I’ve been trying to shoot this video for a while now. We’re trying to up our YouTube game, and I’ve been struggling with how to create the content to make it interesting. The point of the video is to talk about the five ways you can speed up your case. At the end of the day, people want to know two things. Number one, is my case going to get approved? And number two, how long is it going to take? And we’ve really been trying to dig in to go deep and to explain to you in step-by-step process, how you can try to speed up your case. Now some of these don’t really work, but they are ways that sometimes work. So let’s head over to Hacking Immigration Law and shoot some video.
Because that’s the thing you have to understand. USCIS pretends that they have mechanisms for you to actually speed up your case. But in a lot of ways, they’re just BS. They’re just things that they can tell the public or Congress or their funders that they have these mechanisms to speed up their case. But nine times out of 10, these mechanisms for speeding up the case don’t usually work.
So there are two things going on with this video. My friend Patrick is a big YouTuber and he makes YouTube videos about video games. And he thinks that my videos are a little too short and not well-produced enough, and that it’s just me talking to the camera. So he wants me to develop more complex and detailed and well thought out videos. So that’s what we’re trying to do with this video, this is the first one along those lines that we’re doing.
Patrick’s theory makes a lot of sense. We’ve done so many videos where it’s just me answering one particular question and they’re usually about two or three minutes long. I don’t go into that much detail. We’re going to try to start teaching people big concepts and going deeper into those concepts. So this video that we’re shooting today is going to go through, step-by-step, each of the five things that you can do to speed up your immigration case, but we’re going to do it in a way that’s hopefully fun and a little bit different and entertaining. So let’s head into the studio and get to work.
In order to understand how things work in immigration. You have to know your receipt date or your priority dates. So let’s talk about that. Obviously your case doesn’t get underway until you’ve actually sent it off to USCIS. So you got to get everything together and send it by certified mail, throw it in the mailbox and off you go. You’ll be waiting a few weeks, maybe even a month before you get all your receipt notices back. You’re waiting, you’re waiting, you’re waiting, you’re waiting. And then one day something magical happens. Your mail lady opens up your mail slot and drops in your receipt notice.
When it comes to any immigration application, you have to think, where is my place in line? And even though you’re not standing in a physical line, like these poor people, you are standing in a line at USCIS. It’s a figurative line, it’s not a line that you can see, but you do have a spot in line. You have a ticket to the front door. You have to wait until you get to your place being called and that’s called your priority day. So let’s talk about the priority day.
When you get your receipt notice, this is what it looks like. You’ll see the I-797C notice of action, you’ll see the receipt, you’ll see the case type. And then you’ll see the receipt number and the received date, also known as the priority date or the receipt date. And on this application, the priority date is there in the middle, down towards the bottom, August 14th, 2018. So that is your place in line. So if we go back and look at the places in line, there you are somewhere, you have your priority date, and that’s going to be very important because later on, you’re going to use your priority date to log into the USCIS website and figure out what cases they are processing. You’re going to look at the processing times and USCIS will tell you we’re working on cases from January of 2018, then February of 2018, then March of 2018. And you’re waiting for them to start working on cases from August 14th, 2018.
So your priority date or your receipt date, that is your place in line. So people that applied on August 14th, 2018, are in line with you, people that applied on August 10th are four days ahead of you, and people that applied on August 18th are four days behind you. The other piece of information that you really need in order to understand the timeline on your case is how USCIS notifies you of what cases they are processing, which cases they are currently working on. Knowing your priority date is essential if you want to talk about speeding up your case.
Your first option to try to speed up your case would be to send a letter to USCIS. You can use the address on your receipt notice, it’s usually in the bottom left-hand corner and you can send a letter to USCIS at that address. In that letter, you’re going to want to reference your case number, the alien number, the receipt notice number. And you’re going to want to describe to the officer or the person receiving the letter, what you’re trying to find out about your case. If you’re asking them to speed things along, you would just want to reference the date that you filed the case, the receipt date, and then what type of case it is, and then make sure to tell them that you’re asking them to hurry up the case, to make an actual expedite request. This method is not particularly effective and it will probably not result in any real progress on your case.
