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Update from Ciudad Juarez

By Susan Schreiber and Charles Wheeler

The highlight of CLINIC’s annual family immigration law training in El Paso on November 16-17, 2011 was a presentation by consular and USCIS officials.  Catherine Holt, Chief of the Immigrant Visa (IV) Section, and Yolanda Miranda, Field Office Director at the USCIS office located at the consulate, each spoke and then answered questions for over two hours.  The following is a summary of the information they provided at the conference and during the consular tour on November 18th.

Form DS-260.  All immigrant visa applications must now be submitted on Form DS-260, which is an electronic form.  The consulate completed the transition to that form during 2011. In order to be considered qualified to attend the IV interview and receive an immigrant visa, the applicant must submit this electronic form.  Cd. Juarez and Mexico City are the only two posts that currently require this form from all applicants, although it will eventually be a requirement for all consular posts located worldwide. The representative can hit the “submit” button on behalf of the applicant and send the information to the NVC; it does not have to be the applicant himself or herself who does that.  The applicant, however, is responsible for making sure that all the information is correct.

Electronic Processing.  The NVC instituted a program last year called Mexican Electronic Processing (MEP) that affects applicants who are immediate relatives in the IR-1 (spouse of U.S. citizen), IR-2 (child of U.S. citizen), and conditional residents in both the CR-1 (spouses) and CR-2 (children) categories.  Applicants in these categories are required to submit the forms and their documents to the NVC in an electronic format.  The applicant scans Form I-864 and the required documents (e.g., birth certificate, marriage certificate) and e-mails them to the NVC, rather than mailing the original or certified copy.  The NVC in turn forwards the file containing the scanned documents to the consulate. The consulate opens the file via a “sharepoint site” and processes the application without having to see any hard copies of the forms or documents. The applicant will bring the original I-864 and other documents to the consular interview, as well as the Mexican passport and medical exam results.  Clients with immigration violations or a criminal history should bring original documentation of arrests, convictions, or court dispositions.  Cases designated for this processing will be marked “MEP,” rather than “CDJ.”  This pilot program will eventually be extended to all immigrant visa categories and all consulates.

Fingerprints and Photos.  The consulate has also moved to off-site collection of fingerprints and photos rather than having them taken at the consulate on the day of the interview.  There are currently 11 off-site Applicant Service Centers (ASCs) in Cd. Juarez.  In addition, an ASC is housed at each of the other eight U.S. consulates located throughout Mexico and at the Embassy in Mexico City, as well as one in Chihuahua City.  All IV applicants will receive a letter or e-mail informing them of the need to make an appointment to have their photo and fingerprints taken at the ASC of their choice.  There is no extra fee for the biometrics and photo; it is included in the immigrant visa fee.

The ASC closest to the Consulate is located in the plaza just to the left of the Consulate, in the same area as the municipal waiting room.  The plaza also contains other businesses offering immigration-related services, which may cause some confusion.  Let applicants know that they are in the wrong place if fees are being requested.

In the ASC, the applicant will need to present his or her passport and the application confirmation page so that the bar code may be scanned.  The applicant will also select the DHL facility that he or she wishes to use for delivery of the immigrant visa.  There are between 300-400 DHL offices located throughout Mexico. After that, applicants will be asked to take a seat until called for a “live capture” of their photo and fingerprints.  The fingerprint process includes a four-finger print from the left hand, followed by a four -finger print from the right hand, and then the two thumbs together.  Children aged 7 and older must undergo fingerprinting.  The ASC has baby booster seats for the taking of photos of babies. 

Children.  Remember to inform clients who will be consular processing with children between the ages of 2-14 years that they must come for their medical appointment at least four days before the interview.  Children will be given the PPT skin test for tuberculosis, and it takes between 48 and 72 hours to read the results.  For that reason, no skin tests are administered on Thursday, since no readings are conducted on Sunday.

