San Diego Immigration Lawyer – Update from our Local USCIS office in San Diego

From time to time we update our local readers about procedures affecting cases here in San Diego. This is from our local AILA liason meeting update. These procedures may apply in other states as well.

1. INFOPASS appointments for paying filing fees and fingerprint re-scheduling.

USCIS prefers that customers make INFOPASS appointments to visit USCIS offices to schedule re-fingerprinting or to pay fees and file applications. USCIS will accommodate someone without an appointment if there is an emergency such as a deadline for the filing of a motion to reopen or re-consider with the immigration court. A guard in Chula Vista will speak with a USCIS officer to allow you in the building to consider your emergency requet. USCIS points out that same-day INFOPASS appointments are usually available for the San Diego office to re-schedule biometrics. Biometrics can also be re-scheduled by mail. Note that filing fees can only be paid at the Chula Vista office.

2. Paying fees

Starting sometime in the first quarter of FY 2010 (sometime between October 1, 2009, and December 31, 2009) fees that are paid locally will be able to be paid at the San Diego and Imperial offices as well as the Chula Vista office as is now the case. USCIS does not accept Form I-246 (Application for Stay of Deportation or Removal).

3. Office hours

USCIS believes that concern for office hours is largely irrelevant as most business with USCIS is accomplished by appointment or by mail. USCIS urges customers to submit documents such as I-72’s (request for evidence) and N-14’s by mail because of how the papers are processed in their contractor-reliant work environment. In the case of an emergency, the office hours are Monday – Thursday from 7 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. in San Diego and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Chula Vista. Fridays, the offices will be open 7 to 11:30 a.m. Attorneys concerned about deadlines for mailing responses to I-72’s and N-14’s are assured that if the date of timely filing is the date of the mailing of the filing. Cases will not be denied for lack of prosecution until three days after the filing deadline, allowing three extra days for delivery by mail.

4. Interview delay / waiting room issues

USCIS is studying the new “off the top” interview process and may abandon it in coming months. The liaison committee raised concerns about lunch hour delays and specific days when there were substantial delays. Delays on these days occurred because of errors in schedule preparation. USCIS is looking into allowing for the use of the main waiting room when the small waiting room in Chula Vista becomes over crowded and in using the public address system to page interviewees. Customers should ask an employee, either a clerk, examiner, or an information officer, if their wait for an appointment (waiting time should be counted from the time of the actual interview) exceeds one hour.

5. Dissatisfaction with INFOPASS answers.

Attorneys who find that their inquiries at INFOPASS appointments are not satisfactory can ask to speak to a supervisor.

6. Issuance of actual permanent residence cards in granted by judge cases.

It should not take more than 60 days for the issuance of a permanent residence card when an immigration judge grants adjustment of status or cancellation of removal for certain nonpermanent residence. Delay might happen if the alien needs his or her biometrics re-captured for card production.

7. Approval of cases when they become current.

In employment-based adjustment of status cases and some family-based preference category cases, interviews may occur before a visa is available. There is concern as to whether the case will be approved when the visa becomes current. USCIS reports that cases are logged by priority date and preference category and are pulled and adjudicated when they become current. USCIS admits that some cases fall through the cracks and attorneys should make an INFOPASS appointment if there is concern that a case that is current is not being adjudicated. Individual officers do not hold cases in their individual offices waiting for the visa number to become current.

8. Notices to appear

USCIS reports that in deciding whether to issue a Notice to Appear after an adjudication is complete, whether an alien’s application is withdrawn or denied is not a factor in the determination. Attorneys can contact the San Diego District director, Paul M. Pierre, to seek the issuance of a Notice to Appear in a specific case. A note of caution – USCIS [like ICE], is reluctant to have customers drive the process of initiating removal proceedings.

9. Naturalization issues

When an alien naturalizes and changes his or her name, he or she receives a name change order with his naturalization certificate. The only way to get a copy of that order is through the FOIA process. An alien whose N-400 is approved is scheduled for an oath ceremony. If an applicant does not show up for his or her first oath ceremony, the applicant is automatically scheduled for the next scheduled ceremony. If the applicant does not show up for the second ceremony, the case is denied. Be sure to respond to all notices, we had clients come in pending denial cases because they failed to appear.

We will update you as new information comes in.