large influx of cases, the local offices will also be receiving the same thousands of applications to eventually process. At the same time, we hope USCIS will be able to maintain their stated processing time goals. We also hope that USCIS will continue to shift resources as necessary to improve some of these times.

16. Bounced Checks – Due to the long delays my check written to USCIS bounced. What can USCIS do to help with this?

Response: If a check bounces because there are no longer funds available during the frontlog period, we understand that USCIS will give the applicant 14 days to send in a new check and pay a nominal penalty. The applicant is supposed to keep the same date in the processing line. See the “frequently asked questions” at www.uscis.gov for more information.

17. Expired Checks – What if my check has expired since sending in my application?

Response: We understand that USCIS is not rejecting checks if the check has expired for frontlogged cases. There is additional information on USCIS’ “frequently asked questions” at www.uscis.gov on this issue. However, the website does not provide information on whether it would be possible to still cash the expired check. We ask USCIS to provide additional guidance on that question. If you have had a problem on this issue, go ahead and call the USCIS customer service line at (1-800-375-5283) and also email our office at cisombudsman.publicaffairs@dhs.gov. Again, if you want us to research your specific case, please submit Form 7001, available at www.dhs.gov/cisombudsman.

18. Change of Address – How can I change my address when I don’t have a receipt number?

Response: Unfortunately, the “frequently asked question” USCIS has on its website for this question does not answer it. The website indicates that an applicant should look for the receipt number on the back of the returned check. However, many people still have not received a return check or receipt notice. We ask that USCIS revisit this question again and provide clearer instructions on how customers can make these changes.

This page was last modified on October 18, 2007



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