AILA MEETING WITH USCIS – CIUDAD JUAREZ DISTRICT OFFICE Ciudad Juarez, Mexico August 21, 2012 Attendees for

USCIS Attendees for AILA Anastasia Tonello, AILA-DOS Liaison Chair Michael Davis, AILA-USCIS International Operations Chair Cory Caouette, Member, AILA-USCIS International Operations Committee Laura Lichter, AILA President T. Douglas Stump, AILA President-Elect Annaluisa Padilla, AILA Secretary David Leopold, AILA General Counsel & Past President Kathleen Campbell Walker, AILA Past President Robert P. Deasy, AILA Director of Liaison & Information L. Edward Rios, AILA Member

GENERAL OPERATIONS AILA understands that the Ciudad Juarez (CDJ) Field Office has administrative jurisdiction for immigration matters over the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Durango. 1. Please answer the following general questions: a. How many officers work at the CDJ field office? b. What positions do the officers hold? c. How long do the officers usually remain at post? d. Can you provide a current organizational chart for the CDJ field office? ANSWER: a. At present there are one Field Office Director, one Overseas Adjudications Officer and one TDY Adjudications Officer working at CDJ. b. Please see above c. Overseas Officer tours of duty are 3 – 5 years. Temporary duty assignments are 30 – 120 days. d. Please see attached 2. What are the biggest challenges facing the USCIS Ciudad Juarez Field Office? ANSWER: The biggest challenge facing the USCIS Ciudad Juarez Field Office is remaining current with the I-601 workload. 3. Are there any plans for expanding or reducing the USCIS Ciudad Juarez field office? ANSWER: We anticipate a reduction in the size of the support staff after completion of the transition of the I-601 workload from CDJ to the Nebraska Service Center.

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4. What impact, if any, do you expect on workload or staff size at the CDJ field office based on changes in the I-601 waiver application process? ANSWER: Please see response to Item No. 3. 5. How has centralized filing of I-130 petitions affected the workload at CDJ? ANSWER: We have recently experienced a slight increase in the no-show rate of previously scheduled I-601 filing appointments and a decrease in I-601 filing appointments for September and October. 6. AILA understands that as recently as the spring the CDJ field office had two open positions being filled by staff from the International Adjudications Support Branch (IASB). Is this still the case, and if so, will those positions eventually be filled? ANSWER: TDY Adjudications Officers continue to occupy vacant CDJ officer positions. Field Office staffing levels are determined by HQ managers. COMMUNICATIONS 7. What is the preferred method of communication by AILA attorneys on a pending case? ANSWER: Inquiries pertaining to CDJ I-601 cases should be submitted by e-mail to cdj.uscis@uscis.dhs.gov . 8. AILA understands that your office is not open to the public for walk-in inquiries; however, other offices (i.e., Mexico City, Tegucigalpa, Guatemala City, and Lima) offer this service. Would the CDJ field office consider offering a walk-in inquiry service? ANSWER: Walk-in inquiry service at CDJ would be capable of providing responses only to inquiries pertaining to I-601 cases located at CDJ, whereas e-mail inquiries submitted to cdj.uscis@usics.dhs.gov receive responses regardless of whether the case is located at CDJ, MTR, MEX, ZLA, ZMI, ZNK or in transit to another location. Present staffing levels preclude walk-in inquiry service without negatively affecting I-601 processing. However, walk-in information service at CDJ, similar to many other overseas field offices, may be a viable option in the near future. 9. Is there a U.S. citizen “hotline” for the CDJ field office? ANSWER: Although we are not sure exactly what is meant by a “U.S. citizen hotline”, no such service exists at USCIS/CDJ. 10. Excluding the waiver process, are any interviews conducted at the CDJ field office? If so, what kind? ANSWER: USCIS Officers interview I-730 beneficiaries prior to issuance of travel documents, I-130 and I-360 petitioners and beneficiaries if there are fraud indicators present, and I-407 applicants. 11. USCIS’s May 2012 memo on the role of private attorneys states that an applicant has a right to an attorney in interviews conducted by USCIS International

