The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approaches the processing of applications for immigration benefits from the standpoint of a service provider oriented toward customer satisfaction.
Believe it or not, it is constantly in search of ways to efficiently and expeditiously process applications. Among its latest efforts were the bispecialization scheme for employment-based petitions six months ago and the expansion of premium processing to certain categories of immigrant worker petitioners (I-140).
The latest initiative of the USCIS in the direction of improved customer service delivery is the transfer of cases from one service center to another. It will be recalled that apart from field and district offices in major cities in the country, the USCIS has four service centers strategically located in the four regions of the country, namely, the Vermont, , Texas, California and the Nebraska Service Centers.
As clarified by the USCIS, these service centers “handle the mail, file, data entry, and adjudication of most applications for immigration services and benefits.” Petitions and applications are mailed to these service centers, which do not have the staff to receive walk-ins” or to answer questions. They have special post office box numbers and zip codes that correspond to specific USCIS form types, thus petitioners and applicants are well-advised to check the forms before mailing them out.
There are instances when certain service centers are processing more cases than the others. In the interest of efficiency, the USCIS transfers certain cases from one service center to another to “balance the overall workload with processing capacity.”
USCIS recently announced that the Vermont Service Center had experienced an “unusually high workload” over the past three months and has therefore transferred about 20,000 H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2007 to the Texas Service Center. Vermont has also transferred “6,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions to the Nebraska Service Center rather than its ‘sister’ service center, the California Service Center.”
Under the bispecialization initiative mentioned earlier, the USCIS has paired up the Vermont and California Service Centers for receipt and processing of nonimmigrant worker petitions (I-129) and related applications. The Nebraska and Texas Service Centers, on the other hand, receive and process immigrant worker petitions (I-140) and related applications. The designated filing location for I-129s is the Vermont Service Center while that for I-140s is the Nebraska Service Center.
Before the bispecialization scheme, employers file their petitions in the service center having jurisdiction over their location, thus Florida or South Carolina employers file with the Texas Service Center, while New York or Connecticut employers file with Vermont, etc.
While before the filing locations can be in either of the four service centers having jurisdiction over the employer, the bispecialization scheme now only has two filing locations.
At this point, the jury is still out on whether the bispecialization scheme has facilitated the processing of employment-based petitions. In the meantime, petitioners and applicants are at a loss on how to track the progress of their filings with the USCIS.
In its recent announcement, however, the USCIS said it will issue transfer notices to all affected customers.
The USCIS also announced that it has transferred petitions for alien relative cases (I-130) and petitions for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant cases (I-360). Over the past 3 months, Vermont has transferred some 20,000 I-130 cases to California. All pending I-360 cases from the Vermont, Texas and Nebraska Service Centers have been transferred to California. I-360 cases involving religious workers have also been transferred to California. Customers will also be notified of the transfers.
The USCIS has advised customers to communicate with the service center where their case is being processed.
Editor’s Note: REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For further information, you may call him at 212 695 5281 or log on to his website at www.seguritan.com