Foreign nationals applying for a green card or another immigration benefit often seek help from their Members of Congress (MOCs) in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives when USCIS, the federal agency responsible for processing immigration applications, is not responsive. MOCs hold their office by the vote of their citizen constituents. When constituents – even those who are noncitizens – get stuck in backlogs, an MOC’s office can serve as a critical intermediary between the individual and the government agency that is processing the application. After being contacted by a constituent (meaning someone residing in their district) the MOC can make a Congressional Inquiry on behalf of the foreign national as to the status of the pending case with USCIS.
USCIS officers often respond much more quickly when they get a call from the a Member of Congress. A Congressional Inquiry could be effective in the following circumstances:
- An immigration case is taking longer than normal processing times to be adjudicated, or seems to have disappeared into a black hole.
- Your application is stuck between one of the USCIS service centers and a USCIS local field office, and neither office is able to locate the file when you use the normal customer service channels to contact them.
- You have an urgent need to travel and need your travel document expedited.
- You are a diversity visa lottery winner and need your adjustment of status application processed before the fiscal year ends on September 30th.
To start the process of getting a congressional inquiry on your behalf, you may call or write a personalized letter to your MOC, briefly explaining your case details and asking for their help to inquire about your case status. You may want to enclose a copy of your application receipt notice. Many Members of Congress also have contact forms on their website, so you can also visit your MOC’s website to see if it has a mechanism to submit your initial request. The MOC’s office should notify you once the inquiry has been made. You should then hear from the MOC’s office with any information they receive in response to the inquiry, or in some cases, directly from USCIS.
Our office recently had a diversity visa lottery winner contact their MOC. The day after the MOC contacted USCIS, our client was contacted by an immigration officer to schedule the interview, and the green card was approved a week later. As this example demonstrates, it can be very effective to contact your MOC to get your case moving.
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