Medical Exams.  Two medical centers are located in buildings next to the Consulate.  The clinics are open beginning at 6 a.m. and examination results can be retrieved by early that afternoon.  No appointment is necessary, but you need to have a consular interview appointment in order to be seen.  The current examination fee for adults is $210; for children under age 14 it is $149.85.  The civil surgeon exam should include questioning as to the applicant’s criminal history, which will be noted in the remarks. If a consular officer notes that an applicant has a history of DUIs, and the medical exam does not reflect that this issue was known by the examining doctor, the applicant will be referred back for another medical exam to assess health-based inadmissibility based on this history.  Applicants who were previously found inadmissible based on a Class A medical condition that may be overcome through remission need to make a new visa interview appointment for a new medical exam so that remission can be determined.

Ms. Holt noted an increase in applicants with drug-resistant TB; usually they are related to applicants residing in the U.S.  Applicants with TB must be treated at the clinic, and the treatment is provided at no cost.  Once a visa is issued to an applicant treated for TB, or with Class B latent TB, the applicant must cross into the U.S. at El Paso, where she or he will be met by a CDC official to make sure that the person is set up for further treatment.

Applicants may not be provided with a copy of the civil surgeon medical exam.  Director Holt suggested contacting the Communications Unit by email to request background information on the basis of a Class A medical condition finding.

Safety Concerns.  The consulate maintains updated information and posts any travel alerts on the home page of its website, which can be found at www.travel.state.gov.  It should be accessed by persons traveling to Cd. Juarez who have concerns about their safety.  The consulate encourages persons to read this information before traveling to Cd. Juarez, but it also recommends that they take the same safety precautions they would take when visiting any major city.  For example, do not carry large quantities of cash; most purchases, including appointments at the medical clinic, can be made by credit card.

What to Expect on Day of Interview.  The first appointments are set for 7:15 a.m. Advise applicants to arrive no earlier than 30 minutes before the appointment time. All applicants start out in a municipal waiting room and are escorted in groups based on appointment time from the waiting room to the Consulate entrance to pass through security.  In general, only applicants are allowed into the Consulate for the appointment, but when an applicant needs special help – such as a young child without an accompanying parent applicant, an elderly applicant, or a parent with several young children – an additional family member may be allowed in to assist.

The municipal waiting room is located to the left of the Consulate entrance and is the required first stop for applicants.  It is also encouraged as a waiting area for family members not accompanying the applicant to the consular interview.  Lockers are available for items that can’t be brought into the consulate.  Applicants also receive orientation by “greeters” about the steps in the appointment process.

There is no reason to bring cash to the appointment. There is nothing to pay for outside of the building; no consular officials are ever located outside the building to review documents or to collect fees.  Anyone doing so is a scammer. The consulate sometimes tries to get the police involved and get money returned to the applicant, but this issue is not a high priority for police, given other security concerns. Inside the Consulate, applicants may use credit cards to pay for any required fees.

Applicants are brought into the Consulate in groups of either IV or NIV applicants.  After passing through a metal detector, the applicant is given a ticket with a number that the applicant uses to identify when his or her case is being called.

Once inside the Consulate, applicants are led to outdoor waiting areas, which have seats and heaters installed overhead for cold days and misters and fans for hot days.  There are separate outdoor waiting areas for NIV and IV applicants.  Bathrooms are located by the waiting areas as well as an adjacent food stand where applicants can buy snacks and drinks.  Water fountains have potable water. Applicants who are elderly, are young, have young children, or have other special needs are directed to IV or NIV indoor waiting areas  The Consulate is in the process of setting up a play area for children adjacent to the IV outdoor waiting area.

Once in the waiting area, applicants are seated and need to check the overhead electronic boards that post the ticket numbers of cases ready for interview. An arrow indicates the window number where the interview will take place.  Ms. Holt emphasized that it is all right to leave to use the bathroom or purchase something at the food kiosk without fear of losing one’s place if the number is posted while one is outside the waiting area.  If an applicant misses seeing his or her number, the number will be called by loudspeaker if necessary. The case may be passed for the next appointment, but the applicant who missed the posting will be called again.