The second option that you have is to call USCIS on their 1-800 number. So well let’s go ahead and do that 1-800-375-5283.
Thank you for calling United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. To continue in English, press one. Thank you. You can now get immediate answers to most general questions 24 hours a day by visiting our website, USCIS.gov and asking Emma, our interactive virtual assistant. Customer service representatives are available on this line Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM eastern.
Our clients have spent a lot of time on that 1-800 number. It’s generally wasted time. Not much happens when you call the 1-800 number, but you can ask for a Tier 2 officer and ask for additional support. They are going to say that they’ll call you back within seven days, 10 days, something like that. So it’s really ridiculous. It’s no customer service at all.
In addition to making a phone call, USCIS also allows you to make an e-request through their Emma system, which they tout as being so great and wonderful. Let’s take a look at that option as well. So you go to egov.uscis.gov/e-request. And that takes you to a USCIS website where you can make a case inquiry. And ordinarily, when we’re talking about delays, we’re talking about cases being outside normal processing time. Do you think your case is taking longer than expected? Yes, I do. So you click on that. Do you have a case pending? And then they invite you to go over and look at the check processing times. And I love that they say here, “We’re actively processing your case if you’ve heard from us in the last 60 days through a notice or request for evidence or an online update.” So they love to explain to you how hard they’re working on your case when really they’re not working on it at all.
So to get to the actual case inquiry, you’re going to need to select your case number. I-130, subtype US citizen filing for a spouse. Then you would put in your receipt number, the date it was filed, the information about the petitioner so they can find the case. Any alien number the person has, mailing address. And then you need to write down what’s the last action taken on your case. And then you put in your email address for a response. And then you reference who’s filing it and then they give you the little spam detector. So then you hit submit. That’s how you file an electronic request with USCIS for expediting your case.
So you might be wondering what is the legal standard that USCIS uses in determining whether or not the expedite request should be granted? The question they ask yourself is will you or your employer suffer severe financial loss? According to the Oxford dictionary, severe means harsh, unnecessarily extreme, serious, threatening, or difficult to endure. You need to remember that the need for expediting cannot be your fault. It can’t be based on something that you did like filing too late or not making your expedite requests soon enough. They sort of flip it back on you and they say, “Well, if any of this delay is your fault, like if we sent you a request for evidence, or if you didn’t submit your forms properly, or if you simply waited too long to ask for an expedite request, those are all factors that go against expedite requests being granted.”
Now, the one thing you have to keep in mind is that most expedite requests are indeed denied. And even if an expedite request is supposedly granted, USDA doesn’t necessarily then start working faster on your case. This is all a bunch of smoke and mirrors like I said earlier, that they are pretending that they care about you. They’re pretending that they’re working on your case faster, but in reality, they are not. And remember, when we’re talking about expediting, we’re talking about your case going ahead of everybody else. You have to have a pretty compelling reason as to why you should jump that line. Remember that long line we started with, they want to know, why do you think your case should go ahead of anybody else’s? And they’ve heard all the reasons and all the excuses and all the pleadings before. That you have severe health issues. You have financial issues. They’ve heard it all before. So you’re really going to have to demonstrate why your case is more important than anybody else’s in line.
So the third step you might take to try to speed up your case is to contact the USCIS ombudsman. That’s a very strange word, ombudsman, ombudsman. The ombudsman was created under the Homeland Security Act and has three purposes. Number one, to assist individuals and employers in dealing with USCIS. Number two, to identify the issues and problems that people are having with USCIS, to see if there are patterns or systemic problems. And the third job of the ombudsman is to propose changes in the way the USCIS operates. You can ask for direct help from the ombudsman to get them to intercede on your behalf, to reach out to USCIS, and to try to figure out what in the heck’s going on with your case. The ombudsman is supposed to be outside of USCIS, and they will take down your information and they will make an inquiry on your behalf with USCIS.
