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Nebraska Service Center Teleconference on Asylee and Refugee Issues

On February 9, the USCIS Nebraska Service Center held a stakeholder teleconference on Asylee and Refugee Issues.  Questions raised by stakeholders and responses from the Service Center are below.

Refugee Issues:

Q. How is a newly arrived follow-to-join refugee who is joining a spouse who has been to the US for more than two years treated?  Are they classified as refugees or a different status?

A. Classification is not affected by the amount of time the spouse has been in the US.

Q.  Do they qualify for the eight months government assistance (i.e., Medicaid, cash assistance, and food stamps)?  If not, why not?

A. These are state-administered programs.  USCIS cannot answer questions about eligibility.

Q.  We have been receiving duplicate “Welcome Notices” for I-485 applications based on refugee status. These sometimes arrive the same day, or one to two days apart. Obviously, this creates a significant environmental impact issue, apart from extra staff time spent opening and filing duplicate notices.  Can something please be done to correct this?

A. USCIS cannot investigate without specific examples.  Please share examples, including A numbers, with Kathryn Nicolas, Community Relations Officer at the NSC, at ceo.nsc@dhs.gov.

Q.  A question was raised on the September refugee/asylee teleconference about case transfer notices and the fact that attorneys with G-28s on file never receive the transfer notice; it is only sent to the applicant. The answer was that this is a deficiency in the electronic system and the NSC would submit this request for future changes.  What is the status of this request to have attorneys receive the transfer notices?

A. USCIS cannot investigate without specific examples.  Please share examples, including A numbers, with Kathryn Nicolas, Community Relations Officer at the NSC at ceo.nsc@dhs.gov.

Q.  Since the NSC is the exclusive adjudicator of refugee I-485 cases, what is the best procedure to follow when a case is incorrectly filed at a wrong lockbox and then incorrectly receipted and/or transferred to a wrong service center?  Based on past experience, a call to the NCSC will not resolve a matter of this type.

A. If an application is incorrectly filed and forwarded to the wrong service center, first call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC).  If no response, contact the service center through its follow-up email address at ncscfollowup.nsc@dhs.gov

Asylee Issues:

Q.  Does the NSC have any updated information on the position that USCIS will take on asylee derivatives whose I-485 cases are often denied (for failure to go through the nunc pro tunc procedure prior to filing the I-485) if their principal parent or spouse naturalizes prior to adjustment?  (This issue was supposedly discussed at one or more of the last three USCIS Asylum Division meetings, but those minutes to do not appear to have been posted for any of these meetings.)

A. NSC continues to follow current regulations and policies.  A derivative asylee who no longer meets the definition is no longer eligible to adjust to LPR.  Some examples are when a derive spouse divorces the principle alien, or when an asylee naturalizes.  Any future changes to these regulations and policies will be made at the USCIS headquarters level.

Q.  Can NSC provide a list of the main reasons asylee adjustments get referred to the local office for interview?  Attorneys would appreciate some guidance / referral memo in the appointment notice, to better prepare clients and manage their expectations.

A. When an asylee adjustment file is referred, the reasons vary.  Generally the interview will be used to establish the applicant’s eligibility and admissibility.  Some examples include, but are not limited to, resolving issues with identity, relationship and security checks.

Q.  We recently saw a case (rare scenario) where a derivative asylee whose case was approved in the U.S. and later denied at the consulate abroad (by Service Error), entered the US and applied for an I-94 through the local office (as recommended in previous calls). Upon receiving the I-94 we noticed that the “Asylum Status Granted Since____” has been given retroactively to the date of first approval by NSC. Would this make the derivative eligible for adjustment of status before being in the U.S. for 1 year?

A. The NSC is unable to fully respond to this question since it does not provide complete information.  An applicant must be physically present in the US for at least one year after being granted asylum.

I-693 Medical Issues:

Q.  Are examiners trained to know that while the current edition of the I-693 form is required for examinations conducted on or after 1/1/2012, for exams conducted before that date, the 10/11/11 or 7/20/10 version is acceptable? 

A. Yes, officers were trained to accept exams conducted on these form versions. 

Q. And, does NSC take the position that a medical exam done of a refugee (which generally only is an assessment of the vaccination requirements) expires in one year similar to the full I-693?

