Victoria Chen, lawyer at the North America Immigration Law Group, has recently posted a message on her LinkedIn account voicing something that many have thought about. She brings the attention to the recent influx of new USCIS officers and how they may be behind some of the common mistakes observed in the adjudication of EB2 NIW cases. In this article we break down Chen’s message to the immigration community.
Who is Victoria Chen?
Victoria Chen is a partner at the North America Immigration Law Group. In fact many of you may know this popular law firm as simply “Chen”, because of her last name. The firm operates in the internet under the domain “WeGreened.com” and is one of the most prominent law offices in the EB-2 NIW and EB-1A space. They specialize on academic profiles such as professors, researchers, post-docs, and the likes. Basically, candidates with a good peer-review publication and citation record. This specialization is not uncommon for immigration attorneys.
The message from Chen in LinkedIn
Ms. Chen published a post on her LinkedIn profile to draw attention to the challenges emerging from inconsistencies in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes. She recognizes that the immigration process in the U.S. is widely known as convoluted and time-consuming, even with legal assistance. However, the recent influx of new officers stepping into adjudication roles has introduced unexpected inconsistencies into the decision-making process.
The recent hiring of new officers at USCIS
Chen is right in her premise that there is an influx of new officers. That is something that is publicly known. In fact, in December 2022 USCIS published the Progress Report for Fiscal Year 2022 and we could already see how the numbers of employees at the immigration agency were coming back up, after a period of steep decline due to COVID and the financial restraint imposed on this part of the government. While this influx of officers is essential for addressing backlog issues, it also raises concerns about consistency and quality of decision-making. In the graph below from said report, the solid blue line shows the number of immigration officers in USCIS. You can see how the number started reverting the downtrend in late 2021.
Issues that may be due to the inexperienced workforce
The popular lawyer described three types of issues that in her opinion are attributable to this influx of new officers in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.
- Misapplication of Standards: Officers sometimes apply criteria from different immigration categories to National Interest Waiver (NIW) petitions, deviating from established protocols and complicating the process further.
- Confusing Educational and Professional Criteria: Some officers seem to conflate the requirements for Advanced Degree and Exceptional Ability, requesting evidence for both even when only one is necessary, leading to unnecessary confusion. I have personally observed this in some recent Request for Evidence letters.
- Geographical Bias and Job Offer Misconceptions: There appears to be a bias against applicants residing outside the U.S. without a formal job offer, which is misaligned with the essence of NIW. This misconception can lead to unjust denials.
The solution: better guidelines and training
Chen’s insights underscore the importance of providing new officers with comprehensive training and clear guidelines. It’s crucial for USCIS to ensure that these officers are adequately prepared to make informed and consistent decisions that align with the immigration laws and regulations.
The surge in RFEs and inconsistencies in USCIS decision-making processes can be attributed to the rapid influx of new officers. Understanding these challenges is essential for those seeking to secure permanent residency in the United States. While legal assistance remains an option, self-petitioning is feasible with the right knowledge and resources. To navigate the Green Card process successfully, thorough research and preparation are key. Join my EB2 NIW course if you want to better prepare yourself and learn how to craft a solid petition.
You can read this article in Spanish
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