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USCIS Summer 2007 Application Surge: "How Is It Affecting You Now?" May 30, 2008

The following are questions from the teleconference and the answers received from USCIS.

1. I-140 Prolonged Processing Times -- One caller noted that the processing times for I-140s have not moved in the last year. What is the reason for the prolonged processing times for the I-140s?

2. Inconsistent Processing Times – A caller asked why the Vermont Service Center (VSC) is so far behind in processing the I-140 applications compared to the other service centers? Do service centers have different priorities?

3. Pre-adjudication -- Can USCIS provide further clarification on whether there is pre-adjudication of I-140s?

4. Medical Examination Requirement -- USCIS suspended the physical exam requirement during the surge and noted that it could be forwarded later upon request.  When will the applicant be notified regarding the medical exam? What if the applicant travels and cannot respond timely?

5.  AC21 Portability – A caller asked if USCIS will allow flexibility in AC21 portability because of the delays related to the surge?

6.  Fingerprints Notices -- Several callers noted that they have not yet received fingerprint notices and are concerned that their case is further delayed. When should an applicant expect to receive a fingerprint notice?

7. Inconsistent Information with Customer Service Avenues -- One caller noted that he filed an I-140/I-485 petition with the Nebraska Service Center (NSC). The case was transferred to the VSC and later to the Texas Service Center (TSC). USCIS’ National Customer Service Center indicated that the case was at the VSC, but USCIS’ Case Status Online indicated that the case was at the TSC. The receipt notices for the I-140 and I-485 note different service centers. Does USCIS split up I-140 and I-485 petitions that are concurrently filed? How can the applicant find out where the case is actually being processed?  

Note – Answers to other important questions asked during this call may be answered in connection with other Ombudsman teleconferences.

Questions Received Prior to the Call

1. Green Card Cases Pending Due to FBI Name Checks – The email indicated that earlier USCIS identified about 47,000 cases pending FBI security clearance for more than six months.  The email asked if USCIS could confirm that those cases were adjusted accordingly by the respective service centers.

  • USCIS Response: To clarify, USCIS did not state that it had identified 47,000 cases that were pending FBI Name Check clearance “for more than six months.”  Rather, USCIS stated that it had identified approximately 47,000 cases that remained pending solely because of the FBI Name Check.  A portion of those 47,000 cases involved FBI Name Checks that had been pending more than six months.

    In May 2008, USCIS identified 10,500 I-485 cases that were pending solely because of the FBI Name Check. In the prior three months, from February to May 2008, USCIS noted a reduction in the total number of I-485 cases in this category by 36,500.  Please note that the FBI Name Check category involves a constant flow of cases (meaning cases are continually referred by USCIS to the FBI for processing, and cases are continually returned by the FBI to USCIS).  Our systems do not perform case-by-case tracking.  Thus, while all 47,000 cases referenced earlier may have been adjudicated at this point, we can only definitively state that at least 36,500 cases from that time period have been completely adjudicated.

2. Joint USCIS FBI Press Release on Name Checks – The email noted that in an April 2, 2008 joint press release, “USCIS and FBI Release Joint Plan to Eliminate Backlog of FBI Name Checks,” certain milestones were established.  The email asked if USCIS could describe the progress of these targets.

  • USCIS Response: The first milestone was for all FBI Name Checks pending for more than four years to be finalized by March 31, 2008.  The second milestone was for all FBI Name Checks older than three years to be finalized by May 31.  The third milestone was for all FBI Name Checks older than two years to be finalized by July 31.  The first three milestones have all been met.  USCIS and the FBI have set four additional milestones.  As of August 4, the agencies were on target to achieve all four of the remaining milestones.   

3. Transferred Cases – Can USCIS explain what is happening to cases that were transferred, for example, from the Nebraska Service Center to the Texas Service Center? One person emailed and said it appears that those cases have a lower priority for processing. Please clarify.

  • USCIS Response: Transferred cases are incorporated into TSC's workflow based upon the filing date of the case and are not given a lower priority for processing than cases originally filed at the TSC.  However, this interfiling process within the I-140 workflow may result in a short-term delay in processing given the volume of cases.

4. R-1 Extension – The email indicated that the individual filed Form I-129 for an R-1 extension last year in May and the visa expired in July. The question was how much longer to wait?

  • USCIS Response:  The petitioner should contact USCIS’ National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283 for a status update.

5. Posted Processing Times – The email indicated that the I-140 was pending more than 320 days even though USCIS’ posted processing times showed that the application already should have been processed. Are the processing times a real reflection of what is going on?

6. Tracking Case Status – The email asked how to track the status of an I-140 application if it is not listed on USCIS’ Case Status Online and the call center does not have any information?

7. Fingerprints -- Fingerprints are valid for 15 months and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is valid for one year. The email noted that requiring the applicant to obtain fingerprints for the EAD renewal leads to processing delays for the EAD and places an unnecessary burden on the applicant who may have to take off work. Why does USCIS require the applicant to obtain new fingerprints before they expire?