USCIS Begins Bi-Specialization April 1, 2006

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a significant change in filing procedures. The March 24, 2006 announcement advised that, effective from April 1, 2006, all I-129 Petitions should be filed with the Vermont Service Center (VSC) and all I-140 Petitions should be filed with the Nebraska Service Center (NSC). The I-129 petitions are for nonimmigrant, employment-based categories, such as H, L, O, P, E, and TN. The I-140s are employer petitions for immigrant workers, used in most employment-based green card cases.

This announcement rolls out phase one of what the USCIS is referring to as “bi-specialization.” Under the bi-specialization plan, only the VSC and the California Service Center (CSC) will adjudicate I-129 petitions, while only the NSC and the Texas Service Center (TSC) will adjudicate I-140 petitions and those I-485 adjustment of status applications related to I-140s under their jurisdiction. It is likely that other immigration benefit processes will be similarly paired in the future. The prospect of bi-specialization was reported in our March 10, 2006 NewsFlash, Vermont Service Center : February 2006 Update, posted on MurthyDotCom March 27, 2006.

Filing in the Wrong Location

Temporarily, the USCIS will forward a petition to the correct service center, if it is filed at an incorrect location, rather than reject the package. Filers should make every effort, however, to file correctly to avoid delays and the risk that the package may be returned erroneously, or not assigned the original filing date. This transition period will end at some point, so it is best to change one’s procedures immediately, so that all packages are filed to be received at the appropriate service center as of April 1, 2006.

Receipt Notices Indicating Case Being Transferred

Though I-129s will be filed through the VSC and I-140 petitions will be filed through the NSC, the USCIS will be sending some of these filings to the other two service centers. The service centers are being paired for adjudications purposes. The VSC is paired with the CSC, and the NSC is paired with the TSC. This means, for example, that one who files an I-129 petition with the VSC may be sent a VSC or CSC receipt notice. The service center that issues the receipt notice will be processing the petition. So far about 15,000 petitions have been transferred between service centers in preparation for this program, so one should not be surprised or alarmed by receiving a transfer notice.

File Related Applications Together

I-539 Applications to change / extend status for dependents of those filing I-129 petitions should be sent to the VSC together with the I-129 petitions. Similarly, if an I-140 beneficiary is eligible and chooses to file the I-485 application for adjustment of status with the I-140 petition, the I-485, and the applications for Employment Authorization Document and Advance Parole (I-765 and I-131) should all be filed together with the I-140 petition to the NSC. The same holds true of any dependent family member I-485s, I-765s, and I-131s. Persons filing I-765s and I-131s after the initial filing should send those applications to the service center that generated the receipt notice for the initial I-485 filing.

Separate Filing Required for Certain Nonimmigrant Dependants

There are two rules for an E, H, L, O, P, R, and TD dependent who does not file the I-539 application at the same time the I-129 petition for the primary is filed. If the I-129 petition for a primary beneficiary is still pending, the I-539 application should be sent to the service center where the I-129 petition is pending. If the I-129 petition has been approved, the I-539 application should be sent to the VSC. Rules for all other I-539 applications (e.g., persons filing to change to F student status or extend B visitor status) have not changed to date.

“Green Card” Cases

Similar rules apply when the I-485 adjustment application is filed separately from the I-140 petition. If an I-485 application is filed separately from the I-140 petition, but the I-140 petition remains pending, the I-485 application should be sent to the service center where the I-140 petition is pending. If the I-140 petition has already been approved, the I-485 application should be sent to the service center that approved, not receipted, the I-140 petition. Those who are eligible to file I-485 applications that are not based on I-140 petitions should continue to follow traditional filing instructions.


All of this streamlining should help the USCIS achieve its goal of processing all cases within the planned six-month timeframe. We at the Murthy Law Firm hope to see an improvement in quality of adjudications under these measures, as well as in the processing times. This would be welcomed by all those using the services of the USCIS.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.