Tracking Your Petitions: From Filing to Visa Issuance

How do you find your petition once it joins the 6 million other immigration request for benefits filed by at least 10 million citizens and green card holders in the US? Your love may be genuine but is the marriage valid for petition and visa purposes?

Second Marriage Ties Visa Application in Knots

With approximately 10M each in the age range of 18 to 64, permanent residents and U.S. citizens from Mexico and Asia constitute a significant portion of the 6 million petitions and applications that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receive annually.

In 2010, US Census data show there were 3.4 million Filipino Americans.  A year later, the U.S. State Department revised that estimate to about 4 million.

In 2015, the State Department listed 4,556,021 applicants worldwide waiting for their immigrant visas.  Visas are issued after petitions by qualified family members and employers are approved by the USCIS.

Mexico has the highest number of visa petitions filed (and visa issuances pending) at 1,344, 429. The Philippines is a distant second with 415,511 followed by India at 344,208, Vietnam – 282,375, China-mainland born 260,265 and Dominican Republic 207,406.

Preferred relatives wait longer

The spouse, minor children and parents of U.S. citizens (categorized as “immediate relatives” under U.S. law) usually get to the U.S. in 10 to 12 months compared to the sisters or brothers of U.S. citizens who would have to wait for up to 25 years.   Lawful permanent residents (“LPRs” or green card holders) may apply for citizenship after five years of being LPRs, unless an LPR was through marriage to a U.S. citizen. In this case, the wait is only 3 years provided the LPR spouse remains married to the U.S. citizen spouse who filed the petition.  You may watch the extended version of the Marriage Issue, below.

Miscarriage of Marriage Justice

Applying for citizenship or naturalization then is the preferred way to get a spouse, minor children of parents.  In 2005, a total of 604,280 LPRs applied for citizenship. Of this number, 243,514 are permanent residents from Asia.  Among the countries with recurring retrogression dates (because there are more applicants than visa allocation) Filipinos have a higher rate of naturalization than China-mainland and the Dominican Republic). 

Naturalization Statistics Selected Region & Country 2004-2014

Country

2004

2010

2014

Total

537,151

619,913

653,416

Asia

218,974

251,598

233,163

Mexico

63,840

67,062

94,889

Philippines

31,448

35,465

34,591

India

37,975

61,142

37,854

Dominican Republic

15,464

15,451

23,775

How are petitions processed?

 The USCIS has 19,000 government employees and contractors working at 223 offices across the world.  These employees and contractors sort out petitions first to determine if they are complete and with the correct fees.

These employees and contractors do not work on weekends and holidays. And each regular employee gets paid time off to take mandatory vacations (not convertible to cash) plus workplace rules require that they get sick leaves as well.

The 19,000 USCIS employees and contractors are not all frontline workers. There are heads, supervisors and team leaders.  Not all of them are handling the receiving, assessment, evaluation, sorting and moving the petitions from the date a petition is received until it is forwarded to the National Visa Center for visa processing.

Service Centers

Prior to the 9-11 terror attack, the USCIS was called the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  The INS was later dissolved and renamed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of two other agencies under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Prior to the creation of the DHS in 2002, petitions for alien relatives were filed with INS district offices; grouped into four Adjudication Centers which later became the Service Centers.  There are now Service Centers handling the processing and adjudication of petitions, applications for immigration services and benefits.  Walk-in applications or questions are not entertained.

Filing and tracking your petition

Petitions for alien relatives (for immediate relatives and preference categories) are currently filed (mailed, couriered) to specific locations (Lock Boxes)

For petitioners with U.S. address or residence in any of the states below, the I-130 petition, supporting documents and fees are sent to the following USCIS addresses.

If you live in any of the states below:

File/Mail your I-130 petition, fees and documents to

Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virgin Islands, Washington, Wyoming.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Attn: I-130

1820 Skyharbor Circle S,

Suite 100

Phoenix, AZ 85034

For those who live in any of the following U.S. States

File/Mail your I-130 petition, fees and documents to

Alabama, Arkansas Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin and outside the United States.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Attn. I-130

131 South Dearborn-3rd Fl Chicago IL 60603-5517

Follow the paper trail

After evaluation and determination as complete, the petitions are sent to specific Service Centers: California, Nebraska, Texas or Vermont.  Receipt notices usually would have the three letter prefix, below.

Upon transmission of the complete file from the lock box, the appropriate Service Center issues a Notice of Action (Receipt Notice) showing the date of receipt (filing date).  The filing date is the applicant’s or beneficiaries “priority date.”  The Receipt Notice is usually mailed approximately 1 to 2 weeks after transmission from the Lock Box station.

If the application or petition is incomplete or does not include the correct payment, a rejection letter is sent to the petitioner.  The petitioner/applicant then has to refile and upon verification as complete, a new filing date is established.

Documentation, No Interviews

A petition for an “alien” relative is submitted using the Forms I-130, and the G-325A Biographic Information for both the petitioner and beneficiary. The U.S. citizen or LPR intending to sponsor the family member to the U.S. is the “petitioner.”  The individual being sponsored is the “beneficiary”.

The purpose of filing the petition is to have the beneficiary join the petitioner in the U.S.  After the petition is approved and transmitted to the National Visa Center (NVC) the beneficiary must apply for the specific immigrant visa.  The petition determines the visa category.  By the time the petition is approved, the beneficiary would alternately be called the principal visa applicant.

If the principal applicant (“PA”) has a spouse and/or minor children, they are called the “derivative beneficiaries.”  Certain petitions and visa classifications require that the PA be unmarried at the time of applying for the visa.  The eligibility to be issued a visa is determined at the time the PA applies for it, not at the time the petition was filed.

