In a surprising change, not announced in advance by USCIS, effective September 12, 2011, the USCIS decided to mail all approval notices DIRECTLY to the petitioner, not to the attorney of record.
What this has done – and will continue to do – is to create additional problems and headaches for everyone, including the USCIS. Two significant problems arising out of this change are:
1. the attorney’s inability to check the approval notice for accuracy – visa type, name, dates of validity, etc.; and
2. possible loss or misdirection of a critical immigration document, which is, in most instances, extremely time sensitive (need it for reentry, continue to work, driver’s licenses, etc)
Note that the USCIS does not treat replacement of lost or misplaced documents with any urgency – what of the person who needs Advance Parole to travel overseas for a crucial family event, or the employee who has to leave the USA and apply for a new visa? Or the child who cannot register for college because her change of status is lost?
This new – and unexplained – policy is especially problematic for family based petitions, or businesses that receive a lot of mail, where the approval notice may be lost or misdirected to the wrong department.
The USCIS does not seem to be inclined to change this new procedure, claiming it is part of the “Business Transformation, Increment I” process to be announced in the Federal Register on November 28, 2011.
The USCIS has indicated that the attorney address may be substituted for the petitioner’s address on the form, but that substitution may generate an RFE (“request for evidence”) because the USCIS’ “VIBE” (Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises) will NOT be able to verify the business’ existence at the attorney’s address. The USCIS advises that in case such substitution is made, the attorney indicate the actual address of the business in the attorney cover letter to the USCIS. One hopes the USCIS adjudicator will remember to review the cover letter for such information. In any event, this “transformation” only makes the process more difficult, and adds an unnecessary step and complication. More work for everyone involved, with no real cause to make the change, no specific reason to make the change, and no clear benefit from this change. Clearly, this change will result in hardship for the petitioner, the alien employee / beneficiary and of course, the attorney.
As the USCIS collects ever-increasing fees for its (monopoly) service, it obviously sees no need to make the service easier and more user friendly. Quite the opposite, in this specific example.
What remains to be seen is the other proposed changes in this “business transformation” plan….if they are as strange as this “transformation”, then we are in for even more interesting times.