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What is the Immigration Service Thinking?!

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USCIS has advised the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Liaison that the change in processing of I-797 approval notices and the mailing of "courtesy copy" notices to the attorney of record is the result of a planned change in the CLAIMS III management system. AILA Liaison has advised USCIS of the consequences of the processing change and has urged USCIS to return to the prior notification procedure immediately.

In what falls into the “how does that make any sense” category, our office started receiving courtesy copies of USCIS immigration approval notices instead of the originals a few weeks ago.  Of course, this goes against long-standing USCIS policy, so we looked into it.
It seems USCIS changed their I-797 approval notice policy without prior notification!

USCIS has advised the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Liaison that the change in processing of I-797 approval notices and the mailing of “courtesy copy” notices to the attorney of record is the result of a planned change in the CLAIMS III management system. AILA Liaison has advised USCIS of the consequences of the processing change and has urged USCIS to return to the prior notification procedure immediately.

We think that this is a terrible policy change by USCIS.  By mailing original approval notices that contain important documents such as original I-94 cards to the petitioners, USCIS is further risking that these documents will get lost.  Just think about large employers who have mailrooms filled with mail getting original approval notices for their employees.

Will they get routed to the right person?

What if the employer changes office locations while the petition is pending?  The US Postal Service does not forward immigration mail, so what happens then?  Note this example:

Employer X files an H-1B transfer petition on October 1, 2011.  It remains pending for a few months, during which time the Employer X relocates its primary office.  The H-1B petition is approved on January 1, 2012. Under the old USCIS policy, the I-797 approval notice containing the important I-94 card for the employee would be sent to Employer X’s immigration attorney.  Under current USCIS policy, the I-797 approval notice is sent to Employer X’s old address, and since the Postal Service does not forward USCIS correspondence it is sent back to USCIS.  Without the I-94, how can Employer X complete an I-9 form for the new employee and allow him/her to work?

As you can see, this new USCIS is going to cause all kinds of problems.

Hopefully, USCIS will reverse course and start resending the courtesy copy to the petitioner and the original approval to the attorney-of-record, as it has done in the past.  In the meantime, petitioners should be on the lookout for the original approval notices and immediately notify the attorney-of-record when they receive these documents.

 

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