Document Shredding: One Way to Reduce Paperwork Backlog at INS
March 28, 2003

If you or anyone you know may have submitted some sort of immigration related filing with the Laguna Niguel, California office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services) in the past year or two, the documents filed may have ended up in the paper shredder, and not by mistake. According to a federal indictment handed down in recent weeks, at least two officials working at the facility were responsible for ordering the shredding of up to 90,000 documents, including applications and supporting documentation for all types of immigration benefits, including family based visa petitions and political asylum, as well as actual Employment Authorization Documents, birth certificates and passports.

According to the indictment, the shredding activity took place between February and April 2002, and the individuals charged were not actual employees of the INS, but instead worked for JHM Research and Development of Maryland, a company hired by the INS to more efficiently receipt-in and perform initial processing on volumes of incoming immigration filings. The two individuals charged were assigned to the INS’ California Service Center, one of 4 regional service centers in the U.S. that processes a wide spectrum of immigration related filings for individuals residing in the western part of the U.S., most notably the entire state of California.

Apparently, the indicted officials ordered lower level employees to shred the documentation to create the appearance of success in attacking the workload and reducing the prevailing backlog – thereby creating a means to take credit for a job well done without actually doing any work. And once the backlog was reduced to zero, according to the charges, the officials kept in place their new procedures in order to maintain the seemingly wonderful status quo they had created.

The good news is that the scheme was an isolated incident – caught sooner rather later and the INS as well as the government contractor, JHM were cleared of any responsibility. And to the credit of the various government agencies involved in the investigation, including the INS Office of Internal Audit, the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for Southern California, relatively swift action was taken to identify the alleged culprits, institute their prosecution and of course implement improved security measures.

Individuals who believe their filing may have fallen victim to the paper shredder have been encouraged to contact a special hotline set up at the California Service Center to remedy the problem and reconstruct their file. 1-949-831-8427.

INS Processing Times in Chicago and Lincoln, Nebraska


For the most recent processing times, visit CIS ( INS ) Processing Times.

Nebraska Service Center, Lincoln, Nebraska

Form I-129 – Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker (which includes professionals/specialty occupation workers (H-1B visa, etc), intracompany transferees, executives or managers (L visa), treaty traders/investors (E visa), artists/performers (O, P visa), religious workers (R visas): 60 to 90 days. However, with the payment of an additional filing fee of $1,000.00, these petitions will undergo “premium processing” and adjudicated in 7 to 14 days

Form I-539 – Application to Extend/Change Non-Immigrant Status (most often filed by tourists/visitors, B-1/B-2, and dependents of principal H, L, E, O, P and R visa holders seeking to extend their stays): 90 to 120 days,.

Form I-140 – Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (most often, petitions for workers who have obtained labor certifications from the U.S. Department of Labor or precertified occupations such as for Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists): 90 to 120 days

Form I-130 – Petitions for out of country spouses or children (under 21) of U.S. citizens: 10 months

Petitions for all other relatives of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents: 360 to 440 days (although the “priority date accorded will be the actual filing date)

Form I-129F – Petition for out of country fiance of U.S. citzen: 5 to 6 months.

Form I-751 – Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (for alien spouses and children with conditional resident status, including joint filers and individuals seeking waivers): 10 months. NOTE: Where interviews for I-751 filers are deemed necessary by the INS – particularly in waiver filing cases, interviews at INS Chicago for this purpose are scheduled approximately 2 years from the date of filing.

Form I-360 – Petition for Amerasian, Widow/Widowers of U.S. Citizens and Special Immigrants (including immigrant religious workers): 6 months

Please note that I-360, Self Petition for Battered Spouses of U.S. Citizens are filed with the INS’ Vermont Service Center (regardless of location of residence) and processing time is approximately 60 to 120 days.

Form I-589 – Request for Asylum (for individuals not in deportation proceedings): interviews at INS Chicago Asylum Office are being scheduled approximately 30 days from the date of filing.

Form I-131 – Application for Travel Document (Advance Parole for Employment Based Adjustment of Status Applicants): 90-120 days

Form I-765 – Application for Employment Authorization Document (mainly for employment based adjustment of status applicants) : 60-90 days

INS – Chicago District Office

Form I-485 – Application for Adjustment of Status (for various individuals already in the U.S., seeking permanent residence – including qualifying alien spouses or parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents): interviews are being scheduled approximately 24 months from date of filing.

Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Document (mainly for family based adjustment of status applicants) : 90 days

Form I-131 – Application for Advance Parole Travel Document ((to facilitate reentry into the U.S. if emergency circumstances require travel outside the U.S. while adjustment application is pending with INS Chicago): 45 days

Form N-400 – Application for Naturalization (Citizenship): Interviews are being scheduled approximately 6 to 12 months from the date of filing with oath ceremonies scheduled for 1-3 months thereafter.

As to petitions or applications filed with Lincoln, Nebraska, the above processing times do not include the additional time an individual may face if he/she must appear at a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. to have their visa processed. It is also important to note that in exceptional/emergency cases (such as those involving children soon turning 21 years of age), carefully prepared requests for expedited processing are sometimes granted.

Finally, if an inordinate amount of time has passed without your particular filing being attended to, it is imperative that follow up inquiries be made with the office in question.

Copyright © 2003-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois