USCIS has been implementing new filing procedures for many petitions and applications filed at USCIS Service Centers. Instead of filing applications directly with the USCIS Service Centers (Vermont, Texas, Nebraska, or California), USCIS now requires many applications to be sent to a designated “lockbox” facility run by contractors, rather than USCIS. This has caused significant delays in receiving Forms I-797C, more commonly known as receipt notices.
USCIS lockboxes have received 4.3 million cases since October 2009. USCIS already has transitioned to using Lockboxes for many applications, including Form I-130 (Immigrant Petition for Relative), Form I-131 (Application for Travel Documents), Form I-485 (Application for Permanent Residence), Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization), Form I-824 (Application for Action on Approved Petition), and Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization). USCIS also has stated that it plans to transition to the Lockbox facilities for Forms I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) and Form I-526 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Investor). Therefore, applicants should expect delays in receiving Forms I-797C for these applications.
When the lockbox receives the application, it conducts an initial review of the application for completeness and processes the filing fees. There are three case resolution officers at each of the Lockbox sites. They review cases that are automatically rejected by system to see if there can be a resolution. The process should take about 24-48 hours between receiving package and forwarding to Service Center, but USCIS has acknowledged it is not always reaching this target timeframe. Klasko has experienced significant delays in receiving receipt notices for applications filed with a lockbox facility, which can now take as long as 4-6 weeks to receive.
The rejection rate for applications is approximately 10%. Rejected applications are sent back to the attorney of record if Form G-28 is filed. If there is no attorney involved, the application is returned directly to the applicant. Applications missing signatures, required data, or fees are the three most common reasons for rejection. Rejected packages are sent back to the applicant via Standard Mail, which can take 15 days or longer, so it is important that applications are filed correctly to minimize any delays.
USCIS has established a centralized Lockbox Support email address for filing issues that arise. If a problem is encountered, an applicant may send an inquiry on each problem case to firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate the tracking information (tracking number, courier company, who signed for the packet, and date of arrival) for any packet submitted via courier or USPS, which has proof of delivery. Applicants and attorneys should give Lockbox Support up to five days to respond to the email before following up. USCIS has stated that its goal for responses to inquiry emails is two days.
For further information, contact your Klasko Law attorney.