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Operations offices abroad (AILA Doc. No. 12052940). How do attorneys gain admission into the consular compound in order to attend USCIS interviews?1 ANSWER: Security procedures at CDJ do not permit representatives to accompany their clients into the Consulate. (It should be noted that interviews of applicants by CDJ USCIS Officers are a negligible part of our workload.) MATTERS OVER WHICH THE CDJ FIELD OFFICE HAS JURISDICTION 12. Please confirm that the USCIS CDJ field office accepts I-601 and I-212 waiver filings, I-130 direct filings, and I-407s. a. Does the field office accept other applications or petitions, such as military N-400 applications? b. Does the field office accept I-290Bs when appropriate? ANSWER: The USCIS CDJ field office accepts I-601 waiver applications from CDJ immigrant visa applicants who have been determined by a Consular Office to be inadmissible to the U.S. and eligible to file a waiver. We accept I-212 applications filed concurrently with I-601 waiver applications from CDJ IV applicants and we accept stand-alone I-212 applications (without an I-601) from CDJ K NIV applicants. We accept I-130 visa petitions from USC petitioners who can demonstrate they reside in the Mexican states of Chihuahua or Durango. I-407s are accepted. b. All INA Section 329 and 319(e) military N-400 applications are filed at the Nebraska Service Center and since there are no U.S. military bases locate within the Republic of Mexico, no military naturalization cases are processed here c. The CDJ field office accepts I-290Bs, as appropriate. 13. Excluding the waiver filings, does the CDJ field office accept expedite requests for any of the above petitions or filings? a. What is the procedure and preferred expedite request format from applicants/attorneys? ANSWER: The CDJ Field Office would be happy to accept expedite requests, however, the processing time for all applications and petitions other than I-601/I-212s, is but several days and there is no need to request expedited processing. 14. Does the CDJ field office accept applications or petitions from individuals residing outside of its jurisdiction? If so, under what circumstances? ANSWER: The CDJ field office does not accept applications or petitions from individuals residing outside its jurisdiction. 15. Please describe the current procedure for accepting direct-filed I-130 petitions. ANSWER: I-130 visa petitions are accepted by mail or in person on a walk-in basis during normal Consulate business hours.

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USCIS Final Memo on the Role of Private Attorneys, AILA InfoNet Doc. 12052940, http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=39818

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ABANDONMENT OF RESIDENT STATUS (I-407) 16. What is the current timeline, procedure, and processing times for I-407 abandonments filed at the CDJ field office? ANSWER: Virtually all I-407s filed at overseas offices are submitted by NIV applicants who have long since abandoned their LPR status and are filing the I-407 in order to establish NIV eligibility. At CDJ, I-407s are processed on the spot as applicants are referred to our office from the NIV Section. 17. What steps are taken to ensure that the applicant understands the gravity of relinquishing their status? ANSWER: I-407 applicants are asked a series of questions to ensure they fully understand relinquishment of LPR status. I-601 WAIVER ISSUES 18. Please describe the current volume of I-601 waiver cases pending at CDJ, including cases sent for remote adjudication to Mexico City, Anaheim, and any other offices. ANSWER: As of 08/20/2012, there are 3893 I-601 waiver applications pending at CDJ and another 2053 pending at remote locations, totaling 5946 cases. 19. Are other offices still adjudicating cases or are all referred cases now being sent to the Nebraska Service Center (NSC)? ANSWER: I-601s filed at CDJ are currently adjudicated at CDJ, MTR, MEX, ZLA, ZMI and ZNK. NSC adjudicates only I-601s filed there since 06/04/12. 20. Members have begun to receive I-601 approval notices (on Form I-797) from the NSC. Although the notices include the standard USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC) phone number, unlike the previous ones generated from Mexico or Anaheim, the notices offer no further instructions about next steps. The Ciudad Juarez phone line typically indicates that no notification of approval from Lincoln has been received. a. How long is it typically taking for the approval and/or case file to be transferred from NSC to the consulate? b. Does the USCIS office at CDJ have any further involvement in the case following approval, or does the file go directly to the Department of State (DOS)? c. Please provide AILA with any additional relevant information concerning the new/current waiver process. ANSWER: a. Notification of approved I-601s is sent directly from NSC to CDJ IV three time weekly. b. NSC provides approval notifications directly to DOS at CDJ. USCIS/ CDJ has no involvement with NSC I-601s. c. USCIC/CDJ has no information relevant to centralized I-601 filing besides that already available to the public.

