By:  Richard Hanus, Esq.

March 19, 2023

Ask any user of the U.S. immigration system and they will tell you that there are not many things more frustrating than trying to obtain case status or general information by way of a call to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (CIS) 1-800 Customer Service line. The challenging user experience is made even worse when you seek to arrange an in-person appointment at a local US CIS Field Office – also known as INFOPASS appointment. This week, CIS announced implementation of a new policy to make life easier for U.S. permanent residents seeking proof of their status while awaiting resident card (Green Card) renewal or replacement, or naturalization application processing, by eliminating the need for an in person appearance at a CIS office in many instances.

Lawful permanent residents, also known as Green Card holders, will at some point face the need to renew their Green Card or as an alternative, apply to become a U.S. citizen via an N-400 Application for Naturalization.  Green Card renewal applicants, including two-year conditional permanent residents, are typically issued a receipt confirming extension of card validity for a period while their renewals are pending.   But what happens if a resident’s Green Card expires, along with any extension period noted on a filing receipt, or the resident loses their card, and he/she needs proof of status for employment or international travel?  In the old days, the Green Card holder would be required to arrange an in person INFOPASS appointment by way of a call to US CIS’ Customer Service line. Such a process, unfortunately, requires the applicant to be available for a return call from an immigration customer service agent at practically any hour of the day to confirm an assigned appointment date and time.

CIS’ new policy allows residents awaiting card renewal or replacement, or naturalization processing, to have an opportunity to have proof of continued status forwarded to them via express mail, by calling CIS customer service (1 800 375-5283) and confirming identity and other details.   CIS will then facilitate delivery of proof of status in the form of an I-94 immigration document with an Alien Documentation, Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) stamp (also known as an I-551 stamp) affixed. The document will also include the applicant’s photo, assuming a recent one is already in the CIS system and can be accessed.   The ADIT stamp validity can be issued for a period of up to one year.

Circumstances will arise, however, where the call to US CIS Customer Service will still lead to the scheduling of an in person INFOPASS appointment, if an ADIT stamped I-94 cannot be issued due to system limitations or case specific reasons.

The assumption is that CIS will complete the process at issue within the extended ADIT stamped validity period, but of course there will always be isolated cases where CIS will need more time, and perhaps an additional call to Customer Service, or even an INFOPASS appointment, is necessary.    In the meantime, I get the sense that the return to the old days when a more accessible and convenient in-person customer service experience was available are not coming back any time soon.

PUBLISHED March 19, 2023 – “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2023, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois