Court Orders USCIS to Adjudicate Long-Delayed Citizenship Applications20 Nov 2009
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on November 9, 2009, the settlement of a class action lawsuit filed in 2007. The press release on this settlement regarding hundreds of delayed N-400 naturalization applications is available online (PDF 84KB). The Murthy Law Firm was not involved in this lawsuit. This summary is provided to our readers to illustrate developments in the process of obtaining U.S. citizenship by naturalization.
Background: FBI Checks Lead to Long Delays
As regular readers of MurthyDotCom and the MurthyBulletin may recall from our September 26, 2008 NewsBrief, Reduction in FBI Security Delay Cases, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) have recognized that the slowness of their background and name checks have seriously delayed the processing of immigration cases, including N-400 citizenship cases. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit were individuals whose naturalization cases were greatly delayed, due to chronic problems with the processing of FBI background checks. The delays often spanned years, as the USCIS awaited FBI feedback.
Hundreds of California Residents Could Become U.S. Citizens
According to the press release cited above, the USCIS has agreed to adjudicate hundreds of delayed naturalization petitions filed by individuals living in the Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and San Bernardino areas. These must be adjudicated within six months. The settlement agreement also requires DHS to provide ongoing reports on the processing times of N-400 naturalization cases to the groups involved in this lawsuit, so that future delays may be noted and reported early.
Class Action Lawsuit Filed in 2007
The National Immigration Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center filed the class action lawsuit against the USCIS and FBI in 2007. This resulted in Federal Court supervision of the FBI’s processing of name checks for thousands of people who essentially had been lost in the bureaucracy. The plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit provided proof of how the delays in their naturalization cases affected their families, their jobs, and their ability to lead normal lives.
Improvement in Naturalization Processing Times
Since the events that led to the filing of the class action lawsuit, there has been significant improvement in naturalization processing times. This is due in part to such lawsuits and other actions aimed at addressing the delays. These results are being seen nationwide, as naturalization cases are being processed often within the stated goal of six months. At a recent American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) meeting with officials from the USCIS Baltimore, MD office, attended by most of the attorneys from the Murthy Law Firm, we verified that Baltimore is moving quickly on naturalization cases. That office reported that they have had some cases set for interview before the individual is even eligible to naturalize. This happens because cases can be filed 90 days in advance of the (three- or five-year) eligibility for naturalization. If the interview is set faster than 90 days, it is too soon to grant approval.
This is a remarkable turnaround. Individuals who currently are eligible for naturalization may wish to consider taking advantage of these faster processing times. While it appears that the name-check delays have been addressed, to a large degree, there is no guarantee that the overall processing will continue to be as fast as we are seeing at this time.
The resolution of the background check delays, as well as the overall case processing backlog in naturalization cases is a welcome relief. This opens avenues for individuals who need to become U.S. citizens for employment purposes, as well as for those foreign nations who wish to petition for immigration benefits for eligible family members. It is also in keeping with the overall efforts of the USCIS to facilitate U.S. citizenship for eligible foreign nationals.