Decisions Halted on Applications for U.S. Permanent Residence and Citizenship
December 13, 2002

A new security initiative put in place by the INS in the past 2 weeks has led to a halt in the issuance of final decisions on applications for adjustment of status (permanent residence) and U.S. citizenship. This initiative impacts only applications pending in the U.S., such as at local INS District Offices like Chicago’s, and does not have a direct effect on overseas consular processing of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.

Q: Why has this initiative been put in place?

A: Security. The initiative stems from a November 13, 2003 INS Headquarters memo to all INS field offices forbidding the issuance of immigration benefits, such as U.S. citizenship or permanent residence, without an affirmative FBI response to an INS security clearance request – a request that is made during the course of processing of all such applications. This security procedure is in addition to the fingerprinting process that focuses only on arrest information contained in a national criminal activity databank
that integrates records from all federal, state and local governmental agencies and law enforcement authorities.

In the past, when no FBI security clearance was received, the INS presumed that no adverse information existed and decided applications for immigration benefits accordingly. Now, however, no decisions to grant U.S. permanent residence or citizenship can be issued until the FBI affirmatively gives the go ahead.

Q: What type of delays can be expected?

A: According to the INS memo, troubleshooting work continues to be performed on the computer system mechanism that facilitates the registration and matching up of FBI responses with applicant files. Hopefully, it will be a matter of only weeks, rather than months, years or decades, before the mechanism is up and working and decision making resumes.

Lastly, it is important to note that the decisions on applications for advance parole (for international travel while adjustment of status applications are pending) and employment authorization continue as normal, and are not be affected by this directive.

More on the Department of Homeland Security

As reported in my previous column, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service will be gradually phased out of existence, and in its place various sub-agencies within the Department of Homeland Security will assume roles previously within the INS’ jurisdiction. Included in the Department of Homeland Security, are new sub agencies such as:

The Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: charged with carrying out most of what were previously the INS’ enforcement functions, such as Border Patrol, detention and removal (deportation), intelligence gathering and investigations, as well as the establishment of national immigration enforcement policies and rules to govern the entry of foreign nationals into the U.S.

Bureau of Border Security: a sub agency within the Directorate of Border and Transportation Security that will attend to the establishment of policies and procedures for the enforcement of immigration laws, including the administration of programs that monitors foreign student and exchange program participant compliance with the terms of their stay and applicable immigration provisions.

Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services: will carry out decision making functions for all immigration benefits filings, including all family and employment based petitions as well as asylum and refugee applications.

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