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No more foreign CIS office delays? Waivers for Unlawful Presence, Crimes & More to Be Filed at US Lockbox
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Posted On: March 10, 2012

In a teleconference today, US CIS announced plans to transition all usually foreign filed I-601 packages for unlawful presence, criminal, misrepresentation, and other kinds of inadmissability waivers to one central lockbox filing location in the U.S.  The practice now is to submit the waiver filing with the CIS office attached to the foreign consulate. This current process has resulted in a lot of delay and longer wait times for a final decision at certain consulates who have less CIS officers available to decide the waivers. So this is good news . . . in theory. 

Note: This new process has nothing to do with the provisional waiver process earlier proposed by CIS in January 2012. 

What this new process would do: 

Procedural change

Waiver applications can only be submitted to the lockbox in the US after the applicant has attended the immigrant visa interview abroad at the consulate and the consulate officer determines that the applicant is eligible to file a waiver. The waiver would be filed with the lockbox which forwards the petition to the CIS Nebraska Service Center for adjudication. CIS expects to train 26 officers on waivers to handle the expected increased workload. 

Proposed Benefits to this new process:

  • Should be faster for applicants.  They also hope a new centralized place to submit the foreign filed waivers should stop great variations on processing times at different consulates; overseas offices cannot grow easily – some CIS offices abroad only have one officer to decide these case and the backlogs created are inevitable.  In contrast, service centers are huge (can pull staff from other units) and can respond quickly to increases in receipts of applications to avoid backlogs.
  • Case status info will be available online through US CIS’s website once the application is filed and receipted.
  • Process applies to all I-212s (Advance Permission to Reapply After Removal Packages) filed with Inadmissability Waivers as well
  • E notification will be available – if you provide email address – can get receipt number emailed to you. 
  • Implementation of this new policy is expected in late spring, early summer 2012.
Exceptions & Things to Think About:

  • Applicants cannot apply from Havana – must file with intrasection there (only 10 cases a year)
  • There could be certain situations overseas where CIS offices are available and could be faster for expedites than lockbox decisions which are expected to take no more than 6 months on average.
  • Transition period for CDJ cases – between 75-79% are filed at CDJ. Now takes two months to review if instantly approvable. If not, the case referred to another office to adjudicate.  For the first six months of this new process, the applicant will have the choice to file at a lockbox or at CDJ. After this, will then all go to lockbox filings.
  • As of today’s teleconference, CIS is not  sure if will be transferring pending cases from consulates at the time the new procedure becomes effective or if CIS offices abroad will continue to decide those pending cases. 
  • Refiles as the lockbox if the NBC denies the case will be available if the applicant chooses this route instead of appealing the denial to the CIS Administrative Appeals Office which could take over a year.

Although this a positive step in streamlining how waivers are decided, it’s still frustrating because this new policy will not include those waiver applications that are determined to be necessary after an adjustment of status (green card process in the US) or for those applying for adjustment of status who know they will have to file a waiver. Those waivers will still be decided on the local level at the local field or district office. Scary, since there’s no consistent training on waivers at the local level.

I’ll let you know when we hear more about this new policy. 

Attorney Heather L. Poole practices exclusively in the area of U.S. family-based immigration law and citizenship law. Heather is a nationally-published immigration author, frequent lecturer on immigration issues, and member & officer of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Southern California Chapter. For more information about Heather and the services offered, visit www.humanrightsattorney.com

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