Revised Date: November 05, 2003
Dear Clients, Friends and Supporters,
On November 25, 2002, President Bush signed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and set into motion the most significant and far-reaching changes in the immigration world since the 1950s. The new law seeks to eventually produce a more secure and just immigration system, which is fair to new immigrants and our historic tradition of immigration while also protecting our nation's borders and ports from threats to safety and security. The new law's changes will require nothing short of a massive transition. Our office supports the new law and stands ready to assist in any way, and we urge you to do the same.
The KEY IMMIGRATION PROVISIONS of the new law are as follows:
1) Creates a new HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT (DHS), and Secretary of Homeland Security.
2) Places immigration into the new Department and SEPARATES the IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT FUNCTION from the IMMIGRATION BENEFITS FUNCTION and strengenths each with new resources, staffing, technology goals and direction. In the past, critics have lamented the conflict and inconsistency of our immigration system, specifically as to why legal petitions take so long to adjudicate while "illegals" or "undocumented" aliens have managed to flood our shores so apparantly easily and quickly. Hopefully, the new law will help address this problem much better than in the past.
3) Abolishes the former INS as of March 01, 2003 together with their dozens of offices throughout the USA and the world, and CREATES A NEW IMMIGRATION AGENCY, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), which will handle all immigration benefits and petitions in offices throughout the country. In October 2003, the word "Bureau" was dropped from the name based on the name as identified in the 2003-2004 Congressional Appropriations Bill, thus making the name of the agency "United States Citizenship and Immigration Services" or USCIS. It appears that most of the present INS Regional and Local District offices will transition over to the new agency, while others will simply close. Click Here for a List of Accomplishments of USCIS in the First 100 Days. Enforcement activity will be housed in the new Directorate of Border and Transportation Security (BTS) which will contain the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) and Bureau of Customs and Border Patrol (BCBP). The State Department consulates worldwide will continue to assist in the issuance of visas. The immigration courts and judicial function will remain within the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) in the Justice Department.
4) Orders an immediate feasability STUDY OF IMPLEMENTATION OF REAL-TIME TECHNOLOGY into immigration, and directs that Internet case status checks and electronic filing of petitions be made available. Creates on-going programs and units to study and eliminate current case backlogs and future backlogs as they happen. The White House Budget proposal for FY2004 appropriates more money, resources and personnel to immigration (8.6 % more for Immigration Services, almost double for Immigration Enforcement and Investigations).
The bottom line is that the new law will hopefully encourage a more efficient immigration system to emerge.
In March 2003, military operations and conflict was started in Iraq and surrounding region. The U.S. State Department is on heightened alert, and has ordered reduction in Embassy staff or closures of various consulates worldwide, including a dozen or so Embassies in the Middle East theatre, and several in Latin America, Asia and Europe. Further, Homeland Security Department has developed national terror alerts under the Security Advisory System, and the alert is presently designated "ELEVATED" or "CODE YELLOW". Immigration and visa processing has been affected worldwide.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL THIS MEAN FOR MY VISA PETITION, INCLUDING FIANCEE, SPOUSAL AND FAMILY VISA PETITION?
Needless to say, this is a difficult question to answer at best. To some degree, we are all moving into uncharted territory. It remains to be seen exactly how the new structure and current process will develop. However, based on our best current analysis and the last change of this type, albiet on a much smaller scale, namely the creation in 1983 of the new immigration courts housed in the EOIR, we suggest that the following developments may occur:
1) TRANSITION:There will be an internal corporate transition which may last up to 12 to 24 months before the new system begins to truly work well. The short run may prove to be somewhat choatic and confused, as people, resources and direction change. Files may be moved and transferred. Approximately four million current petitions will be affected. New legal forms will eventually be published. It will take some time for the process to settle down, and efficiency to develop.
2) CHECKING CASE STATUS WILL BE MORE IMPORTANT: Thankfully, the former INS website did put into place an Online Case Status Checking system earlier this year. Though far from perfect, it is at least a start. Our Website is also one of the best in providing petition status checks, 24/7. Status checks are one of the best ways to ensure that cases and petitions are not "lost in the cracks" or misplaced.
3) BACKGROUND AND SECURITY CHECKING WILL BE MORE INTENSE AND UNIVERSAL: Law enforcement and other checks on petitioners, beneficiaries, visa applicants at the immigration offices and the Consulates will continue to expand. Currently called IBIS (Interagency Border Inspection System) and NIIS (Non Immigrant Information System) checks, more petitions and visa applications will be run through national data bases. This is epecially true if petitioners and visa applicants have prior arrest records or even something as apparantly innocuous as a "common last name", which will need closer scrutiny since a person with a name such as "Smith" or "Jones" can easily be confused with another person of the same name who might be considered excluded for an otherwise approved petition or visa.
4) PROCESSING SLOWDOWN: Yes, obviously cases will move a little slower. People will need to be more patient for the near term. How much slower and for how long is anybody's guess. Our best conjecture is perhaps 10% to 20% slower petition processing speed at Immigration Service offices over the next 6 to 12 months. For example, California and Texas Service Centers are now in process of implementing new security check procedures and resources which has elevated their reported times for K Visa Processing to 235 Days and 125 Days, respectively. The State Department's website also advises the public about expected visa processing delays. See: Current Visa Processing Situation.
Furthermore, the current military operations and conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and surrounding region, and U.S. terror alerts at "HIGH", have significantly affected and slowed immigration and visa processing worldwide. The State Department has issued a wordwide caution for all Americans. See: Wordwide Caution.
As always, our office will continue to closely monitor the immigration process generally and the new transition specifically, and assist and counsel our clients, friends and supporters in any way possible. We will continue to keep our clients informed and update our website for case status and other significant news and developments. In appropriate cases and at the appropriate time, we will continue to intervene and address individual case issues with immigration officers and visa officials.
Rest assured that your petition and visa case will indeed be addressed and decided. And meawhile, the new law may help to prove that over the long run government processing can in fact be made more efficient and careful. Thus, ultimately, the issuance of fiancee, spousal and family visas may improve for all.
In the meantime, we ask for your on-going patience and continuing support. In fact, if patience was ever needed more in the visa process, it is now.
Stay confident and you and yours will indeed receive your visa!
USA Immigration Attorney
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE NEW LAW, VISIT THIS SITE. THE HOMELAND SECURITY ACT OF 2002.