Last August 22, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a proposed rule requiring holders of green cards without expiration dates to apply for a replacement.
It provided a thirty-day period or until September 21, 2007 for the public to submit written comments.
We have received information that the USCIS is not in a hurry to finalize the rule. Many have expressed their objections. And the USCIS is doubtful if it will be able to handle the huge volume of potential applications at this time.
A 120-day period to apply was imposed in the proposed rule. After this period, the USCIS would set a termination date for the validity of the cards.
Approximately 3 million such cards were issued before August 1989. 1.1. million bearers of these cards have become US citizens. The maximum number affected would therefore be approximately 1.9 million. The USCIS anticipates that about 1.15 million more will file for naturalization leaving about 750,000 permanent residents who will need to apply for a new card.
Critics have questioned the necessity of the plan especially that the USCIS had acknowledged that the existing old cards are compliant with the current laws. The cards are machine-readable and contain tamper-resistant features and biometric identifiers as in the current version.
The USCIS said that national security consideration was behind the proposal. The program would enable it to issue more secure green cards, update cardholder information, conduct background checks and electronically store applicants’ biometric information that can be used for biometric comparison and authentication purposes.
But the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) has characterized the plan objective as minor technological improvements which, although laudable do not present a significant basis to invalidate the cards.
AILA has further argued that while national security is an important priority, the plan is more of an administrative convenience and a way to pass the high cost of the technological upgrade to individuals who are not looking for any benefit. The cost of filing a replacement application (Form I-90) is $370.00.
AILA has been particularly concerned with the potential risk of imprisonment for any permanent resident who simply will not apply to replace his or her card. This failure to register will be a violation of the registration requirements under the Immigration and Nationality Act. “It would turn law-abiding residents into a new class of criminal aliens,” AILA said.
If the USCIS will push through with the program, AILA has suggested that the filing period be stretched to several years, the filing fee be waived and an extensive publicity campaign be conducted.
In addition, the USCIS should not require the submission of criminal conviction documents before processing the replacement application and should not apply newer and harsher immigration laws in adjudicating the applications.
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 http://www.seguritan.com/