USCIS Blogs on AOS Myths Discussed in Online Forums25 May 2012
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) blog, known as the Beacon, recently posted information on what the USCIS characterizes as three myths regarding the adjustment-of-status (AOS or I-485) process. These three myths, and the USCIS clarifications, are discussed here for the benefit of MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers. Also covered are: the USCIS’s response on timeframes for processing a case following an interview, decision on a case after an interview, and the fact that there is no legal requirement for either spouse to change her/his surname after marriage.
USCIS and Public Immigration Forums
The USCIS appears to have culled the myths regarding I-485 processing and adjudications from online immigration forums. Reviewing common misunderstandings in this way can be helpful, as it provides the USCIS with the opportunity to identify and clarify misunderstandings that are widespread. This also should serve as a reminder to those who post in immigration forums, such as our own MurthyForum, that the information is public, available to be read by all, including the government. Forums should be used for sharing and obtaining helpful information and getting support during the often long and difficult immigration process. It is important to use this tool of publicly posting information wisely.
Myth # 1 – Specific Timeframe After Interview for Decision
It was discovered that some people believe there is a set legal timeframe for the USCIS to make a decision on an I-485 following an in-person interview. Apparently, some believe that such decisions must be made in 180 days. The USCIS explains that there is no set legal timeframe for these decisions. There is a set timeframe of 120 days for citizenship cases after the interview. According to the USCIS, the goal is to adjudicate I-485 cases within four months of any interview.
Only a small percentage of employment-based (EB) I-485s undergo in-person interviews at USCIS offices. Most I-485 interviews involve family-based (FB) cases. While the USCIS does not have a set timeframe for making decisions in I-485 cases following an interview, if there is an extended delay that is not attributable to a lack of visa numbers, it is possible to take action against the USCIS in an attempt to obtain a court order mandating a decision. This is possible even without a set limit of time for adjudication, as there are more generalized requirements for government decisions to be made within a period that is reasonable.
Myth # 2 – On-the-Spot Decisions at Interview
A related misunderstanding of the adjustment interview process that was explained by the USCIS is that an applicant can expect to receive a decision in the I-485 case at the interview. The USCIS explains that the officer sometimes requests additional documentation or otherwise needs more time to review the case. Sometimes, there is no visa number available at the time of the interview. In other cases, further background checks may be needed.
In our experience, there are certainly cases in which favorable decisions are made at the interview. The fact that no such decision is made, however, does not necessarily mean that there will be bad news. As mentioned, it might be necessary to provide some additional documentation to establish eligibility or security checks to complete. There may be certain complex or sensitive matters for a supervisor to review prior to a decision. Sometimes particular officers can recommend action, but, for any number of reasons, final decisions must be reviewed by a supervisor.
Myth # 3 – Requirement for Change in Last Name After Marriage
The USCIS clarified that, in marriage-based immigration cases, there is no requirement for the woman to take her husband’s last name. A married woman may adopt her husband’s surname or keep her birth-given name. She may also choose to hyphenate or use other such variations. It is noted that the husband could take his wife’s name or make other name variations, including hyphenation.
In marriage-based immigration cases, it is necessary to establish that the marriage is bona fide. The use of a married name is one form of such proof, establishing that the couple holds themselves out as married. However, as confirmed by the USCIS, there is no mandate for a woman or man change her/his last name. These are matters of personal preference and cultural norms. Couples can exercise these preferences as they choose, and utilize other forms of proof to establish that their marriages were entered into for bona fide purposes, and not solely for obtaining immigration benefits.
The USCIS blog is quite helpful with regard to these common misunderstandings. We remind MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers who use online forums to gather information that they should not be regarded as one’s sole or definitive source of immigration advice. Many such forums are not monitored and are simply unfiltered information from the public. The attorneys at the Murthy Law Firm often respond to questions posted on the MurthyForum, providing useful, up-to-date, and accurate information. However, even this information is not case-specific legal advice. Individuals with detailed, specific questions about their situations should seek the advice of qualified attorneys, rather than relying solely on input from the public.
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