Last Thursday, April 21, USCIS sent a broadcast alert confirming file transfers among Service Centers to notify the community of ongoing file transfers. On April 1, 2006 USCIS switched to a new bi-specialization model where two Service Centers were tasked with Nonimmigrant processing (California and Vermont, known as CSC and VSC), and the other two were assigned Immigrant processing (Nebraska and Texas, known as NSC and TSC). Prior to this, service centers handled both Nonimmigrant and Immigrant processing. For much of the last 10+ years, we’ve seen file transfers announced to help achieve workload balancing between the centers, so receiving news of file transfers is nothing new. However, while the alert seems fairly innocuous, it confirms a significant workload problem that USCIS is facing. At the same time they announced file transfers, they also separately updated filing locations for certain application types. Behind the scenes, they are also reassigning officers from less urgent and lesser-used product lines to more important lines such as the H-1B. In short, specialization across the Service Centers is no longer working as envisioned and NSC is now taking more Nonimmigrant cases, VSC is shifting a significant portion of their cases to CSC, and NSC is transferring cases to TSC. We are hopeful that USCIS will be able to appropriately balance its workload with these changes. At the same time that we hope for a certain result, we must caution our clients that we continue to see significant processing delays across most USCIS process types and that we don’t expect quicker times any time soon. We are also very concerned about the quality of adjudications from these minimally trained adjudicators – in speaking with a USCIS employee off the record – they have seen increases in both RFEs and denials after recent reassignments and these unusual outcomes are viewed as a result of lack of training.
We will continue to monitor the situation with processing and wish to forewarn clients that reassignment notices (a letter from USCIS confirming a file has been transferred) may become more routine in the near future, and that we do expect continuing lengthy processing times for most process types, so we recommend patience and we will continue to attempt to file extension filings as soon as the window for filing opens. Ultimately, we will not see any relief from longer processing times until the Trump administration rescinds its hiring freeze and allows USCIS to catch up with its backlog.
** This newsletter/memo is provided for informational and discussion purposes only. It does not act as a substitute for direct legal contact on an individual basis **