CIS to “Move Up” Adjustment of Status (I-485) and Naturalization (N400) Applications for Immigrants Who Stand to Lose SSI Benefits
Published June 7, 2008
Each year, thousands of disabled and elderly immigrants (permanent residents), refugees and asylees lose their right to federal Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI), due to a regulation restricting collection of these benefits to a seven-year timeframe. Without U.S. citizenship or status as a legal permanent resident (in cases where the immigrant can prove a qualifying ten-year work history), there is no way to continue receiving SSI benefits after the seven years are up. Because many Adjustment of Status and Naturalization applications require more than seven years to process, SSI beneficiaries frequently lose government assistance before their CIS applications are approved. A class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of nearly 60,000 immigrants whose SSI benefits had run out or were coming up on their seven-year maximum, reached a settlement with the Department of Homeland Security this March. The Department agreed to expedite all I-485 and N400 applications for current or former SSI beneficiaries. That is, any applicant whose SSI benefits may have run out or are at risk of running out due to the seven-year rule will be prioritized or “moved up” in line for processing (performing security checks, scheduling appointments where required, etc).
Effective March 5, 2008 through February 5, 2011, CIS will be working with the Social Security Administration to identify qualifying individuals and make certain these applicants receive priority. Alternatively, eligible immigrants whose applications have been pending at least six months may contact CIS – by calling the National Customer Service Center (1-800-375-5283) , scheduling an in-person appointment (via infopass www.infopass.uscis.gov) , or mailing a written request to the CIS office reviewing the case – to request expedited processing.
Fee waivers are available to individuals who can demonstrate that they are not able to pay the required costs ($1,010 for the I-485 or $675 for the N400). Applicants are advised to update CIS with their most current address, and to follow up on their expediting requests after 90 days if they have not heard back.
Although the settlement does not make SSI benefits instantly available to I-485 or N400 applicants, nor does it ensure the definitive approval of status adjustment or citizenship applications, it does allow for speedier status determinations for thousands of individuals in need. For U.S. citizens, SSI benefits are available without time restrictions.
For more information on this settlement, visit Community of Legal Services of Philadelphia’s website – http://www.clsphila.org/
PUBLISHED June 7, 2008 – “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM”
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