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21. Based on new cases received since the June 4, 2012, stateside filing rule began, what volume of new I-601 cases does the CDJ field office expect between now and the December 2012, Mexico-only filing deadline? 2 a. Based on the anticipated volume, is there any anticipated change in adjudication time for cases filed at CDJ? b. Is December 4, 2012, the final cut-off date for filing I-601 applications at the CDJ field office? c. Does this mean the application must be filed with your office by that date or simply scheduled? ANSWER: At the present time, the number of I-601 appointments booked for the month of September is considerably lower than previous months. This may be an indication of the beginning of a trend to file at NSC rather than CDJ. a. If we maintain present staffing levels, a reduction in the number of filings may eventually permit us to reduce the processing time for the initial vetting of cases. b. December 4, 2012, is the final cut-off date for filing I-601 applications at CDJ. c. There will be no I-601 filing appointments available after December 4, 2012. 22. As legal counsel, one of the biggest challenges AILA members currently face is whether to advise clients to file their I-601s with your office (until December) or to file stateside. While most members would prefer to file with the CDJ field office since this is the system we have known for many years (and the triage system has generally worked very well), members nationwide have for the past few months been consistently reporting serious concerns about the high rate of cases being referred, even for strong, well-documented hardship cases where there are no adverse issues that should require further administrative review. The vast majority of the members expressing these concerns are very experienced waiver practitioners with years of experience processing waivers at CDJ. a. Has the referral rate increased for I-601s filed at CDJ? ANSWER: Our statistics indicate that the number of cases referred to other offices after initial vetting has consistently remained at approximately 50% for the past several years. b. Is the USCIS CDJ “triage” system still in use? ANSWER: Yes. 23. AILA members report serious quality control issues, which cause serious additional hardship, delay, and cost to the client and make it difficult to meaningfully respond to an RFE if the attorney does not know what truly has and has not been reviewed. Examples include:
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USCIS Interim Memo on I-601 & I-212 Forms at International Offices, AILA Doc. No. 12053142, http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=39851; USCIS Policy Memo on Requests to Expedite Adjudication of Form I-601, AILA Doc. No. 12060750, http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=40033