Every IV appointment starts at the intake window with document review because, at a minimum, each IV applicant will need to present his or her passport, photos, and medical exam results. Other applicants may have other documents to turn in, including I-864s. After the intake appointment, the applicant returns to be seated in the indoor waiting area. The applicant again waits to see the ticket number for his or her case posted on the electronic boards hanging on the wall, which will direct the applicant to the designated window number for the IV interview.  The minimum number of stops for IV applicants is two: the intake document review and the IV interview. In some cases, the applicant may be paying an additional fee at a cashier window.  This may happen, for example, in the case of a new derivative born after the interview was scheduled, when the parent will then need to pay the IV fee.

Both the intake interview and the IV interview take place in front of clear windows with the interviewer sitting on the other side. There are two small privacy rooms, however, which are used for either DNA collection or cases requiring privacy. The might happen, for example, when an applicant wants to be questioned in private about criminal arrests or convictions outside of earshot of accompanying children.  At the start of the interview, the interviewer places the applicant under oath and confirms the identity of the applicant with his or her thumbprint.  This process applies to applicants aged 7 or older.  Where there are no special issues or concerns (such as a case where the applicant has never been to the U.S.), an interview may be completed in just a few minutes.

Where an applicant needs additional documents for case approval, the consulate tries to avoid having the applicant appear in person. The applicant will receive instructions for submitting the requested documents to the consulate through DHL.  These document submission “come backs” are assigned for review by the interviewing officer within one or two days of receipt at the Consulate.  If that officer is no longer working there, or is on vacation, another officer is always assigned to cover all documents submission “come backs” for officers who are not present.  Once the application is complete, the applicant will then be sent an instruction letter for waiver submission if a waiver is required.  The applicant cannot make the waiver submission appointment at the Call Center until the officer has determined that the application is otherwise complete and issued the waiver instructions. At this point, the Call Center will be notified by the consulate that the applicant can make a waiver submission appointment.

If more than six months have passed since the applicant first applied for a visa until the point when the applicant may be issued a visa, the applicant will sent a letter advising him or her to submit a new medical exam result, because they are valid only for six months. This exam result may be submitted by DHL so that the applicant does not need to return to the Consulate. If more than a year has passed, the applicant will also need to submit a new DS-260.  In both instances, if the passport has been returned to the applicant, this also needs to be submitted.  A new visa fee will only be charged if the adjudication delay is due to the applicant.  Adjudication delay based on the time frame for waiver decisions is considered a government delay, so no new visa fee is required.

The Consulate’s goal is for IV applicants to complete all appointment activities within one hour.  In the typical case, however, the applicant is in and out of the Consulate within two hours of the scheduled appointment time.

General Tips.  The following are a collection of best practices and reminders:

