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Misunderstandings in the Immigration Benefits Process

The process of receiving and deciding immigration cases and issuing benefits by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) is often misunderstood by applicants, allowing non-lawyers to exploit certain aspects. In this article, we will explore common misconceptions and shed light on important considerations for individuals seeking U.S. immigration benefits.

1. Initial Case Acceptance

It is important to note that USCIS does not immediately evaluate cases based on their merits upon receipt. Instead, USCIS service center employees only verify if the minimum filing requirements, such as submitted forms, fees, and basic supporting documents, have been met. This initial acceptance does not guarantee eligibility or approval. The cases are subsequently placed in a queue for adjudication by trained USCIS adjudicators.

2. Receipt Notices and False Expectations

USCIS issues receipt notices to applicants for all accepted cases, regardless of their eligibility for the sought benefits or the approval of their immigration cases. These notices are crucial for timely filed cases, as they provide applicants with “authorized stay” and allow them to remain in the U.S. until a decision is received. Unfortunately, non-lawyers exploit this process by filing cases on behalf of non-eligible applicants with meritless or non-approvable cases. Applicants receiving USCIS receipt notices may mistakenly believe that their cases are likely to be approved. However, the adjudication process can take several months or even years, and applicants may eventually receive denials.

3. Ancillary Immigration Benefits

Like the previous point, the adjudication of ancillary immigration benefits, such as Employment Authorization (EAD) and Advance Parole (AP), follows a similar process. USCIS may approve and issue these benefits before completing the adjudication of the principal cases. Non-lawyers often take advantage of this situation to create false expectations, guarantee ancillary benefits, and case approvals, even if the principal cases are ultimately denied.

4. Adjudication of Cases on the Merits

As mentioned earlier, USCIS processing and adjudication of immigration cases on the merits can be a lengthy process, ranging from months to years. For applicants who utilized non-lawyers and receive denials, the consequences can be severe and irreversible. Denial of the principal case automatically results in the denial and revocation of ancillary benefits. This outcome may lead to financial loss, wasted time, potential immigration violations, and future ineligibility for U.S. immigration and visa benefits. Furthermore, applicants may face temporary or permanent inadmissibility and be barred from re-entering the U.S.

To navigate the complex U.S. immigration system successfully, applicants seeking immigration benefits are strongly advised to avoid non-lawyers and instead conduct thorough due diligence in finding a licensed and reputable immigration lawyer. Numerous free lawyer referral services, such as the Florida Bar Referral Service, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Referral Service, or local county and state bar associations, can assist in connecting applicants with qualified legal professionals.

About the Author:

Demian S. Serianni, Esq., is a former U.S. Immigration Inspector with the Legacy “INS” and has practiced immigration law as a licensed attorney in Florida for over 20 years. Contact Demian for assistance with any U.S. immigration matters related to your family, friends, company, or employer.