A. Yes.  An exam of a refugee, including vaccinations, expires in one year, as does the full I-693.

Q.  The “Vaccination Requirements” link on the US CIS I-693 site indicates that EACH YEAR the flu season starts on October 1 and ends on March 31st.  However, one CBO recently received a RFE from an NSC examiner indicating the I-693 was deficient because a flu shot was not given, even though the exam was conducted on 4/4/2011 (or outside the flu season).  Please clarify.

A. Officers should not send an RFE for a flu shot missing from an exam conducted in April.

Q.  As indicated in prior teleconferences, some CBOs have had considerable problems with local health departments and private civil surgeons using incorrect versions of the I-693 and/or they continue to make other types of errors on the form.  In the event an RFE was responded to due to an I-693 issue, and the health department or other civil surgeon still fails to adequately correct the I-693, the case will often be denied.  In these cases, is there any way to file a more “informal” motion to reopen or reconsider directly with the NSC instead of following the I-290B procedure?  If not, is there any way to request expedited processing if the denied refugee applicant re-files the I-485?

A. There is no informal way to file a Motion to Reopen or Reconsider if the denial was not service error.  Generally, I-485s are not expedited.  However, expediting may be done in limited circumstances.

TRIG Issues:

Q.  The TRIG Working Group hosted a quarterly stakeholder meeting on 12/13/11 in Washington, D.C., and we assume there were representatives of the NSC present or NSC reps were briefed on the meeting.  Since those minutes have not yet been posted, can you provide any type of summary of the issues raised, the answers, etc. for issues that relate to refugee and asylee I-485 applicants?  We are particularly interested in the impact of the US CIS HQ memo of 11/20/11 that now allows for denial of some cases currently on hold in which a TRIG exemption would not be granted.

A.  For information about the meeting, please contact the USCIS TRIG working group directly at trigquery@uscis.dhs.gov.  This email address can also be used to make individual case inquiries. 

Q. Does an asylee need an EAD to continue to work while his or her adjustment application is on hold? 

A. No, asylees do not require EADs, though some employers may require the card.  USCIS has no control over employers’ requirements.

NOTE from CLINIC:  The Department of Justice has hotlines and fact sheets about what employers and refugees/asylees should know about their rights and responsibilities.  These can be found at: http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/osc/pdf/publications/Refugee_Asylee_Flyer_English.pdf.  Additional materials, including those in other languages, can be found at: http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/osc/htm/worker.php.

Liberian Hold Issues:

Q.  While most cases still on Liberian Hold have been on hold for many years, it appears that the hold is still in effect for more recently filed cases that meet that “profile” (i.e., Liberian refugee who lived in the Ivory Coast in a refugee camp prior to entry into the US).  Is this true - could a case filed in November 2010 that meets that profile have been put on hold for this reason?

A. The NSC no longer holds Liberian cases.  Cases that meet that profile are transferred to the district office for processing.

General Issues:

Q.  What would be the process to request a name change in the Central Index System? Often we see circumstances where by mistake the order of the name is changed by USCIS and will not correspond to client’s SSN creating confusion and possibly generating Tentative Non Confirmation Letters, denials of public benefits and other implications.

A. First, contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at the following address to request the change: P. O. Box 82521, Lincoln, NE 68501-2521.  Alternatively, send correspondence to the NSC directly (note though, that a request made in this manner will take longer).  Evidence must be provided to support the correct legal name.

I-765 Issues:

Q.  While the instructions for the I-765 indicate that the applicant must submit two photos, is there any indication that the Service will ever eliminate this requirement in light of the fact that biometrics are done for the EAD and the applicant has to present some type of photo ID to enter the CIS office to do the biometrics?  For refugees who have lost all their U.S. issued documents prior to being eligible to file their I-485 and who need proof of immigration status/ employment eligibility to replace their SSN card, and cannot afford to replace their I-94 by filing a Form I-102 (which is not fee waivable), the I-765 with fee waiver offers a good alternative. However, many of these people are homeless and literally cannot afford the $10-12 cost for two photos, particularly if there are several adults in the household who need photos for EADs.

A. At this time, eliminating the requirement for two photos is not under USCIS policy consideration.