One of the “joys” of practicing immigration law is that you get to see the federal government in action. I should preface my remarks that I am not one of these people who rails on the federal government on a regular basis. To the contrary, I think a strong, centralized government can do a lot of good. But when I see funny or interesting things that the government does, I like to point them out. One thing that I have observed with USCIS is that the agency often prefers to put a temporary fix on a problem instead of addressing problems head on.
One big example of this was the fact that about a decade ago, it dawned on citizens, legislators, constituents and USCIS that fiancees of US citizens were able to get visas faster than actual spouses of US citizens. Clearly, this was unfair and a problem. So instead of tinkering with the system so as to make sure that spouses were able to come to the US before fiancees, The federal government developed a different “solution.” They created the so-called K-3 visa. This visa allowed spouses of US citizens to be treated as fiancees for the purposes of visa processing. Instead of speeding up the spouse line (which would have made more sense), USCIS simply directed these spouses into the fiancee line. Eventually, processing times evened out and USCIS and the State Department stopped processing K-3 visas at the National Visa Center if an I-130 spouse visa application was already pending.
I thought of this stopgap measure today when I received word from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that USCIS is having an apparent problem keeping track of which attorneys represent which applicants. It seems that USCIS has antiquated computer systems which require, among other things, that spouse visas are processed through one computer program, while lawful permanent resident (green card) applications are processed in another. This is true even though the two applications are usually adjudicated at the same time, by the same officer looking at the same evidence. When immigration attorneys file these applications together, they typically only file one G-28 form, which is the form used to alert USCIS that an immigration attorney is representing the applicants. Due to the competing computer programs, we learned now that USCIS is unable (or unwilling) to note the attorney of record in each case.
The solution (according to USCIS) is not to fix the computer programs so that one entry of appearance is noted and attached to all applications. Rather, USCIS is now suggesting that attorneys file one G-28 Notice of Representation with each application. I point this out not so complain about how hard attorneys have it, but rather to illustrate the mindset of this agency. Whenever presented with an opportunity to solve an inefficiency, this agency comes up with ingenious ways to have someone else solve their problem. It truly is amazing.