Now, they say that you do that by going to www.dhs.gov/ombudsman, but as we’re about to see in this next part of the video, it’s a bait and switch. It might surprise you to learn, or it might not surprise you to learn that getting a hold of the ombudsman and getting the ombudsman to work on your behalf is not as easy as USCIS and the ombudsman claim that it is.
So, this is so exciting. The ombudsman’s going to help me. The ombudsman knows how to reach the people at USCIS. All I have to do is fill out this form. And once I fill out that form, they’re going to get to work on my case, getting things sped up. All right. So what are we going to do? We’re going to click on the link. It says submit an online request for case assistance available on the ombudsman’s website. So let’s click on there. Well, here we are. Look at that. The ombudsman’s website. Now, there’s got to be a good place here to fill out the form. Let’s look around. Does anybody see it? I don’t see it. It says who the head of the ombudsman’s office is. It says what their frequently asked questions are. Maybe it’s in there. Who is eligible, suggestions if I did file a 7-65, having the USCIS ombudsmen help me if I need an appointment. So these are all just frequently asked questions. So that’s not the form, let’s go back.
And then we look on resources and then we click on ombudsman. All right, look, we’re on the case. Now it says how to request case assistance from the USCIS ombudsman. And we click on the form. How do we do it? Oh look, now we’re right back where we were, right back where we were trying to figure out how to have the ombudsman help us. So now I’m a little bit perplexed. Let’s go back. Maybe there’s some other place. And you know what? No, there’s not. There’s not a place on this page to fill out a form to get the ombudsman to help you. It’s really unbelievable when you think about it. Oh my God, here I am. They’re supposed to be the ones that help me. They’re supposed to be the ones that cut through the bureaucratic red tape. And here we are with no answers, nowhere where we can actually apply for help from the USCIS ombudsman.
Does this mean that this is not going to work? No, there’s a special secret link that I’ll share with you in just a second, that’ll take you to the actual place. The point is they don’t put it anywhere on their website. They’re hiding where they can be contacted and how you can request help from them. So this is just another example of the federal government acting like they want to help, but not really being able to help. So we’ve been through the USCIS process, and we’ve seen how much of a waste of time it is. Now we’re going to go and show you how to fill out the form real quickly for the ombudsman. But again, I hope you’re starting to see that you can’t put too much faith in them and you can’t count on this actually working.
All right, so we’ve talked about sending letters. We’ve talked about making e-requests. We’ve talked about processing times and priority dates. We’ve talked about trying to get the ombudsman to help. And now we’re on to stage four, our fourth option when it comes to trying to speed up our case. And this involves getting a member of Congress interested and excited about your case. Now, everyone who lives in the United States has one Congress person and two senators. So depending on where you live, you have a representative, a congressman or congresswoman who represents your district. And if you are in that state, you would also have two US senators. These congressional offices have interns and pages who work for them. These are usually unpaid college kids who are interested in politics, who volunteer at the member of Congress’s office so that they can get experience and put it on their resume.
So I want you to think about all the things that are pulling at a congressman or congresswoman or a senator’s time. They’re thinking about bills. They’re thinking about trying to get their legislation passed. They’re thinking about getting re-elected. They’re thinking about their constituents back home, and here’s the deal. If you’re an immigrant, you can’t vote for them. So where do you think you fall on the priority list? Now you might be a US citizen sponsoring a family member, but still, in the scheme of things of all the things that a member of Congress or a senator is worried about, helping out an immigrant or a US citizen who loves an immigrant out with their immigration matter does not fall very high on the list.
And that’s where the interns come in. So they have these interns that are volunteering. They can’t really find anything for the interns to do. So when Mr. Khan calls up and says, “Hey, my wife’s been spending a lot of time waiting for us in Pakistan. What can you do?” They give that job to the intern. So of course we don’t think the intern doesn’t care about you, but they also don’t have a lot of pull. They don’t have a lot of heft. So what they’ll do is they’ll send you a consent form or privacy form, ask you to fill that out with your case information, and then they will usually make an inquiry at USCIS. So what do you think actually happens when USCIS gets an inquiry from a member of Congress? Well, they probably pull the file and then invariably, what they say is background checks. So they say, “Oh, this case has been pending for a while. We’re working on it diligently. We’re doing security checks and background checks.”
