USCIS ANNOUNCES NEW PROCESS TO REQUEST IN PERSON APPOINTMENT
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on August 21, 2023, that it launched a new online form for individuals and attorneys to request an in-person appointment at designated local field offices. The appointments may be made for several purposes including, but not limited to, emergency advance parole and ADIT (Alien Documentation Identification and Telecommunication) stamps which serve as evidence of temporary lawful permanent residence status. This new initiative by USCIS is intended to improve customer service experience for applicants and attorneys. However, only time will tell.
A glance at the online appointment request form indicates a notable change from the previous process. Over the years, USCIS has changed the way they handle online appointment scheduling. The most recent change was that applicants needed to contact USCIS by telephone first. For example, an applicant who sought to request an emergency appointment for advance parole would be required to contact USCIS Contact Center and speak to a Tier 1 Representative. The applicant was responsible for presenting qualifying reasons for the emergency. If a Tier 1 representative found that eligibility existed, the call was escalated to a Tier 2 supervisor who would contact the applicant directly. If Tier 2 officer determined that the applicant qualified for an emergency parole, an appointment for an in-person appointment would be scheduled. At the in-person appointment, the applicant was required to submit evidentiary documentation of the qualifying emergency and was granted approval on the spot. There were many issues with this process including the fact that it was often difficult for applicants to connect by telephone with a Tier 1 officer to even initiate the process of obtaining an appointment. Also, callbacks from a Tier 2 officer were unpredictable, and if the applicant was not available when the officer called back, this resulted in further delays in obtaining an appointment during an emergency where time was of the essence.
The new online appointment system appears to address some of these issues. However, there are additional considerations. First, USCIS clarifies in its announcement that the new system does not allow applicants to schedule their own appointments. Instead, the system allows applicants to submit a request online for an in-person appointment and simultaneously provide supporting documents. The ability to submit documentary evidence at the same time as the request for the appointment will hopefully help to streamline the process. Additionally, the eligibility requirements for obtaining an advance parole, ADIT stamp, or any other in-person services have not changed in any way. Instead, it is only the process of obtaining the in-person appointment which will be handled differently. We hope USCIS will be open to making additional improvements to the system to expand it to include actual scheduling of in-person appointments by applicants and attorneys in the near future.
Sheetal A. Patel, Esq., Member of Pasricha & Patel, LLC, is honored to contribute to New India Abroad, a digital platform dedicated to keeping members of the Indian community well-informed on current events worldwide. Sheetal has extensive experience and knowledge in all aspects of immigration law. She has spent several years providing exceptional legal services in employment-based immigration, labor certification, family-based immigration, and immigrant and nonimmigrant visa petitions. As a writer with New India Abroad, she will supplement their journalism with frequent updates to keep readers informed on current trends, issues, and news within immigration law. Read the first article here: USCIS starts premium processing for change of status to F, M and J Visa (newindiaabroad.com)