For example, a green card holder petitioner may file a petition for an unmarried child, son or daughter regardless of age.  The petition allows the PA to apply for an F2B visa as long as he or she remains unmarried.  If the F2B beneficiary gets married before admission to the U.S., then he or she is considered to be ineligible for the F2B category  To remain eligible for a specific visa category, the PA must continue to be eligible for that category until he or she is admitted at a U.S. port of entry.

An F2B principal applicant then who was issued a visa and gets married before going to the U.S. is no longer admissible.  If the immigration officer becomes aware of the marriage, the PA would not be allowed to enter the U.S.  The visa would be cancelled and the F2B PA would be ordered to return to the Philippines on the next flight.

If the PA does not disclose the marriage and admitted into the U.S., no problems are normally encountered until and unless (1) the marriage is reported to the USCIS or the Embassy or (2) the PA (now a green card holder) files a petition for the spouse and/or children.

A common practice pursued by the F2B PA now LPR is to return to the Philippines and “marry” the spouse.  Since there was a previous marriage, this second marriage is considered only as “ceremonial.” If the first marriage meets all the requirements to be considered valid, this marriage is the one that the USCIS will consider as the basis for filing the petition.

Non-disclosure of a first marriage and discovery of such non-disclosure would subject the petitioner and beneficiary of fraud – willful misrepresentation of a material fact.  This immigration violation results in a permanent bar to the visa beneficiary from being admitted into the U.S. It could also result in the order of deportation or removal from the U.S. of the petitioner for having committed fraud.

The main purpose of U.S. immigration laws is for family reunification. Hence, where applicable, the petitioner and/or beneficiary may ask for forgiveness for such an immigration violation. The formal act of asking for forgiveness is to apply for a Waiver of Inadmissibility.

The beneficiary becomes “inadmissible” for fraud because he or she lied about the first marriage. For humanitarian considerations and family reunification, the petitioner and applicant may request that the inadmissibility violation not be applied (“waived”) so that the family could be reunited.  The application is filed on Form I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility with the required fee, currently $585.00.

Back to the Paper Trail – What the receipt number means

Because thousands of applications are received daily, an incomplete petition would mean about 2-4 weeks delay which in turn could mean additional years of waiting for the visa issuance.

An I-130 petition sent to and received in a specific Service Center, say California in 2011 could be labeled “WAC 11 012, 50960”

The letters “WAC” refers to the Service Center in this case, California. In some cases this first set of digits would be “CSC”

The first set of digits represent the fiscal year that the case was received.  America’s fiscal year starts October and ends September. Hence “11” means the petition was received during the 2011 fiscal year.

The second set of digits (“012”) represents the specific date (computer workday – excluding weekends and holidays) that the petition was received and opened.  October 1 is the first working day of each fiscal year – unless it falls on a weekend of holiday.  This specific petition was received on the 12th working day of the 2011 fiscal year.

The third set of five digits “40960”) is the case number.

When checking the status of your petition online, this receipt number will tell you when it was received, whether it is being processed, returned, rejected, refused or approved.  The online link is this - https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do

Petitions pending and processing times

As of June 30, 2016, there were 726,691 visa petitions pending for immediate relatives and other family members in the Family-preference categories.

Service Center      

Received

Approved

Denied

Pending

California

Immediate Relatives

Other Relatives

134

72,393

4,198

29,518

920

3,929

437,053

7,241

429,812

Nebraska

Immediate Relatives

Other Relatives

68,732

1,426

44,690

1,373

2,710

244

108,739

105,834

2,905

Texas

Immediate Relatives

Other Relatives

15,924

388

15,067

410

392

61

12,921

12,459

372

Vermont

Immediate Relatives

Other Relatives

--

--

579

526

702

667

146,744

6,432

140,312

Potomac

Immediate Relatives

Others

--

--

35,354

316

25,072

553

21,234

20,768

556

Petitions for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are prioritized since they are not covered by quotas or numerical limits. The Family-preference categories have specific yearly quota, below:

Family-sponsored preferences

First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents:  114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents:  77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents:  23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens:  65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

Centers and Priorities

In all service centers, the average processing time of petitions filed for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens as well as the spouses and minor children of LPRs is five months except with the EAC or VSC where the petitions being processed were those received on or before January 28, 2016.

The IRs and I-129F column refers to the immediate relatives (IRs) and Fiance(es) of U.S. citizens represented by the “I-129F) which is the form used to file the Fiance(e) petition.

Category

California

Nebraska

Texas

Vermont

IRs / I-129F

5

5

5

1-28-16

F2A

5

5

5

1-28-16

F2B

5-12-15

5

5

9-02-12

F3

4-25-12

5

5

9-03-12

F4

5-17-11

5

5

11-07-11

I-601

-

12-16-15

4

-

I-212

-

2-03-16

4

2-29-16

The I-601 refers to applicants requesting for a waiver of inadmissibility for having committed certain immigration and/or visa rules.

The I-212 refers to an Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal. This application is used by a person who was issued a nonimmigrant or immigrant visa, allowed or admitted into the U.S. but was later deported or removed.   The other case is a person who was removed (not allowed entry into the US) at a port of entry for having violated certain immigration laws or for having misrepresented material facts such as committing fraud during the visa application.  An individual not allowed entry would be classified as one who was “excluded” and was expeditiously removed – commonly called “airport-to-airport.”

As our subscribers, readers and FB friends are aware by now, filing a petition may be relatively easy but there is more to filing than just paper work.

What you put on paper – the information provided – will determine your future. Surely your life is worth more than the paper it was written on.

Your migration concern, our legal answer.

Because you deserve answers from trained immigration professionals

About the Author

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.


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