Here are some updates based on Pilar Peralta Mihalko, Branch Chief International Operations Division, International, who spoke at the American Immigration Lawyers Association Texas Chapter Conference in Albuquerque New Mexico on April 13, 2012:
Centralization of all I-601s Underway
USCIS is in the process of centralizing ALL I-601 extreme hardship waivers that are filed by applicants who are standing abroad. The current procedure is if a foreign national was required to apply for an immigrant visa abroad at a US Embassy and they were eligible to file the I601 extreme hardship waiver, the filing was sent from the US Embassy to a foreign USCIS office with jurisdiction. This office would then adjudicate the I601 and if approved, then re-route the case back to the Embassy. The time that it takes to do this can easily take 8 months and many times can be up to a year. Moreover, the decision-making results between the different foreign USCIS offices has varied dramatically. USCIS has thus determined that all I601s will now be filed at a US Lockbox facility in the United States and then be adjudicated by adjudicators at a USCIS Service Center, most likely Nebraska Service Center.
This change in procedure according to Peralta Mihalko, is expected hopefully “by August” and will only be applicable for cases not yet filed. Cases already sitting at a foreign USCIS office will not benefit from this change. However, Peralta Mihalko states that as of Friday, 350 test cases from USCIS offices abroad were actually forwarded from various USCIS offices abroad through the Lockbox to test the system. Otherwise, no other cases will be proceeding in this manner. She also noted that Juarez will go through a 6 month transition process where applicants will have a choice if they want to file at the Lockbox or with USCIS in Juarez.
Advantages for this process: 1) consistency in adjudication standards 2) faster processing times 3) applicants will be able to track their case using the Case Status system currently in place – all are WELCOME benefits to the current I-601 process for foreign nationals abroad.
If you have questions to ask, please contact Colorado immigration lawyer, Catherine Brown for more details or a consultation.
Updates on the New Proposed Regulation on Provisional Waivers filed Stateside for Applicants of Immediate Relatives
USCIS has already proposed the regulation recently on a new procedural option for filing an I601 extreme hardship waiver PRIOR to leaving the United States for an Embassy interview, see my prior blog for the specific eligibility details http://www.cbrownlaw.com/2012/04/01/family-immigration/uscis-comes-out-with-provisional-family-waiver-details/
Ms. Pilar Peralta Mihalko clarified that the option requires the applicant to be moving forward with the immigrant visa process. USCIS expects the National Visa Center immigrant visa fees to have been paid but whether all documents need to be submitted and interview scheduled is unclear. Ms. Peralta Mihalko was previously at the Nebraska Service Center training new adjudicators on handling these I601s, which is where the anticipated provisional waivers will be routed. Again, a handful of cases from USCIS Juarez will be forwarded to Nebraska to get the team more prepared for this type of application. The fact that the Anaheim office is conducting the training is certainly a positive as Ms. Peralta Mihalko pointed out because this office handles many similar types of adjudications such as humanitarian parole and recently, current I601 overflows from USCIS Juarez.
What is the anticipated time of the final rule which is when the rule becomes effective? Looking at November/December 2011 at the earliest. Stay tuned for more updates and contact Catherine Brown, Denver immigration lawyer, if you would like more detailed information about the process or eligibility.