  • Bring any prior nonimmigrant visas that were issued to the applicant.  The immigrant visa will not be issued unless the nonimmigrant visa is canceled.
  • Bring all original documents if the applicant was processed as MEP. 
  • Bring all civil registry documents and documentation showing relationship to the petitioner.  This is especially true for stepchildren.  In those cases where the biological parent is not seeking an immigrant visa or has not adjusted status, the consulate may require extra proof of the bona fides of the marriage.  The consulate may require one of the parents to be present at the interview in order to verify the validity of the marriage and stepparent-stepchild relationship.
  • If the applicant has been arrested in the United States or another country, make sure he or she brings copies of the disposition and court record.  If applicable, bring proof of voluntary departure or voluntary return.
  • Make sure a signed I-864 is submitted for every IV applicant and that it meets the poverty income guidelines.
  • If the applicant will be found inadmissible, advise the client of this so he or she is not learning this for the first time at the consular interview. Prepare them for the subsequent waiver application process.
  • The consulate is following State Department interpretation that minors can accrue unlawful presence prior to turning 18 for purposes of 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I) inadmissibility.  This is in contrast to the three- or ten-year bars under 212(a)(9)(B), which contains an exception for unlawful presence accrual of children under 18.
  • The non-waivable ground of inadmissibility for false claims of citizenship under 212(a)(6)(C)(ii) applies to children, regardless of their age, provided the false claim was “knowing.” [Editor’s Note: The USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual states as follows: “For Section 212(a)(6(C)(ii)(I) of the Act to apply, the claim to U.S. citizenship must be “falsely” made in that the alien knowingly misrepresents the fact that the individual is a citizen of the United States. Thus, the alien must have known that he or she was not a U.S. citizen.”]
  • Advise your client not to be tricked by persons selling services and documents outside the consulate.  Anyone trying to review documents outside the consulate, and/or charge fees, even if dressed in a uniform that appears to be of a consular official, is necessarily a scammer. Director Holt called the commercial area to the right of the Consulate front entrance the “Bermuda Triangle.” This is the main location where scammers approach applicants and family members to convince them that their documents are inadequate and need to be fixed.
  • Make sure clients are familiar with their “external history”: entries and exits to U.S., detentions, amount of time within the U.S. and in what status.  For clients who are not good with dates, it is acceptable to use memory triggers, like “I came the day after Selena died,” or “I came right after 9/11,” or “I came in the summer after I turned 18.” 
  • DNA is requested in cases where the consular officer is not convinced of the biological relationship.  A fact scenario that might trigger such a request would be where the petitioner is the alleged biological father, but has always lived in the U.S. while the immigrating child has always lived abroad, and the father hasn’t seen the child in several years.  Applicants are not required to undergo DNA testing.  If they opt to undergo it, they must bear the costs.

Fees and Other Changes.  Beginning on January 11, 2011, the applicant pays $404 for the immigrant visa processing fee, which also covers the ASC biometrics and the DHL delivery service. The Call Center is no longer a toll number. If calling from the United States, the number is 703-439-2313.  If calling from Cd. Juarez, the number is 656-212-1016.  In addition, there are 12 other numbers one can use depending on where they are calling from in Mexico. Applicants will not have to remain in Cd. Juarez after their interview for delivery of the visa.  They will be able to designate any of the 300-400 locations within Mexico that DHL services.  They do have to go to the DHL office in person to pick up their visa, however.  For security reasons, DHL will not deliver the visa like it does other packages.

CSPA Opt-Out.  The State Department allows principal beneficiaries who are under 21 and in the F-2A category to opt out of automatic conversion to immediate relative when the petitioner naturalizes.  This would be advantageous for those beneficiaries who have derivative children and who prefer to immigrate together with their children in the F-2A category, rather than immigrating sooner as an immediate relative but without their children.  The consulate has the discretion to allow such opt-out and does not require USCIS approval.  This policy does not apply, however, if the F-2A child is a derivative beneficiary when the parent naturalizes.  In that case, the citizen parent needs to file a separate I-130 petition for the child, who would then convert to the immediate relative category.  Immediate relative children in those cases would not be allowed to opt out and remain in the F-2A category.  Therefore, if they had children of their own, those children would not be able to immigrate with them as derivatives.

The consulate has not received any guidance on the impact of the recent BIA decision, Matter of Zamora-Molina, 25 I&N Dec. 606 (BIA 2011), which held that children who are over 21 using their biological age, but under 21 using their CSPA age, cannot opt out of the automatic conversion to the F-1 category when the parent naturalizes. According to the BIA, these children cannot opt out and remain in the F-2A category.  The consulate is waiting for instructions from the Visa Office, which in turn receives its instructions from DHS, before it changes its current practice.

