You filed an application or petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You’re patiently waiting for a response. But none comes. Months and months have passed and you have no idea what is going on with your case. What can you do?
Unfortunately, USCIS has become more and more unfriendly to the very people it has been created to serve. Recent changes in procedure have followed the current governmental trend to make it more difficult for people to lawfully immigrate into the United States. USCIS has recently ended an email address that was available to immigration attorneys to obtain information on their client’s cases. Infopass appointments have been curtailed. And paralegals and other attorney personnel is no longer able to call the customer service line to obtain information on a client’s case. In short, the government is giving the cold shoulder to immigrants, immigration attorneys and United States citizens with immigrant family members.
So what are your options?
Who can I call to ask about my immigration case?
Unfortunately, the government has not provided immigration customers with an avenue to communicate with a knowledgeable human being about your case. What they have provided is a 1-800 number that you can call to get canned, limited information from an employee who has no authority to discuss you case. They will simply look at the screens they are allowed to look at and regurgitate the information that is on those screens. Typical responses include, “You’re case is pending a decision.” You will not be able to pick up the phone and speak to the actual official who is working on your case. The best you can hope for is to obtain information that has been entered into the system and that has been approved for the customer service representative to release to you. Of course, this is usually after being placed on hold for a very long time.
What are my options?
There are some very limited options to request information on your immigration case. You can call the customer service number at 1-800-375-5283 and obtain limited information. You can make an Info Pass appointment at the local USCIS office and obtain a little more information. However, you can only schedule an Infopass appointment within the next fourteen (14) days and those appointments fill up fast. Often, you will have to check for new open appointment times on a daily basis. Even if you obtain an infopass appointment, you may obtain limited information that does not answer your question. You can check your case status online, but again, you will receive very limited information. You’ll need to enter your receipt number to check your status online.
What if my case has been pending for a year or more?
If your case has been sitting around for an inordinately long time, you can file a federal lawsuit against the agency. Basically, your lawsuit would be a request to a federal judge to order the governmental agency to make a decision on your case. Oftentimes, simply filing the lawsuit is enough to nudge the governmental agency (i.e. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)) to make a decision on your case. However, lawsuits are not cheap. You must hire an attorney to review all of the documents and information in your case, research the issues, draft the appropriate documents and file them in federal court. This option is rarely appealing to people who have already invested a lot of time and money into the immigration process.
Is there any good news?
Unfortunately, the immigration system is getting worse, not better. Communication between governmental officials and immigration attorneys has been severely curtailed by a trickle down philosophy starting at the top of our government. Bureaucracy seems to be increasing. The red tape is getting longer. The systems used by the government seem to be archaic and ineffective. The different governmental agencies are unable to effectively and efficiently communicate. There doesn’t seem to be a true concern to serve the “customers” of the immigration system. That is, the immigrants and United States citizen family members of those immigrants. If the system is going to get better, it will take a complete overhaul of the internal workings of USCIS and other immigration agencies regarding communication with immigration lawyers and their clients.
Jeremy Lasnetski is a partner at the Law Offices of Shorstein, Lasnetski, & Gihon. The firm focuses on criminal defense, immigration and personal injury. Mr. Lasnetski focuses his practice on immigration and criminal defense. Mr. Lasnetski is the former Jacksonville Regional Vice Chair of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association, Central Florida Chapter and has represented clients in deportation proceedings, USCIS benefit cases, consular processing cases, and more. He routinely gives presentations on immigration law issues to both criminal and immigration lawyers at conferences and seminars throughout the State of Florida.