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USCIS Proposes New Requirements to Make Congressional Assistance More Difficult

A recently released December 18, 2017 e-mail from a high-ranking USCIS official (Ronald Atkinson, acting chief of USCIS' Legislative Affairs Office) indicates that there will soon be new requirements from congressional offices making inquiries on the status of pending cases for constituents. The change would create a need for additional forms, as well as original signatures, notarizations and certified translations – often major additional hurdles to those seeking congressional assistance.

Local, in-district congressional offices frequently inquire on behalf of constituents – often US citizen relatives or American companies – who have filed petitions or applications with USCIS, and there is a designated office within USCIS to handle congressional inquiries. While this has never been a means of changing a USCIS determination of law or fact, such inquiries are often helpful for “stuck” cases - those long past standard processing times where individual or attorney intervention hasn’t been able to obtain a result.

Currently, individuals seeking such help must sign an authorization form which the congressional office supplies in order to give permission for USCIS to share otherwise confidential information with the inquiring congressional staff.

The new rules would require that the authorization form contain a handwritten and notarized signature or signature made under penalty of perjury by the subject of the records, even if outside the US. (digital signatures will no longer be acceptable); names only the designates congressional office as the authorized recipient of the information; includes a full translation of any non-English text as well as a “certified translation” (a translator's certification of competence to translate from the specific a foreign language in question into English).

Further, for each subsequent inquiry submitted more than 30 days after an answer was provides to a previous inquiry and that inquiry closed, a new authorization form with current dates will be required. So, USCIS’ own further delay will now require additional work from the constituent and congressional office.

The administration is cloaking this action in a claim of ensuring protection of the petitioner’s privacy – something which really hasn’t been at all problematic under the current system where authorization forms are already required (but accepted with scanned signature and without notarization or certified translation).