Community Relations Seminar Featuring U.S.C.I.S. Associate Director
for Domestic Operations Discusses Many Topics of Interest
By Alan Lee, Esq.†‡
Michael Aytes, the Associate Director for U.S.C.I.S. Domestic Operations
since February 2006, was invited as the featured speaker at the
Community Relations Seminar at the New York City district office
of U.S.C.I.S. on February 29, 2008. Mr. Aytes is responsible for
the management and oversight of U.S.C.I.S. operations within the
United States and its territories, as well as associated policy
management. His host was the District Director of the New York District,
Andrea Quarantillo, who assumed the responsibilities of District
Director in November 2006 and manages a staff of 500. The topics
discussed on that day by both of them with input from New York District
supervisors and section chiefs and questions from members of the
public was enlightening on issues having both national and New York
Mr. Aytes stated that U.S.C.I.S. had received 1.4 million naturalization
applications in 2007, twice the normal amount. 460,000 applications
were received in July 2007, where the typical number of applications
is 60,000 per month. He emphasized the importance of attending an
interview by stating that if someone does not show for an interview,
someone else loses. On procedures, applicants should be prepared
for surprises including naturalization interviews being scheduled
for Saturdays, evenings, or in other locations. The goal is to drop
the time for naturalization to five months by 2010.
Ms. Quarantillo stated that New York City is not planning to schedule
interviews on Saturdays or evenings and that if the District went
to extraordinary measures, it would reach out to the religious communities
for the holidays. She also noted that the New York District is interviewing
naturalization applicants for June and July cases at present, but
may be there for a long time.
2 Use of old fingerprints
U.S.C.I.S. has come under criticism for making applicants for benefits
retake fingerprints under its policy that fingerprints are only
good for 15 months since fingerprints do not change over time. Mr.
Aytes said that long-term, the U.S.C.I.S. would use the old prints,
but that now there is no capability if the fingerprint checks expire.
3 Filing I-90 applications when filing for naturalization
In the past, the standard advice by U.S.C.I.S. has been that if
the green card still has six months validity by the time that a
naturalization application is filed, applicants do not have to file
I-90 applications to replace the permanent residence cards. We have
generally given that advice and naturalization applicants whose
cases extend past the expiration date of their cards could usually
obtain temporary stamps of permanent residence at the local district
offices of U.S.C.I.S. We were therefore surprised by Mr. Aytes suggesting
that applicants should file for a replacement card and that the
law requires that aliens have a valid card with them. He said that
it was a risk not to have one, especially if the permanent resident
needed to travel in the meantime. He cautioned that applicants should
not wait for an emergency.
Ms. Quarantillo did note that the New York District could handle
persons needing to travel through the Information Unit and could
give a temporary stamp of permanent residence.
4 Advance parole and the 3/10 year bars
Mr. Aytes was asked by an audience member why U.S.C.I.S. would
grant advance paroles to those individuals who were illegally in
the United States, and upon their taking the advance parole and
traveling outside the U.S., find themselves under the 3 or 10 year
bar (for most) for staying in the U.S. illegally for 180 days or
one year after April 1, 1997 respectively. He stated that U.S.C.I.S.
would not pre-adjudicate the cases and would grant the advance paroles
- that applicants had to make their own informed decisions. I asked
Mr. Aytes a follow-up question of whether he would consider an exemption
to those who received advance parole papers which did not have a
warning legend on them (as was the case with advance parole papers
for a considerable number of years after 1997). To that, he replied
that the policy would remain the same and did not attach much importance
to the presence of a warning legend.
5 I-130 revocation cases
Mr. Aytes was asked to respond to the slowness with which I-130
family based cases which are shipped back to U.S.C.I.S. for revocation
purposes are being handled. He admitted that work needed to be done
with the inventory control and the production processes, and that
U.S.C.I.S. is looking at what the right solution should be.
6 Humanitarian reinstatement cases
These are cases in which the petitioner passes away following the
I-130 petition approval and are eligible for humanitarian reinstatement
under the Family Sponsor Immigration Act of 2002. Mr. Aytes promised
that U.S.C.I.S. would look into the situation upon complaint that
no receipt numbers are given and it was very difficult to know what
was going on with the cases.
7 Child Status Protection Act
Under the CSPA, children who are not allowed to immigrate with
their parents because they cannot qualify as children under the
age of 21 even under the counting rules of the CSPA are allowed
to take the priority date of their parent's case when they later
attempt to immigrate under the "appropriate category".
In current practice, the old priority date is requested when the
parent immigrates and sponsors the aged out children under a new
I-130 petition. To my observation that U.S.C.I.S. appeared to be
holding most of these petitions without adjudication and had recently
approved one of my cases giving only the new priority date as of
the date of I-130 filing and not the old priority date, Mr. Aytes
invited me to send him the particulars of the case.
8 K-4 aliens over the age of 18 at the time of their parent's marriage
U.S. citizen stepparent
When a U.S. citizen marries a foreign national, he/she is allowed
to petition for that individual under K-3 non-immigrant visa status
instead of an immigrant visa if he/she wishes the person to come
to the U.S. faster. The alien's children under the age of 21 can
also come to the U.S. under K-4 classification. The difficulty is
with those children who were already 18 at the time of the marriage.
Under the law, no step-relationship is created with the U.S. citizen,
and so this class of individuals is not allowed to adjust status
to permanent residence under the present regulation with their natural
parent. Mr. Aytes had written a memorandum in 2007 stating new U.S.C.I.S.
policy that would allow children in similar situations in K-2 status
to adjust to permanent residence. (The child of a K-1 fiancée
is classified K-2. In a K-1 case, the parties are not yet married
and the K-1 is being petitioned as the fiancée of a U.S.
citizen). I asked Mr. Aytes whether he would consider allowing K-4s
in this situation to adjust status in the same manner that K-2s
are now allowed to do so under his recent memorandum. He said he
did not think that he could do it and that if he could have done
it, he would have. I also asked if he had had a chance to see the
correspondence which I had sent him previously on the subject. He
said he had not seen it and I asked whether I could include them
in the papers I would be sending him. [Updating this after forwarding
the correspondence, I received a call from a policy officer in the
Domestic Operations Directorate of U.S.C.I.S. during which we discussed
the subject further and he hinted that U.S.C.I.S. would be taking
steps in the next months to afford relief to some members of this
These were some of more interesting topics brought up in the seminar
although there were many others such as the procedure to follow
for persons from Middle Eastern and other countries who did not
register as required under the NSEERS program; U.S.C.I.S. assistance
to paraplegics applying for naturalization; U and T visa processing
complaints; I-824 follow to join applications being handled locally
instead of the service centers; treatment of I-130 beneficiaries
in removal proceedings; I-360 religious cases and fraud; and the
handling of humanitarian parole cases, etc. The seminar was especially
informative given the frank address and responses of both Mr. Aytes
and Ms. Quarantillo.