One of the most frustrating aspects of immigration practice is dealing with government delay-something which, more often than not, is a given these days. Family adjustment of status cases used to relatively quick, but we have noticed a significant lag in processing times recently. For all practical purposes, most people will have to patiently endure the wait until their case is adjudicated. Fortunately, the regulations do provide some interim relief in the way of work authorization: many adjustment applicants may apply for an employment authorization document ("EAD") on Form I-765 that will allow them to work legally and apply for social security numbers while their cases are pending. What happens, though, if the work permit application itself is taking an excessively long time to process? One of the most common questions we get is whether there is any way to speed up the process.
In theory there is, but USCIS cautions the public that expedite requests (for any type of application or petition) will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The decision is entirely discretionary and the applicant must establish, to the satisfaction of the officer, that there is strong basis to warrant special handling. Unless the applicant can document and/or corroborate reasons that fall along the specified criteria set out in Chapter 12 of the USCIS Policy Manual, most expedite requests will ordinarily be denied. Nevertheless, USCIS has and will entertain cases where one or more of the following can be demonstrated:
- Severe financial loss to a company or person
- An emergency situation
- Humanitarian reasons
- Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interest of the United Staes
- A Department of Defense or national interest situation
- USCIS error
- Compelling interest of USCIS
Note that some of these reasons are open-ended and subject to interpretation. In a work context, there may be severe financial loss, emergency situations, or humanitarian reasons why a work permit application should be expedited.
Ordinarily, expedite requests can only be made after an application or petition is filed. After the applicant has received a receipt notice, he or she may contact Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283 to lodge a request. Alternatively, the applicant may write a letter directly to the field office or service center with jurisdiction over the case. In some situations, an applicant may also book an INFOPASS appointment to visit the local field office to file such a request. In order to enhance one's chances of having an expedite request granted, it is highly recommended that one attach or bring as much supporting evidence as possible. This may be in the form of a personal affidavit as well as documentary evidence, for example, letter from employer, physician, etc.
In short, while there is a mechanism to expedite requests, one also needs to be realistic about USCIS processing times as well as sensible in terms of what constitutes a valid reason. The applicant will always understandably have subjective reasons why a case should be processed quicker, but USCIS may not necessarily perceive things the same way.
The foregoing is general information only and not intended to substitute for legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.