On May 14, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted an alert notifying the public that, effective immediately, it would begin recalling 8,543 Permanent Resident Cards because of a production error. The error relates to approvals for Form I-751 – Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence for the spouses of U.S. citizens – that were mailed earlier in the year and contain incorrect “Resident Since” dates. Notices were sent out to the 8,000-plus who received the erroneous Green Cards (and their attorneys of note, where applicable) that instruct them to return their Green Cards via the enclosed pre-paid envelopes within 20 days to have them reissued and resent, in corrected form, within 15 days of receipt by the USCIS.
Importantly, the error doesn’t affect the individuals' status as lawful permanent residents. The USCIS noted that the erroneous Resident Since date could, however, cause recipients to wait longer than necessary to apply for U.S. citizenship. This corrective move by the USCIS is an attempt to rectify the problem before it happens.
Green Card Processing Report
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) March 2018 report entitled “USCIS Has Unclear Website Information and Unrealistic Time Goals for Adjudicating Green Card Applications” pretty much says it all. The OIG report finds that the USCIS regularly posts timeline information related to adjudicating, or processing, Green Card applications that doesn’t accurately reflect the amount of time necessary to complete the process. Further, the OIG points out the USCIS is a long way from meeting its adjudication goal of 120 days.
Since 2011, the average number of days needed to complete Green Card processing has increased to more than twice the USCIS stated goal of 120 days. The OIG determines that the goal is unrealistic in the first place precisely because of mitigating factors that slow down the process – like the current incorrect "Resident Since" date snafu.
USCIS Adjudication Timeline
The OIG specifically called out the USCIS for posting Green Card adjudication timeline information on its website that’s both unclear and unhelpful to applicants. One succinct complaint is that the USCIS’s “Processing Cases as of Date” doesn’t correlate with the actual date that the application was received – though most applicants assume that it does. Further, the OIG recommended that the USCIS let go of its outdated adjudication timeline, which only serves to confuse applicants and hasn’t been representative for years.
The USCIS responded in kind by explaining that yes, the adjudication timeline is way off, for a variety of reasons:
- Not enough experienced staff
- Not enough funding to support overtime
- The lengthy lag time necessary to allow external agencies to complete their background and security checks
- The amount of time necessary to thoroughly vet applicants, which includes issuing Notices of Intent to Deny and Requests for Evidence (RFE)
While the USCIS also announced they are now testing a different method to calculate processing times, and fixing its website to contain more accurate timelines, they did not address why it didn’t do away with the website’s outdated timeline and misleading wording in the first place.
Obtaining a Green Card and becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States is a major hurdle and victory for anyone who’s got his or her sights on the American dream. Few deny, however, that the process is, at best, a journey. All told, it begs the question of why the USCIS hasn’t bothered before now to try and make its facts and figures add up.