Murthy Success: FOIA Request Establishes Green Card Validity27 Jul 2012
A successful immigration case is usually thought of as one that results in some type of approval of a request for immigration benefit. There are other types of filings that sometimes may bring the desired result. This report of a case handled by the Murthy Law Firm describes our resolution of a client’s uncertainties surrounding his immigration status by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. We appreciate the generosity of our client in this matter, who is allowing us to share his experience with MurthyDotCom readers. The Murthy Law Firm holds the information of all of our clients in strict confidence. Information on a case or client is never shared without explicit, written permission.
Unexpected Green Card Approval Appears to be an Error
Prior to becoming a client of our firm, the individual in this case received an approval of his I-485 application in 2011. His case had a complex history and he had all but given up by the time the permanent residence (green card) was approved. It was difficult to determine how the I-485 had been approved. He did not want to hold an improperly approved status, and therefore turned to the Murthy Law Firm for assistance. The confusion stemmed from the fact that the individual in this case had two I-140 employer petition approvals, each from a different employer. One approval was in the employment-based, second preference category (EB2); the other was in employment-based, third preference (EB3). At the time of the green card approval, neither of the priority dates assigned to the approved I-140s was current in the designated employment-based categories.
The case began as a concurrently-filed I-140/I-485. The initial I-140 on which the I-485 was based had been denied years earlier. No effort was made to follow up with a request for I-485 approval on an alternative basis. The information in the approval notice, regarding the priority date and EB category, only added to the confusion, as it did not match either of the I-140 approvals.
Murthy Law Firm Filed FOIA Request to Obtain File
Murthy Law Firm attorneys advised our client that the answers in this case should be in his immigration A-file. The documentation would be available by filing a FOIA request. This file contains the applications and petitions filed by and for an individual, which are annotated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during the adjudications process. The file also includes internal USCIS documents generated during case processing. Thus, based on our client’s request for clarification, we suggested filing a FOIA request with the USCIS, asking for a copy of the individual’s file, including all worksheets and computerized records. As we surmised, the answers in this case were available within the several hundred of pages of our client’s record, which was returned in response to our FOIA request.
Intricacies in the I-485 Adjustment Applicant’s FOIA File
Our client’s file included an annotated I-485 application, an internal worksheet, and proof of the allocation of an EB2 visa number. These documents made it clear that the USCIS took two important steps on its own initiative, which led to the case approval. The documentation of these actions was available solely in the internal USCIS documents produced under FOIA.
From the FOIA documents, we were able to determine that the USCIS had (a) reassigned an older priority date from one I-140 approval to the other and (b) interfiled the EB2 I-140 approval into our client’s still pending I-485 application. The FOIA effectively solved the puzzle of the interconnections between all of the filings for our client and verified that his green card was properly approved.
FOIA: Its Purpose and Complexity
In some situations, FOIA requests may help prove the validity of a filing. Each government agency has specific requirements for FOIA requests. When filing a FOIA application it is usually important to formulate the request carefully to obtain the desired information and records without undue delay. Many FOIA requests are fairly simple, routine and non-confrontational. However, there is a complex body of law behind such requests. In appropriate cases involving government delay or refusal to release certain information, it can be possible to compel the release of requested records by filing a lawsuit in federal court. We at the Murthy Law Firm have extensive experience with the FOIA process and can provide legal advice on nuances regarding the filing of FOIA requests and challenging inefficient or incomplete government responses, if necessary.
This success story of the Murthy Law Firm is just one of many situations that can benefit by thinking outside of the box to help a client. In this case, filing a FOIA request and reviewing a copy of the I-485 immigration file had a positive result. A FOIA request generally can be filed with any government agency, including the USCIS, CBP, ICE, and DOS. The documents and records may help to reveal specific information unknown to the applicant or the petitioner, and may also help retrieve documents that have been lost or were never received. As mentioned, included among the available documents are certain internal government records and notations made during the adjudications process. These helped to solve the mystery in this case, and provided peace of mind to our client when he learned he, in fact, could rely on the I-485 approval and his green card.
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