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1) Requests for Evidence (RFEs) state that no evidence of hardship has been submitted, even when extensive evidence has been submitted. 2) Some RFEs request English translations where translations have been submitted. 3) In some cases involving waivers for alien smuggling, RFEs are issued for additional evidence of extreme hardship where INA §212(d)(11) does not require a hardship showing. a. What quality control procedures are in place to ensure that these issues do not arise? b. If similar situations do arise, what is the preferred method to alert the CDJ field office? ANSWER: In order to streamline the initial vetting process and because incomplete evidence of extreme hardship is the primary reason for referred cases, USCIS/CDJ issues a standardized RFE template that indicates a lack of sufficient evidence to demonstrate extreme hardship and contains several additional requirements boxes that may be checked, as applicable. The English language translation verbiage refers, of course, to foreign language documents submitted in response to the RFE. We are unable to address case specific instances in a general forum. 24. What is the preferred method for requesting expedited processing of an I-601 application, including a request for expedite at the time of filing, a request made at the time of RFE response, and a request made post-RFE filing. ANSWER: A request for expedited I-601 processing may be made in writing or in person at time of filing, in writing at time of RFE response submission, or at any other time in writing by regular mail or e-mail at cdj.uscis@uscis.dhs.gov . 25. What is the approximate volume of expedite requests the CDJ field office receives and what percentage is granted? ANSWER: CDJ receives approximately 50 – 60 expedited processing requests per month, resulting in an approval rating of roughly 35 – 40%. 26. Please explain the preferred process for making status inquiries on pending waiver cases (post-RFE filing). a. How long should attorneys wait to follow-up? b. USCIS International Operations indicated in the past that Anaheim would only respond if the case was pending for 10 months. As such, does the processing time depend on where the file has been sent? ANSWER: The I-601 Notice of Receipt and Notice of Referral/RFE issued to all referred cases applicants advise that the current processing time is 12 months and no inquiries should be submitted until that time has elapsed. All inquiries pertaining to CDJ I-601 cases should be submitted by e-mail at cdj.uscis@uscis.dhs.gov.

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27. In the past year, several members have reported issues with DHL, including failure to deliver a package, holding of recipient passports, and providing what could be construed as legal advice to a recipient seeking adjudication of a waiver. AILA understands that DOS/USCIS cannot control all actions taken by DHL. a. How would the CDJ field office prefer for attorneys to handle such cases, and should attorneys bring these issues to the attention of the CDJ field office or USCIS International Operations? b. In addition, does CDJ have a mechanism in place to correct any adverse consequences to an applicant resulting from DHL mishandling or error? If so, please explain. ANSWER: As DHL is under contract with DOS and not USCIS, please refer to DOS responses regarding DHL issues. 28. AILA members report that communication is not being effectively made when either packets or other deliveries are being made via DHL. In Mexico, DHL often drops items off at local or regional centers, and the recipient must know to go pick up the package. a. In an effort to improve communication, would USCIS consider alternate methods, such as sending notices via DHL and copies to the petitioner or attorney of record? b. Is it possible to notify the beneficiary/applicant that the package has been sent, rather than after the package has been returned? ANSWER: As DHL is under contract with DOS and not USCIS, please refer to DOS responses regarding DHL issues. 29. AILA members report examples of re-adjudication of admissibility issues when adjudicating waiver applications. Examples include: a. A waiver denial (or more accurately, the applicant was found ineligible to apply for a waiver) because USCIS determined that he was inadmissible pursuant to § 212(a)(3)(A)(ii) (alleged gang activity) because of body tattoos, even where the issue did not come up as a problem during the consular medical exam and subsequent visa interview. b. Another report indicated that a client was found inadmissible for smuggling a relative, even where this was not raised as an issue by the consular officer during the visa interview. Under what circumstances does USCIS at CDJ re-adjudicate admissibility issues in the context of adjudicating a waiver application? ANSWER: Please see response to item No. 32. We are unable to address case specific instances in a general forum.

30. AILA members report that I-601 approvals are mailed to the beneficiary in care of their USC spouses in the U.S. Unfortunately, the letters contain no information about the next stage of the process and advise the beneficiary to contact DOS in CDJ. Could USCIS either add more information about the rest of the process to

