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USCIS Will Transfer Green Card and Citizenship Applications to Speed Up Processing

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it will attempt to clear its processing backlogs by transferring some case interviews to other offices that have a lesser workload. This policy will only apply to green card cases filed through the I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status and citizenship cases filed through the N-400 Application for Naturalization.

Will my case be transferred?
Not every green card or naturalization interview will be transferred. In offices where processing times are reasonable compared with historical and national data, interviews will remain with the USCIS field office serving the area where the applicant lives. But in offices where processing times are disproportionately high, USCIS will attempt to shift some interviews to offices outside of the normal jurisdiction. For instance, an application for naturalization in the USCIS Minneapolis/St. Paul Field Office can take two years to be scheduled for an interview currently. Conversely, the USCIS Cleveland Field Office currently reports the same type of naturalization application only takes nine months or less.

This does not necessarily mean that all N-400 or I-485 Applications interviews from Minneapolis/St. Paul will be transferred to Cleveland. The new location of the interview will ultimately depend on the processing times at all other field offices, as the purpose of the transfer is to even out the caseload and have a more consistent processing timeframe nationwide. Therefore, applicants may see their interviews be scheduled out of state, and should be prepared to make travel arrangements accordingly.

When will I know if my interview was transferred?
USCIS generally issues the scheduling notices to the applicants about 4-6 weeks in advance of the green card and naturalization interviews.

Will my fingerprinting appointment be transferred too?
No, the biometrics appointments for I-485 and N-400 Applications to obtain the applicant’s fingerprints and digital photo will continue to be scheduled at the USCIS application support center that is closest to the applicant’s residence, just as they were in the past.

What if I have an attorney? Can my attorney represent me at the new location for the interview?
Yes. Immigration law is a federal matter, so an attorney licensed to practice law in any U.S. state may generally represent clients before USCIS anywhere in the country. If you are represented by an attorney and the representation includes the attorney’s attendance at the interview, then the attorney will have to travel to the new location as well. USCIS does not currently allow attorneys to appear by telephone or videoconference.

It is always recommended that the attorney who prepared the application be also the one appearing at the official interview. However, if that is not possible for whatever reason, applicants can obtain the services of a local attorney who practices in the jurisdiction where the interview is transferred, for the limited scope of appearing at the interview. Therefore, applicants are encouraged to discuss with their attorney any need for travel as soon as they get the scheduling notice showing the interview has been transferred, to make sure they are fully aware of the extent and cost of the attorney’s representation and leave themselves enough time to make alternative arrangements if needed.

We will continue to monitor this new transfer policy and how USCIS implements it. If you have any questions regarding the new policy or any other immigration-related matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Raluca (Luca) Vais-Ottosen at rvo@dewittllp.com or at (608) 252-9291.

About the Author

Raluca Vais-Ottosen has assisted numerous clients with Immigration matters ranging from family-based and individual Immigration applications, to employment related visas and I-9 employment eligibility verification issues. In addition to her Immigration practice, she also has an extensive background in Employment Law. She assists companies in a number of areas, including but not limited to claims of workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation, termination and constructive discharge, workplace investigations by State and Federal agencies, as well as Employment Litigation.

Contact Luca by email or by phone at (608) 252-9291.

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