USCIS Responds to Liaison Questions Regarding H1B, I-551 and N-400

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) responded to questions regarding green card renewals, expediting N-400 applications, and I-551 (temporary evidence of permanent resident status) stamps during the April 2008 National Stakeholder Meeting. Clarification on these matters is provided here for the benefit of MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers.

Expediting N-400 Cases for Applicants Losing SSI Benefits

Questions were raised regarding current procedures for expediting N-400 cases in which applicants are in danger of losing, or have lost, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The USCIS stated that it is reviewing its internal protocols and procedures to ensure that information sent in response to such expedite requests for SSI benefits is correct and that such requests are acted upon promptly and efficiently.

Renewal of Expiring Green Cards by Naturalization Applicants

It was reported that at least one USCIS field office has not followed established USCIS policy that a person who has filed an N-400 application, at least 6 months before his/her plastic green card is due to expire, does not need to renew the I-551 card (“green card”). The USCIS confirmed that its policy has not changed and that individuals who have filed for naturalization, and whose green cards are expiring, may receive I-551 stamps in their passports allowing them to travel and not have to file Form I-90 with the filing fees. This can be a significant savings for some individuals who otherwise would have to pay the required filing fee for the I-90 form for the I-551 renewal. Long-time readers of MurthyDotCom and the MurthyBulletin may recall a discussion of I-551 stamps in our October 29, 2004 article, USCIS Confirms Use of I-551 Stamps.

Restricted Issuance of I-551 Stamps

The USCIS stated that, due to the inherent lack of security surrounding a stamp in one’s passport, USCIS local offices have restricted the number of I-551 stamps being issued. Instead of issuing the stamps routinely, each USCIS office has some I-551 stamping equipment available and the stamps are to be used for only highly urgent and/or emergent situations. The USCIS reaffirmed that individuals with expired green cards and proof of pending N-400s, who need to travel outside of the U.S., will remain eligible to receive an I-551 stamp.

CSC Liaison on H1B Processing

The California Service Center (CSC) addressed concerns regarding H1B petition processing and J-1 waiver processing times during its April 30, 2008 meeting. Concerns were raised that the CSC’s standard processing times for non-cap H1B cases would increase due to the large volume of H1B cap cases filed at the CSC during the first week of April 2008. The CSC responded that it expects to maintain its published timeframe for processing non-cap H1B petitions.

CSC Continues to Require 212(e) Approval before H1B Filing Accepted

The CSC was asked to adopt a policy by which H1B petitions filed for J-1 physicians may be filed and processed before issuance of an approval notice for a waiver of the J-1 two-year home return requirement. The CSC reaffirmed its position that a 212(e) waiver must be approved in order to submit a request for a change of status.


We at the Murthy Law Firm appreciate the effort the USCIS has made in advising foreign nationals and immigration law practitioners of these changes. The issuance of I-551 stamps, and the processing of N-400 applications, and of H1B petitions at the California Service Center are important matters, affecting many who are going through different stages of immigration at this time.

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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.