At the AILA Annual Conference this past month, there was talk amongst attorneys of USCIS's latest plans to "realign" operations to purportedly enhance efficiency by redistributing the workload. This was also confirmed by a USCIS official quite recently, and we have actually seen some parts of it implemented already. Under this new operational protocol, scheduled to go into effect officially this October, the 24 District Offices throughout the United States will be consolidated into 16 Districts. As a consequence, each District Office will serve more states. However, locale and proximity do not apparently figure to be dispositive factors in determining which office serves which states. For example, it seems that the Brooklyn Office will now be subsumed by the Newark District Office. The Boston Office will reportedly merge with the Buffalo Office, and cases originally scheduled for adjudication at the Philadelphia Office will supposedly now go to the Cleveland Field Office.
Clients as well as prospective clients frequently call the office to learn the processing times for certain applications. Most of our New Jersey clients have cases pending at the Vermont Service Center. As of January 25, 2012, according to USCIS, here are some current processing timelines for some types of applications.
Anybody with an appointment to go to USCIS in Newark for an interview or court appearance should be aware that the wait to get into the building can be extremely long. Due to security issues, everyone, including attorneys, must go through metal detectors to be screened for weapons, etc. During the winter, the lines and wait become longer than usual because individuals must take off their winter coats, jackets, scarves, hats, etc. prior to going through the metal detector. Additionally, security guards must repeat their security protocol to every group that is allowed in to be processed. Occasionally, entrants do not speak English and are unable to follow directions, resulting in even further delay and frustration. I would therefore recommend that individuals planning on traveling to Newark give themselves ample time to get to the city, find parking, and get on line. I always instruct my clients to arrive one hour early and especially in the winter, dress warm because you will be waiting....
Newark, located in Essex County, has the distinction of being New Jersey's largest city. As such, it boasts some of the most ethnically diverse immigrant populations anywhere. Additionally, the USCIS Main District Office is located in Newark. The address is 970 Broad Street, Newark, New Jersey 07102. The District Director is John E. Thompson. There is, however, a new Field Office Director. Her name is Randi C. Borgen.
USCIS is a federal agency that processes applications for immigration benefits nationally. While each state has its own District Office, where many family-based adjustment and citizenship cases are adjudicated locally, the process typically starts by mailing in an application to a designated lockbox facility or Service Center. (In New Jersey, the USCIS District Office is located at 970 Broad Street in Newark, with a Sub-Office located in Mount Laurel.) In addition to the National Benefits Center, there are actually four major immigration "Regional Service Centers" which handle a wide variety of immigration applications. These four service centers serve different geographic locations and sometimes handle different types of locations, so it is absolutely critical that applicants read the most recent instructions to the forms if an immigration attorney is not professionally preparing them. The four Service Centers are the Vermont Service Center; the California Service Center; the Texas Service Center; and the Nebraska Service Center. Most readers of our New Jersey Immigration Lawyers Blog will probably have already heard of the Vermont Service Center ("VSC"), which services New Jersey for many different types of applications. The Vermont Service Center is located at 75 Lower Welden Street, St. Albans, Vermont 05479. People should be aware that as much as one would like to, one cannot just call up or make an InfoPass Appointment to directly visit the Vermont Service Center. If you are experiencing an unusual delay or particular problem with an application located at a Service Center, you might want to call the USCIS Customer Service Number at 1-800-375-5283; write directly to the Service Center; or better yet, retain an experienced attorney to perform an attorney inquiry.
A very interesting article came out recently by the Press of Atlantic City concerning the makeup of New Jersey's foreign born population. Southern New Jersey, it reported, saw an increase of 40% of its foreign born residents since 2000. That by itself is a remarkable, if not telling, sign that our great state of New Jersey continues to attract a large percentage of immigrants. What is surprising but also encouraging is that many of our newer immigrants are heading towards areas of New Jersey not traditionally associated with immigration such as Hamilton, Galloway, and Egg Harbor, which in particular, saw its foreign born population practically double since 2000.
Given the plethora of websites and businesses out there that profess to represent USCIS, it is not surprising that many people are confused as to where the immigration office actually is. In New Jersey, the main USCIS District Office is located at the Peter Rodino Federal Building, 970 Broad Street, Newark, New Jersey 07102. The current District Director is Mr. John Thompson. The Field Office Director is Ms. Kimberly Zanotti. There is also a Sub-District Office that services Southern New Jersey. The Mount Laurel Field Office is located at 530 Fellowship Road, Mount Laurel, NJ 08054. In order to visit either Field Office, it is now necessary to schedule an appointment in advance. This can be done by visiting USCIS.gov and scheduling an "INFOPASS" appointment. The general phone number for USCIS is 1-800-375-5283. Generally speaking, most forms will be filed by mail and not in person. However, some important reasons why one might want to visit the Field Office in New Jersey if one is a New Jersey Resident, include securing evidence of permanent resident status in one's passport; applying for an interim work permit; or making an inquiry into one's case. This is, of course, in addition to reporting to Newark or Mount Laurel for a scheduled interview.