- By Vaman Kidambi, Esq.
The INS is taking longer and longer to process applications. What is the best way to cope with this delay? Are there ways of expediting cases filed with the INS? Yes, there are and that's what this article is all about. At the outset, there is no uniform procedure of expediting your cases. Each Service Center has its own procedure of expediting cases.
Vermont Service Center:
The Vermont Service Center is unique in that expedite requests can be made by calling the Vermont Service at 1 (802) 527-4913 and speaking with an Information Officer. Of course, there are guidelines that need to be satisfied. Vermont believes that all expedite are solely based on the merits of the application. "Compelling humanitarian concern," is perhaps the single most important criterion in the granting of an expedite request. Compelling humanitarian concerns exist when a United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident petitions for a relative [visa number should be provided] who requires medical treatment, special care, or is a minor child who lacks appropriate supervision or security;
When a petitioner, through no fault of his own, is faced with an emergency, as is sometimes the case with nonimmigrant petitions for artists; when a musician, singer, or other performer approved for nonimmigrant classification is suddenly stricken with an illness and must be immediately replaced; or when the service has made an error in processing a case and that error has delayed the applicant's or petitioner's receipt of a lawful benefit.
Expedite requests at the Vermont Service Center are recorded by the Information Officer and immediately conveyed to the Assistant Center Director, Deputy Director, or directly to the Center Director. If approved the Information Officer will contact the requester and provide instructions for courier delivery. Congressional requests are treated in the same manner.
Texas Service Center:
Texas requires written requests to expedite cases. The Texas Service Center will consider expedite requests for all applications and petitions based upon the following seven criteria:
- Severe financial loss to company or individual.
- Extreme emergent situation (earthquakes, etc).
- Humanitarian situation (reviewed case by case)
- Nonprofit status of requesting organization in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States (provide evidence of the organization's nonprofit status).
- Department of Defense or National Interest situation (NOTE: request must come from official US government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to our government).
- Service error.
- Compelling interest of the Service.
Petitioners requesting expeditious processing whose Form I-129 classification is available for Premium Processing will not be considered for expedite processing. Expeditious processing of naturalization applications must be submitted through the local INS office having jurisdiction over constituent's residence.
Nebraska Service Center
Again, Nebraska requires written request to expedite cases. The requirements for expedite requests in Nebraska are based on the following:
- When the benefit is needed in a time frame that is less than normal processing times, and
- When that short time frame were not caused by less than diligent application procedures on the part of the applicant or petitioner or when there is a great humanitarian basis to consider.
Requests that do no meet these criteria will not be granted and delayed processing will inevitably result. To expedite, state "EXPEDITE REQUEST" in the heading of the letter requesting the expedite, and again on the envelope.
California Service Center
The Expedited processing system in California is by far the most complicated. Expedited processing will be granted on a case-by-case basis. Expedite requests will be considered under the following criteria:
- Significant public health concerns
- Significant environmental concerns
- Significant loss of revenue by the petitioner
- Compelling national or regional interest
- Significant job creation or loss
- Extraordinary industry specific circumstances
- Significant humanitarian concerns, or
- When expediting is determined to be in the best interest of INS.
Reasons for the expedite request must be stated on the optional expedite work sheet and should include a one-page support letter. Mark the envelop with a red dot and use the street mailing address.
The following address is used for overnight delivery (Federal Express, UPS, etc) or bonded courier delivery:
California Service Center
24000 Avila Road, 2nd Floor, Room 2303
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Petitions and supporting documentation should be submitted in duplicate.
Requests for expediting cases will only be granted in the case of an emergency. They are granted infrequently. The Service wants you to remember that poor planning does not warrant expeditious processing. Cases that are not clearly approvable will not be expedited. Incomplete petitions will also be denied expeditious processing.
Resubmission of a returned application/petition, appeal/motion, I-765/I-817, or non-direct mail application/petition may be handled as expeditiously if one of the criteria above is met. If no expedite response is received within 72 hours, the request has been denied. Normal processing will occur. There is no appeal from the denial of an expedite request. Follow-up faxes or telephone calls will not be entertained.
There is an alternative to requests for expediting petitions. However, this will cost you additional INS filing fees of $1000.00. The following categories of visas are eligible for Premium Processing:
E-1, E-2, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-2, P-3 and Q-1, H-1B, TN or R nonimmigrant.
In addition, the INS will allow I-539 applications for dependents to receive the same expeditious processing as the principal family member's I-129 petition -- at no additional cost if they are filed at the same time.
Specifically, the INS will provide 15-calendar day processing to those who choose to use this service or the INS will refund the Premium Processing fee and the relating case will continue to receive expeditious service.
The processing period that will be used to determine whether or not the INS meets the 15-day period will begin when the I-907 is delivered to the INS (at the appropriate address) and will end upon the INS mailing of a notice. The notice may be a notice of approval, request for evidence, intent to deny or notice of investigation for fraud or misrepresentation. If the notice requires the submission of additional evidence or of a response to intent to deny, a new 15-day period will begin upon the delivery to the INS of a complete response to the request for evidence or notice of intent to deny. The Premium Processing fee must be submitted in a separate check or money.
The INS is currently reviewing the program and evaluating its ability to incorporate additional forms into the program on a regular basis. No specific forms or dates for incorporating new forms have been identified at this time. It is noted, however, that statutory authority limits the INS to expanding only to other employment-based forms. It is important to note that Premium Processing may only be requested by the visa petitioner, or the attorney or representative who has filed a notice of appearance (Form G-28) on behalf of the visa petitioner.
The INS has provided not only a unique mailing address for its Premium Processing customers, but it has also established a special phone number and e-mail address for each of the Service Centers. If you have already filed a Request for Premium Processing and you need to contact the Center you can contact using the following phone lines. Remember these phone numbers are for inquiries relating only to Premium Processing cases. The INS Officer who answers your call will not be able to answer questions relating to any case that was not filed under the Premium Processing Service Program.
California Service Center Premium Processing phone line: (949) 831-8550
Nebraska Service Center Premium Processing phone line: (402) 474-5012
Texas Service Center Premium Processing phone line: (214) 275-4415
Vermont Service Center Premium Processing phone line: (802) 527-3192
Alternately, you may e-mail the Service Center with which you have filed a Premium Processing case at the following e-mail addresses: