Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

    United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – Are They Nuts?

    In the aftermath of 9/11 it was discovered that virtually all of the hijackers entered the US originally on a various nonimmigrant visas, student visas, if I recall exactly. Some of the students had attended flight schools in the US before turning into hijackers. What I want to focus on here is that they were legal aliens approved by immigration officers in the department called INS a.k.a Immigration and Nationality Service. You can be sure that the Government would have been able to track down every immigration official that had anything to do with approving these visas looking for a scapegoat.

    As a result the INS was taken under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security and was renamed to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  USCIS then under went a root and branch review to build in new systems and protocols that should facilitate the detection and capture of potential “bad people”.  At the same time many other agendas were co-opted into the review to also look into every aspect of US Immigration administration so that only the most deserving and qualified applicants were approved. Hitherto, it was well known that a certain percentage of applications were bogus but until then USCIS may have lacked sufficient resources or resolve to be as thorough as they might have been. However, as part of this complete USCIS make over with another potential 9/11 looming every alien applying for anything will be viewed with the utmost scrutiny.

    Every visitor to the US and even when they fly within the US is subject to unprecedented screening.  New rigorous regulations have been introduced to travelers as to what they can bring on board a plane, even the amount of breast milk. Some would say they have gone completely over the top. The same can be argued as to the workings of USCIS.  On some level you cannot blame these government officials because they don’t want to let the next terrorist into the country or onto a plane. Who does?   Are they nuts? I think USCIS has gotten to the point where, if I were a Psychiatric Doctor I’d say that USCIS was suffering from paranoid delusions with multiple personalities.  My argument is that many attorneys can attest to situations where they send two almost identical cases into for review and get two different results. Or ask two different immigration officials the same question and get a different answers.  Often we may be to go to three or four different departments or officials to find out which answer is the prevailing one.  Also, the advice an attorney might get today could be quite different tomorrow, this is also true to the information published on their websites.

    The point of this article is to try and shed light to the uninitiated, that US Immigration is one of the most complicated areas of legal practice. Immigration law is constantly being revised and the internal interpretation of this law as it translates into USCIS policies has not been synthesize into one doctrine. In other words, it appears as if many departments have adopted their own spin resulting in very little consistency in the entire USCIS system.

    The amount of times we have clients say to us “well I just complete the forms and fill them in myself then it should be ok right?” In theory my answer would be “probably”, but the reality is far more complicated than that. You hire a lawyer because, if they are seasoned immigration lawyers, they know only too well the USCIS organization.  A very good immigration lawyer will make sure that the case is so expertly prepared to the maximum to leave no doubt in the mind of the Immigration official that this particular case exceeds the requirements for approval. Even then, an experienced immigration lawyer would know that USCIS could still come back with bogus additional requests for additional information and the Immigration lawyer must be willing and able to take on USCIS. Chances are that the immigration official is not a lawyer at all but just an administrator, so sometimes lawyers have to teach USCIS immigration officials a thing or two about the law.

    Imagine the logic of representing yourself. It would be like hiring a newly qualified paralegal with absolutely no experience whatsoever in US Immigration and putting your relocation future in their hands. It’s not impossible that the paralegal could pull it off, but it would be far more likely that the paralegal would completely mess up your life because they have no idea whatsoever of the challenges and nature of USCIS.

    The message of this article is that you have to think of USCIS as being a little nuts, it’s certainly not a logical well oiled machine where you can just put in paperwork and out pops an approval. If only that were so. You need to hire the best lawyer you can afford and trust and let them do their job, they will still faces challenges from USCIS but at least they should have the skills and experience to navigate the best course for you. US Immigration is stressful enough just dealing with the move, let alone taking on USCIS as well.

    US Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram
    Chris M. Ingram LL.M., ESQ – Immigration Attorney
    Admitted in New York.
    Practice Specializing in US Immigration Law
    401 Wilshire, 12th Floor
    Santa Monica,
    California 90401
    Tel: 310 496 4292