Now, the one thing that no member of Congress wants to do is to lose re-election. And let’s think this through. If USCIS throws out the word security check or background check, do we really think that a member of Congress is going to go to bat for you and try to get them to hurry up a security check? Because what happens if the security check comes back clean, and then the person ends up being a criminal or a terrorist. In that scenario, the member of Congress is in big, big trouble because some energized reporter is going to dig into it and find out that congresswoman A or senator B made an inquiry request and tried to get an immigration case sped up for someone who ended up being a terrorist. This is all that they care about. This is all they think about. So they’re not going to go to bat for you. They’re not going to get much done.
It is extremely, extremely rare that we ever hear of a member of Congress intervening actually resulting in a case speeding up. So option number four is probably not something that’s going to work for you. So this brings us to our fifth and final thing that you can do to try to speed up your case. And that is, you sue their butt.
When nothing else works, you have to go to federal court. You have to get a judge, a judge who doesn’t work for the president, a judge who’s appointed for life, to take a look at your case and to see if there’s something that they can do to help move things along. Now, when I was a kid, my favorite show was The A-Team. It was about some Vietnam vets who’d come back and they were for hire. And if someone was being screwed over by the government or by some bully, they would come into town, bust some skulls, fix some things and then get out of town and go onto the next job.
Each episode involved them coming into town in their big black van, driven by B.A. Baracus, who is played by my favorite actor, Mr. T. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Mr. T. I had a Mr. T lunchbox, a Mr. T kite, a Mr. T jacket. And I wanted to be just like Mr. T. Mr. T had big muscles and Mr. T had a Mohawk. I don’t know if those two things go well with being an immigration lawyer, but the attitude that B.A. Baracus, AKA Mr. T showed in every episode was something that I wanted to emulate.
And the way that we do that is by suing USCIS. We’ve had clients who’ve been waiting for their immigration benefit for years and years, hire us to sue the Immigration Service and to get things moving. It’s quite literally my favorite thing to do. I get to come into town, figuratively. I get hired. I swing into action, file our lawsuit, and we get the case moving for our client. And while they may have been frustrated for months and months, now they get to see some action. They get to see some things moving on their case. And just the threat of having that judge order USCIS or the State Department to rule on their case gets things moving.
So people are surprised when I tell them I don’t spend much time writing letters to USCIS. I never call USCIS on the phone. I don’t bother with the ombudsman, and I don’t do the Congress thing because those are usually an utterly, a waste of time. Instead, I’d rather just get that lawsuit on file, list the case number, get the US attorney’s attention and have them forward it on to their clients, the State Department, or Citizenship and Immigration Service to get moving on the case. The law suits are the only thing that get things moving, they get the needle moving. They get cases back on track. They get USCIS to pay attention to your case. The fact is, they’re so overwhelmed right now, that filing a lawsuit is really the only way that you can get things going. If your case has been delayed, or if you’ve been thinking a long time about trying to get things moving, or if you’ve tried all these steps, the lawsuit might be your last resort.
If you haven’t already, make sure that you subscribe to our YouTube channel, we’re trying to make these videos a little bit longer. I hope Patrick’s happy. I hope our clients are happy. I hope everyone found value in us walking through each of the steps that you can take to try to move your case along. If you want to get ahold of us, give us a call at (314) 961-8200. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hopefully you know we have that Facebook group Immigrant Home, where people are sharing immigration information every single day. We have our YouTube channel that you can subscribe to, like I said, if you haven’t already. And then finally, we try to go live on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon central in the Facebook group and on the YouTube channel so that we can answer as many people’s immigration questions as possible. If you need us, hit us up in there or give us a call, like I said. Thanks a lot.