The 3 Worst Mistakes Made by the Immigration Service (and how to fix them)

As a rule, I believe that the people at Immigration try their best. Most of them are reasonable and well-intentioned. Many years ago, I heard one Director say, “People need to remember what the word ‘Service’ means. We serve the public.

That said, our immigration system isn’t perfect. There are common mistakes that we see happen all the time, and that can stop you from getting a green card, or create years of hassle at airports or border crossings, even if you did everything else right! When even a simple misfiling of a change of address can lead to deportation, you can imagine that a system as complex as our immigration system would have room for other common errors.

These are The 3 Worst Mistakes Made by the Immigration Service and How to Correct Them.

They happen again and again:

  1. Data in the federal computer system is not updated, reflecting improper information. Examples here include a failure to input an arrest in the database with a notation that an immigrant was cleared of wrongdoing.  The result – a citizenship applicant’s case may be held up. Another common issue we see is when a green card holder repeatedly gets stopped at an airport, despite having been granted relief by an Immigration Judge, years ago.  These types of problems could be fixed in a few minutes’ time, spent properly updating facts on a person. Often a file folder has to be routed to an officer to take care of these situations. An experienced immigration attorney’s assistance is invaluable here, to make sure that the facts of the case do actually get updated.
  2. Misinterpretations of immigration law by adjudicators, culminating in a denial of case. Yes, one may generally appeal such decisions. However, appeals take time, sometimes years, to be decided.  Plus there’s no guarantee that the denial will be reversed. Immigration law is incredibly complex and changes every year, and sometimes month to month. A highly skilled immigration lawyer– with a team ready to research the law and disprove mistakes made by the Immigration Service – will frequently turn a loss into a win.
  3. Misinformation given by the National Customer Service Center, resulting in immigrants relying on these “answers” to their questions, despite the mistakes.  Of course, there are two sides to every story, but I have heard these reports many times. For example, this week a gentleman told me that Immigration told him that a sibling petition would take two to three years to be completed, and he would have his green card through his brother. I asked this fellow many questions to be certain that he did not misunderstand the Service Center. His English was perfect. He has been in the US in Temporary Protected Status for a dozen or more years. I then explained that he would realistically need to wait well over a decade, for a green card filed by his sibling. Even if you feel you got a satisfactory “answer” from USCIS National customer service, it pays to get a professional opinion from a top immigration attorney, as often the person staffing the customer center has less years working in immigration than a good attorney, and just isn’t as knowledgable. 
  • As I stated above, for the most part Immigration does its best.
  • These mistakes made by the Immigration Service appear unintentional.
  • But the laws are so complicated.
  • And the regulations change constantly, with small modifications that most people do not notice, including the government workers.

Only truly superior immigration lawyers – who spend time every day keeping up with the latest court decisions and regulatory modifications – can be counted upon to spot and rectify administrative and human errors that commonly happen during the green card or visa process.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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