Affidavits of Support. Many applicants who qualified to submit an I-864W in lieu of an I-864 because they had satisfied the 40-qualifying-quarters exception were nevertheless required to submit an I-864 at the time of the consular interview.  The consulate has provided re-training to its officers, clarified the current requirements, and corrected the problem. Some officers, apparently, were unaware that the applicant could be credited with quarters earned by a spouse during marriage or by a parent before the child turned 18. If these applicants have submitted sufficient evidence from the Social Security Administration indicating that they have earned or been credited with sufficient quarters, the consulate will no longer require an I-864. Submission of an I-864W in the appropriate situation should satisfy the public charge ground of inadmissibility. If you have situations where the consular official is still requiring an I-864 or additional evidence to overcome public charge, please send an inquiry to the Communications Unit.

There are still some situations and cases – albeit quite rare – where the applicant has submitted an I-864 that meets the minimum financial requirements and the consulate still requires additional proof that the applicant will not become a public charge.  One such situation might be when the applicant has been diagnosed as HIV positive, which is not a medical ground of inadmissibility, but does raise potential public charge concerns. So the consulate may require proof that the applicant can cover the costs of treatment in the United States.

Impact of Palacios Case.  The Ninth Circuit recently held that unlawful presence for purposes of the “permanent” bar under 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I), which is triggered due to illegal or attempted illegal reentry after more than one year of unlawful presence, includes time spent in the United States prior to April 1, 1997.  Palacios v. Holder, No. 09-72059 (9th Cir. June 21, 2011). Attorneys for the respondent in that case have filed a petition for rehearing en banc.  The consulate is aware of that decision and is holding onto cases that might be impacted by that decision.  In other words, per the Palacios decision, an applicant with more than one year of unlawful presence in the aggregate prior to April 1, 1997 triggers the permanent bar by an entry without inspection on or after April 1, 1997.  The consulate will hold off granting or denying immigrant visas in those cases, regardless of where the applicant was residing in the United States, until it receives guidance from the Visa Office.

Inquiries.  The consulate receives between 1,000 and 1,200 e-mails per month pertaining to immigrant visa applications. The consulate has a staff of four who respond to these inquiries and it has set a maximum time of 10-15 days to respond to them.  The website, http://ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov, contains instructions for posting an electronic inquiry concerning a case.  These can be posted by attorneys and BIA representatives (responded to within three days and currently within 24 hours), the general public, and congressional representatives.  Inquiries that deal with an alleged misapplication of the law are directed to Ms Holt. She reviews the case and either affirms or overturns the officer’s decision in that case. Telephone service is also available Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Central) and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. From Cd. Juarez, call 656-212-1016.  From the United States, call 703-429-3313.  For information service and online appointment programming of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, go to http://mexico.usvisa-info.com. The Information window at the consulate, where applicants can come and ask questions or submit post-appointment documents is open Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

USCIS Updates.  Processing waiver applications is the main work of the USCIS field office at the consulate.  But it also performs investigations in the USCIS processing of I-130s, I-360s, adoption cases, and DNA testing.

Numbers and Statistics.  Ninety percent of the waivers that are filed worldwide are filed in the USCIS Mexico City district, which includes Cd. Juarez. Between 2006 and 2011, the field office has seen a 120 percent increase in volume of applications. In FY 2010, the office processed 24,507 waivers. Approximately 10,000 of those applications were adjudicated by staff in the Cd. Juarez field office, while the others were adjudicated by USCIS staff in Mexico City or in the United States.  The agency has a software system called “Camino” that links all of the offices adjudicating waiver applications.  This system allows the agency to track these waiver cases.  The numbers for FY 2011 are not official, but preliminary results show that 17,719 waivers were filed at Cd. Juarez.  Of those, 5,714 were referred out; 7,513 were adjudicated at Cd. Juarez; and 6,378 are still pending.

The USCIS field office in Cd. Juarez is currently approving approximately 50 percent of the waiver applications and referring the other half.  Of those applications that are referred, those USCIS offices are approving an additional 50 percent, bringing the total approval rate to about 75 percent.

Staffing.  The USCIS office has traditionally employed 3 overseas adjudication officers and 12 foreign service nationals (FSNs). The office is currently down to one overseas adjudication officer, and that employee actually just left on November 18th.  Three new staff will be detailed to the office beginning on November 21st and will hopefully begin processing applications soon.  But the staffing reductions have affected adjudication numbers and processing times.

