(This page updated on January 27, 1999 and has been prepared for the information of clients of the Law Offices of Jay I. Solomon. You are welcome to browse, but are advised to consult your own attorney for legal advice specific to your case)
We have had quite a few calls recently concerning "problems" with
fingerprints on pending adjustment of status applications.
A bit of background is in order.
After President Clinton's last election, there was a good deal of suspicion by Republicans that the administration had rushed through the naturalization of unqualified applicants to create new Democratic voters. There was a large scale investigation of the naturalization process which resulted in a finding that people were being given immigration benefits who by virtue of criminal records were not entitled to those benefits.
For many years, the INS forwarded fingerprint cards to the FBI, and if they received no response from the FBI within a certain period of time, it was assumed that the individual had no criminal record. In fact, the FBI was often just slow in returning a "hit".
After INS officials were called on the carpet for sloppy practices, the entire process was revamped. The end result is that INS will not grant any benefit which requires a criminal records check until it has a current FBI report in hand. Additionally, to assure the integrity of the printing process, fingerprints may only be taken at certain INS designated service centers which require scheduled appointments and positive identification. And - fingerprints go "stale" after 15 months.
Adjustment of status cases require fingerprints. Previously we filed fingerprints with the application, and those prints were stripped from the file and forwarded to the FBI for processing. Now we file such cases without fingerprints and pay an additional $25 fee, and the INS sends an appointment notice for fingerprinting when they feel the case can be completed within a 12 month period.
When a case is ready to assign to an officer, it is reviewed to assure that fingerprint requirements have been met. If they have not been met, or prints are missing or are stale, a notice goes out to the applicant giving them an appointment for fingerprinting, and including a bar coded letter which assures that the results get back to the file. The INS fingerprint processing centers will not take fingerprints from an applicant until the applicant has an appointment letter. The FBI and INS have been updating and integrating this process in such a way that much of the transmittal is done electronically, and results are typically back in the INS file within 60 days.
The telephone number of the FBI fingerprint office has evidently been circulating, and we have received many worried (and lengthy) calls from applicants who have been told that their fingerprints have not been cleared or that there are other problems. Some of the people calling have pending applications, but do not have "current" priority dates.
There is nothing we can do about bad, missing, misdirected, incomplete, expired or lost fingerprints - until the INS reviews the file and requests new prints by sending an appointment letter and notice to the applicant. There is no one to call - no one to check with - and no point in checking. Correcting this problem has to wait until the INS is ready to process the case.
Delays in processing applications - even those with current priority dates - are substantial. The INS has established 5 priority areas for the Service Centers - and adjustment of status cases are not even on the list. We have been told that only two officers are currently working adjustment of status cases, and that waits may soon exceed 2 years. There is an alternative for many people - and that is to have visa processing done abroad.
Therefore we request your cooperation with respect to:
not calling the INS or FBI to check on your fingerprints
not asking us to follow up on fingerprint problems you discover by calling the INS or FBI
If any other problems arise, please let us know, and remember to keep our office informed of any address change or change in marital status.
Please keep your work authorization current - if you want out help in renewing work authorization, contact our office 90 days prior to expiration.
We are pleased to report that for now, advance parole applications and work authorization applications are on the priority list!
If you have a pending adjustment of status application, remember that you cannot travel without advance permission, without abandoning the application. Notify us at least 60 days in advance of planned travel.
We are no happier with these processing delays than you are. They increase the amount of work and stress for everyone.
Please work with us - we are on your side.
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