Thursday, May 15, 2008

Litigation on Naturalization Delays

Two permanent residents ("green card" holders) filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of themselves and all permanent residents whose applications for naturalization have been pending with USCIS for more than 180 days. The action is part of a nationwide effort to force USCIS and the FBI to expeditiously complete security checks and adjudicate pending applications. Many applicants for citizenship are experiencing delays of two years or more while awaiting interviews.

The government has recently moved to eliminate delays caused by pending security checks involving applicants for green cards. In a February 4, 2008 USCIS memorandum, USCIS announced a major shift in the agency's approach to FBI name checks of pending applications. According to the memo, after a FBI fingerprint and IBIS check have been completed, and the FBI name check request has been pending for more than 180 days, the adjudicator shall approve the application and proceed with the card issuance. This new procedure will apply to Applications for Adjustment of Status (I-485); Applications for Waiver of ground of Inadmissibility (I-601); Applications for Status as a Temporary Resident Under Section 245A of the Immigrant and Nationality Act (I-687), or Applications to Adjust Status from Temporary Permanent Resident (Under Section 245A of Public Law 99-603) (I-698).

USCIS however, has not approved the new procedures for naturalization applicants. Last July, USCIS received 460,000 applications for naturalization. That was three times the record for any previous month. For the year, USCIS received 1.4 million naturalization applications, almost double the normal annual volume.

In a related matter, USCIS announced last week a settlement agreement in a class action filed by naturalization applicants who had lost or were about to lose their eligibility for Supplemental Social Income (SSI). Under the settlement, USCIS will expedite green card and naturalization applications of current or former SSI beneficiaries, if the application has been pending more than 6 months.

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