Procedure.  Once the IV applicant has been found inadmissible by the consular official, refused the visa, but also determined to be eligible to file a waiver, he or she is given a set of instructions.  Applicants are told to call the Call Center the following day to make an appointment for the I-601 intake. It is currently taking 6 to 8 weeks to get an appointment for waiver submission. They come to the consulate on that date and time and undergo intake processing.  In the past, they could show up early on the day of their drop-off appointment and be processed.  Beginning in January 2012, the applicant will be allowed into the consulate no earlier than 30 minutes before their allotted time.

The FSNs will instruct the applicant to go to the cashier and pay the waiver fee, annotate that the fee has been paid, and conduct a brief “packet review.”  The applicant then proceeds to a designated window where a USCIS employee accepts the waiver application.  Waiver submission takes place in a bank of windows adjacent to the IV windows.  The applicant will then be told that the application will be sent for either “quick review” or “normal processing.”

After the USCIS field office receives the waiver application it will conduct an initial processing, or vetting, to determine which cases can be considered readily approvable. Those that cannot be readily approved are put aside for referral to normal processing.  The USCIS then sends the applicant a receipt and referral notice, his or her passport, as well as an RFE suggesting the submission of additional documentation in support of the claim of extreme hardship.  The applicant has 84 days within which to submit this additional documentation.  That documentation should be sent to the following address: Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, PO Box 9896, El Paso, TX 79905.   If the case will be referred out, it will be sent to one of three USCIS offices: Mexico City, Monterrey, or Anaheim, California. The office to which the case is referred may also do a second vetting to determine which cases it can readily approve and which ones it cannot.  That office may in turn send out an RFE requesting additional documentation.

Alternatively, if the application is determined readily approvable by Cd. Juarez, the packet, which includes the applicant’s passport, is sent back to the consulate for issuance of an immigrant visa.  The passport and visa will then be sent to the applicant via DHL.  If the case was referred and that office approves the waiver, it will notify the applicant and direct him or her to send in the passport so that the immigrant visa can be issued. Then the waiver approval and passport are forwarded to the consulate for issuance of the visa.  Beginning on January 10, 2011, the consulate has been able to issue the immigrant visa without requiring a second interview and it is issuing the visas within a couple days of receiving the passport.  In some cases the consulate will require updated information, medical exam results, documents, or biometrics.

If a waiver application appears complicated and voluminous, it is more likely to be referred, given the short time that officers have to review each application.  Waivers where the applicant has an “A” file will typically be referred, since that file will have to be reviewed before making a decision and it takes several weeks to receive the file.

Denials.  The USCIS field office in Cd. Juarez either approves or refers waiver applications. If the case is referred out to one of the three offices currently adjudicating these waivers and it is denied, the office that made that decision will send the applicant a notice of denial. Those applicants can file an appeal with the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO).  The applicant has 30 days within which to submit an appeal, which is filed at the office that adjudicated the waiver.  Every appeal is also treated as motion to reconsider by that office.  The AAO is currently taking approximately two years to issue a decision.  If no appeal is filed, the case is closed within 60-90 days after the decision is made and the file is shipped to the National Records Center (NRC).

In the alternative, those who were denied a waiver may reapply with the USCIS.  The procedure has changed, however. While in the past, those persons had to reschedule an immigrant visa interview with the consulate and be refused again before resubmitting another waiver packet.  Now they can simply call the Call Center and request a new waiver drop-off appointment. This saves them time and immigrant visa fees.  This new procedure, which went into effect in May 2011, is recommended in cases where the underlying waiver packet was poorly documented or prepared.