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this letter or include a letter from DOS/CDJ telling the clients what comes next and when? Members report that even a reference to a CDJ webpage would be helpful. ANSWER: We are currently exploring the possibility of modifying the CAMINO approval templates to include additional information. 31. While AILA realizes that both the consulate and the USCIS office at CDJ have a tremendous volume of cases that involve I-601 waiver requests, members continue to express concern about frequent delays in immigrant visa (IV) issuance following waiver approval. a. Please explain the process that both USCIS and post follow once an I-601 is approved? b. What are the variables (apart from those cases that require new medical exams, etc. due to passage of time) that impact how soon the visa is issued following waiver approval? c. What is the general approval rate for waivers at CDJ? ANSWER: a. NSC provides electronic notification of approval directly to DOS. Cases approved at CDJ are handed directly over to the IV Unit. Other remote offices return approved case to USCIS/CDJ, who in turn, transfers them to the IV Unit within one day of receipt. Although there have been previous delays in turning over approved cases to the IV Unit, improved workflow procedures have eliminated such interruptions. b. Once approved cases notifications are turned over to DOS, USCIS is not involved in the IV issuance process. c. The approval rate of I-601 cases adjudicated at CDJ is 99.8%. The average approval rate including CDJ and all remote offices adjudicating CDJ waivers is 93.2%. 32. Members frequently report that clients are often required to file I-601 applications for alleged misrepresentation, where consular officers have made findings that are very broad and overreaching and do not follow the facts, the law, and/or the specific policies set forth in the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). At times, the alleged misrepresentation is for one made purely to a private employer (not to a U.S. immigration officer), and other times the consular officer does not specify what misrepresentation was made. a. Does USCIS review the consular officer’s finding of inadmissibility in the context of adjudicating the waiver application? b. Is the applicant prejudiced in the waiver application if they or their counsel contest the finding of inadmissibility (e.g., is this viewed as lack of reformation of character or taking responsibility)? c. What level of discussion do USCIS and DOS have at CDJ on these types of issues in terms of coordination of policy and quality control? d. Since this problem is particularly problematic in the context of false claims of citizenship charges for which there is no waiver, does USCIS have any role in such findings, including efforts by counsel to have them overturned?

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ANSWER: a. A Consular Officer’s determination of inadmissibilities is based on information available to the CO at the time of interview, which may not include access to DHS databases, the applicant’s A-file or complete immigration history, which may contain violations committed under a fictitious names or DOB. In the process of adjudicating an I-601 application, the USCIS Officer reviews the CO’s finding as well as the applicant’s complete immigration history and conducts the adjudication accordingly, a process which may result in the application of additional inadmissibilities. b. If an applicant and/or his representative believe that an inadmissibility is being incorrectly applied, he should, by all means, contest the finding and provide any and all evidence available to refute it. c. If a USCIS Officer disagrees with the inadmissibility findings made by a CO, the USCIS Officer prepares a detailed memo explaining the basis for the disagreement, citing references and including evidence. The memo is forwarded to CDJ where the case is resolved by the DOS IV Chief and USCIS FOD. d. Please see responses a., b. and c. above. I-212 WAIVERS 33. What are the current procedures and timelines for I-212 Nonimmigrant Waivers filed at your office? ANSWER: The procedure for adjudicating K NIV I-212 applications is identical to I-601 processing. 34. Is there anything unique about the process at CDJ that a practitioner or applicant should be aware of? ANSWER: No.

Thank you very much for your time. AILA greatly appreciates the willingness of the USCIS CDJ field office to meet with AILA representatives and to share information with our membership.

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AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12082448. (Posted 08/24/12)

State Department, USCIS and Panel Physician Participants AILA – U.S. Consulate Ciudad Juarez & USCIS Ciudad Juarez Field Office Meeting August 21, 2012 For the State Department: Karen Ogle, Visa Unit Chief Catherine Holt, IV Chief Stacy Saravia, IV Deputy Chief Darrien Haney, NIV Chief Jeffrey Shelstad, NIV Deputy Chief Kimberly Kelly, Director, NVC Andrew Hayden, NVC Operations Manager (SERCO) Damian Stafford, Consular Officer For USCIS: John W. (Jack) McCarthy, Field Office Director, Mexico City Panel Physicians: Luis Todd, MD, Clinical Medica Internacional Roberto Assael, MD, Servicios Medicos Jesus Acosta, MD, Servicios Medicos Michelle Assael, Clinical Psychologist Erika Todd, Clinical Psychologist

AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12082448. (Posted 08/24/12)