One disturbing trend that we have noticed recently is an inexplicable delay in USCIS issuing I751 notices acknowledging receipt of the application and extending an individual's green card. Ordinarily, a receipt notice is typically issued within four to six weeks after receipt. However, in some cases, it has been more than three months and the applicant still has not received the receipt/extension notice. In some cases, individuals have received the biometrics/fingerprint notice but not the extension notice, an interesting scenario which have led some to posit that USCIS may want to investigate/ascertain an individual's criminal history before issuing the receipt notice. Given the administration's emphasis on enforcement, there may possibly be some validity to this. On the other hand, the delay may arise not so much out of nefarious motives but simple government bureaucracy and inefficiency. In any case, regardless of the reasons, the consequences can be severe, especially for those who have waited to the last second to file or worse, attempt to file out of time. Legally, even if the government has terminated or revoked a conditional resident's status due to failure to file, that individual has a right to appear before the Immigration Court where an Immigration Judge will render a final determination. Practically speaking, however, the absence of a receipt notice can cause a great deal of confusion and havoc. For one thing, the individual has no proof verifying that an application to remove conditions has been filed. Without a receipt notice, the individual is ill equipped to prove that he or she is still legally in status (unless that person has some proof of delivery and is able to secure an I-551 stamp from USCIS). This can lead to a person losing his/her job, driving privileges, as well as inability to travel outside the country-even if an application was in fact filed-because the immigrant has no proof that his/his permanent residence has been extended while the case is being considered. Given all these horrible ramifications, it would be especially prudent for conditional residents to consider filing the I-751 as soon as practicable. For joint I-751s filed by a married couple, this usually means ninety days before the 2nd anniversary of the grant of permanent residence. For those who are eligible to file an I-751 waiver, they may even be able to file earlier. For example, those asking for a waiver of the joint requirement due to abuse may file at anytime and do not need to wait until the ninety days prior to the expiration of the card. The same goes for those who entered into the marriage in good faith that has been subsequently terminated. If an application is filed at the earliest possible stage, there may be enough time to secure the receipt notice (or alternative proof that the case is received and pending) prior to the card expiring.
To learn more about possible solutions when one has not received his/his I-751 receipt notice, please contact our office.