Finally, those who were denied a waiver based on unlawful presence can simply wait out their time in Mexico, depending on whether it is a three- or ten-year bar.  The consular official will indicate on the refusal notice when the applicant triggered the bar and thus when the period will have run.  The applicant does not need to file a new I-130 petition or other forms.  He or she simply calls the Call Center and reschedules a new immigrant visa interview.  Depending on how long it has been since the initial refusal, the Consulate may need to retrieve the case file from the NRC.

Processing Times.  As of today, applicants who phone the Call Center are receiving appointments for waiver packet drop-offs for early next year, indicating a 6 to 8-week backlog. It is then currently taking 2 ½ months from the time the USCIS office receives the waiver to perform its vetting, or adjudication under “quick review.”  So currently it is taking approximately 4 to 4 ½ months from the date of the consular interview to be approved under the “quick review” procedure.  If the case is referred out, it is now taking approximately 7 ½ months for that outlying office to adjudicate it.  But the total adjudication time for normal processing is 10 months, because one must include the 2 ½ months the case was pending at the USCIS office in Cd. Juarez before it was referred out.  And if one adds in the 6 to 8-week backlog in scheduling the drop-off appointment, the total time for referred cases after the consular interview and visa refusal is currently about one year.

Strategy Tips.  Applicants are encouraged to include a detailed cover letter, an index, or table of contents listing or briefly explaining the relevance of the supporting documents.  This index might reference numbered documents that are separated and designated by corresponding tabs at the bottom or side of the packet.  Make sure the packet is two-hole Acco-fastened or bound together in some other form so that the supporting documents do not get separated from the application. The strong points in the waiver case need to be put forth up front and not buried in the application or supporting documentation.  Legal briefs are optional. Do not include newspaper articles or other documentation on the general level of violence in Mexico; adjudicators residing in Cd. Juarez are well aware of the safety concerns.  You can include documentation, however, on recent levels of violence in the specific area of Mexico where the applicant intends to reside.  Similarly, do not include documents from the Internet describing depression or other medical conditions; instead submit specific medical evidence or doctor’s reports.  The most important part of the waiver application will be the declaration from the applicant and the qualifying relative, as well as the supporting documents, not the cover letter or statements from the representative. There are no special instructions or requirements regarding the form that the waiver application packet should take other than it should be well organized. Officers adjudicate approximately 30-35 waiver applications each day, so any efforts to highlight the extreme hardship factors will be appreciated.

Form I-212.  Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal, can be submitted with the I-601 waiver application.  Since I-212s do not require a showing of extreme hardship to a qualifying relative, and thus carry a lower standard, they are typically approved if the accompanying I-601 is approved.  No stand-alone I-212 applications should be filed with the USCIS office in Cd. Juarez, except in fiancé (K-1) cases.  In other cases where the applicant does not have any other ground of inadmissibility except for a prior order of removal, the I-212 should be filed in the United States with the DHS district office that issued the order.

For applicants subject to the “permanent bar” under 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(II) due to illegal or attempted illegal reentry after a final order of removal, the applicant can submit an I-212 after remaining abroad for ten years.  These should be filed at the USCIS district office that has jurisdiction over the place where the applicant intends to live in the United States.  The same is true for applicants subject to the “permanent bar” under 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I) due to illegal or attempted illegal reentry after more than one year of unlawful presence. 

Expedited Processing of the Waiver.  Applicants with compelling health-related hardships that affect the qualifying relative can ask that their waiver application be expedited.  This hardship should be indicated to the consular officer at the time of the interview, in which case this may be passed along to the USCIS.  Or the applicant can later inform the USCIS office in Cd. Juarez or one of the referral offices.  Be sure to document any medical-based requests for expedited processing.  Except for the most egregious situations, however, the request to expedite will likely be denied given the availability of medical care in Cd. Juarez.  Active duty military personnel also qualify for expedited adjudication.  If this is brought to the attention of the consular official, it is possible that the case will be sent that same day to the USCIS for a decision on the waiver application.

Stateside Processing.  While there have been a lot of high-level discussions about ending the special Cd. Juarez waiver processing and moving all adjudication stateside, there is no official update to report at this time.