Expedited Adjudication in Emergent Circumstances

August / September 2007Newsletters Legally Speaking

Printer Friendly

The biggest frustrations individuals currently face when dealing with the U.S. immigration system are long waits, case backlogs, and other delays. The heightened security concerns since 9/11 have led to additional required background checks for immigration applicants. These backlogs and additional checks result in long wait times for applicants.

Although in most cases patience is always required and long wait times are frequently inevitable, there are several ways to ensure that the applicant's case is expedited in emergent situations.

Contact USCIS Service Center - Generally, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will grant requests to expedite cases only under very limited circumstances. When the immigration benefit is urgently needed in a time frame that is less than the normal processing time, the USCIS Service Center will consider requests for expeditious handling.

Requests for expedited adjudication should not be used in routine situations.The criteria for expediting applications include extreme emergencies, such as life and death crises, USCIS error, severe financial loss to company or individual, and other humanitarian situations. Under most other circumstances, requests to expedite will not be considered and may even delay processing.

Contact Local Immigration Office - Another way to expedite adjudication of your case is to contact your local immigration office. For example, the local office will expedite processing an I-131 application for a travel document under emergency conditions, such as death in the applicant's immediate family. Even if an I-131 application was previously filed with the Service Center, the I-131 form may be submitted in person, with fee and supporting documents, for adjudication at the local immigration office. The local office will evaluate each request and decide whether the individual circumstances merit expedited handling. If the decision is favorable, the travel document may be issued within one or two business days.

Unlike a travel document, an employment authorization document (EAD) may not be expedited by contacting a local immigration office. However, if contacted, the local office will submit an inquiry to the Service Center, which may expedite adjudication of the EAD.

Contact Congressional Office - If you filed for naturalization or a green card, and your application has been pending for more the than the estimated processing time; if you tried calling the USCIS, but cannot get through; or if your case is stuck in background checks, contact your local congressional office for assistance. While these offices cannot force an agency to act in your favor, they can intervene to facilitate the processes and encourage an agency to give your case consideration. Nonetheless, do not contact more than one office. This may cause confusion in keeping track of inquires submitted to immigration and responses provided to more than one office.

It is important to remember that expedited processing is done at the discretion of the reviewing USCIS officer, based upon the evidence provided by the applicant. There can be no guarantees regardless of the circumstances presented. Therefore, the nature of the emergency, and preparation and presentation of the evidence are the keys to have the application expedited. Fox Rothschild's lawyers will make sure that information and supporting documentation provided to USCIS meet the specific requirements.

As members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Fox Rothschild has access to liaisons who work directly with USCIS service centers. Our firm also works with congressional representatives to expedite client applications when necessary. As the last resort, we will file a Mandamus action in the federal court. The purpose of a Mandamus action is to compel immigration to take an action in the case. This, in many instances, has proven to be successful in expediting adjudication of the cases on behalf of our clients.