According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (i.e. the immigration law), USCIS has 120 days after an applicant’s first interview and exam to make a determination on the application for naturalization. After 120 days have passed, the applicant may file his or her naturalization case in the Federal Court and ask a judge to decide whether he or she qualifies for U.S. citizenship.
There is no exception to the 120-day deadline. It doesn’t matter if USCIS has requested additional documents from you, scheduled an additional interview for you, or just stopped communicating with you. If you’ve had a first interview on your case more than 120 days ago and you still do not have a decision on your application, you can file a lawsuit.
WGV has helped many clients successfully conclude their applications for naturalization after long delays by filing cases in the federal courts. If you or someone you know needs help getting your naturalization case un-stuck at USCIS, please contact Jennifer Walker Gates or Jacqueline Watson at (512) 633-1785 or at [email protected].
For our U visa clients who have been waiting many years to receive work permits while awaiting their U visa approvals, we have begun working through the federal court in Austin to push USCIS to make decisions on cases more expediently. To read more about those efforts, check out our blog post here.
Currently, we are concluding our first U visa delay lawsuit. Once that case is concluded, we intend to file for other clients who live in the Austin area, who have clean criminal and immigration records, and who have had their cases filed since at least 2017. Current processing times indicate that USCIS is adjudicating work permits for individuals who have had applications filed since September of 2015. We are arguing in our suit that five years waiting for a simple work permit is too long, and that this long wait time is frustrating the will of Congress, which is to provide legal status to cooperative victims of crime through the U visa program.
Last week, USCIS contacted us through their attorney and requested some clarification about our clients’ Form I-918B. The I-918B is the form that certifies that our clients were victims of a crime and cooperated with prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrator. In order for USCIS to approve our clients’ work permits, we need to coordinate with prosecutors at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office to clarify some of the information they included in the form. Once we do that, and submit the clarifications to USCIS, we anticipate that our clients’ work permits will be approved and issued within approximately 30 days.
If you have a U visa pending since at least 2017, have a clean criminal record, and live in the Central Texas area, you may be a good candidate to join our next lawsuit. For more information, please contact Jennifer Walker Gates at [email protected].
We at WGV want all of our friends and clients to know that using available resources to get through this time (including unemployment benefits) will NOT be counted against you for public charge purposes.
Regardless of your immigration status, it is safe to call 3-1-1 or visit the City of Austin’s Community Resources page to learn about resources available to you and your family for food, health care, utilities, housing, and transportation.
In addition, many private organizations have set up assistance funds for workers who have been laid off. For example, there are funds available for employees of hotels, restaurants and delivery drivers. These are privately funded assistance programs, and applying for them will NOT harm your immigration case.
Finally, emergency medical assistance will not be counted against anyone for public charge purposes. And as always, if your U.S. citizen spouse or children are receiving public benefits such as food assistance (a.k.a. food stamps), Medicaid, CHiP, or WIC, talk to a trusted immigration attorney before making any changes to those benefits.
If you have questions about your specific case and benefits you are considering, please reach out to us at [email protected]
First, we are remaining calm. Statistically speaking, we are all still much more vulnerable to the flu than to Coronavirus. However, since caution and good hygiene are never bad ideas, here are the steps we’re taking at WGV to minimize risk to ourselves, our clients, and other visitors to our office:
1. No more toys (for now). When flu and coronavirus seasons have passed, we’ll bring the toys back to the lobby (we always disinfect the toys daily). In the meantime, please either leave your child with a caregiver outside the office during your appointments, or bring toys to keep them occupied while here. Click here for our general policy on kids in the office.
2. Meet with us by phone or video call. When we were kids, video calls were Star Trek fantasy. But the future is now, baby, and video calls are easy! Just let us know if you’d like to meet on video, and we’ll send you a link by text or email that makes it very easy. And of course, old fashioned phone calls are often a great way to meet too. We ask that you please STAY HOME if you have flu or virus symptoms. We will be happy to meet with you by phone or video call if you’re feeling bad.
Since 2014, applicants for U visas have been forced to wait several years for their cases to be reviewed. Before then, U visas took about nine months for processing. But as the numbers of U visa applications exploded, USCIS did nothing to deal with all of the new cases, and the wait times for U visa processing became ridiculous.
Applicants for U visas are supposed to get a work permit while they’re waiting for the final decision on their case. But USCIS isn’t even conducting the preliminary review of cases for several years. Right now, WGV has more than 80 clients waiting for work permits for their U visas, and most of them have been waiting more than three years. We have been working with other attorneys from around the country to pressure USCIS to retool their U visa processing system but haven’t seen any real progress. Until now.
In late 2019, WGV filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court in Austin on behalf of two of our U visa clients, and we asked the judge to order USCIS to process our clients’ work permits. We didn’t know what would happen. The government fought back and asked the judge to dismiss our case. In January, the judge ruled that the government needed to provide a valid reason why their processing times were taking so long. The judge did not dismiss our case. In fact, he gave us permission to investigate USCIS to find out the reason they were taking so long. Instead of dealing with our investigation, however, USCIS offered to immediately issue our client’s work permit if we would drop the lawsuit. Which is what we wanted all along.
If you have a U visa case and have been waiting more than a year, we want to help. We are inviting U visa clients who have been waiting for more than one year to file lawsuits against USCIS for their U visa work permits. Also, before we file a lawsuit, we want to make sure you:
1. Have no significant criminal record;
2. Have had no past deportations;
3. Have no past fraud or misrepresentation problems.
But if you are like most of our U visa clients, you have a clean criminal history and a great opportunity to expedite the processing of your case if you join us in suing the government.
If you would like to discuss the possibility, please call us at (512) 633-1785 or email us at [email protected] to schedule an appointment.