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Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against USCIS for Priority Date Scandal

952313_gavel.jpgVisitors to will likely remember our previous post on the wonderful news that came out of the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) just last month. In a press release, the DOS and USCIS revealed that the two agencies had worked together in order to allow potentially hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals to file their Form I-485 Applications to Adjust Status to Lawful Permanent Resident in advance of their priority dates becoming current.

Unfortunately, after hundreds of thousands of would-be applicants spent thousands of dollars in preparing to file their applications, the DOS and USCIS issued a new October 2015 visa bulletin with a dramatically retrogressed priority date, thereby crushing the hopes of foreign nationals who now are disqualified from filing their applications early.

In response to this action, many of the affected foreign nationals have joined together, and with the help of immigration attorneys, they have filed a class action lawsuit against both the DOS and USCIS.

Mehta vs. DOS

The lawsuit alleges that the sudden and surprising change to the October visa bulletin has violated the due process rights of the affected foreign nationals in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. The lawsuit urges the court to force the DOS and USCIS to accept all Form I-485 Applications that could have been filed pursuant to the original October visa bulletin. In lieu of this relief, the lawsuit requests that USCIS compensate the foreign nationals for their “reliance damages,” such as attorneys’ fees and application preparations costs.

The Reasoning Behind the Visa Bulletin Change

No one knows for sure why the DOS and USCIS decided to change the dates, since spokespeople from both agencies affirm that they will not comment on pending and ongoing litigation. However, it is the general belief that the agencies got wind of how many green card applicants were planning on taking advantage of the new dates, and top officials were concerned that their departments are simply not equipped to accept and process the sheer number of anticipated applications. Given this reason, it is hoped that if the class action does not succeed, the affected foreign nationals will still be able to submit their applications because the DOS and USCIS will continue to move the priority dates forward, but at a slower and more measured pace.

Additional Advocacy Efforts

Long-time immigration practitioners will likely remember that a similar controversy erupted in 2007, when the DOS made all priority dates current. Back then, many foreign nationals sent flowers to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and DOS officials with letters pleading that the Form I-485 Applications be accepted for processing. Recent reports have stated that foreign nationals are again sending flowers in the hopes that this crisis may be resolved in their favor.

The Rant

It was very disappointing to learn that the DOS and USCIS had issued a revised October visa bulletin. While it is heartening to know that a lawsuit has been filed, we continue to eagerly await a faster solution to this problem. Continue to check our blog for more information on the latest immigration developments.

Additional Blog Posts

The Possible Impact of Sequestration for Employers and Immigrant Workers, ImmigRantings, April 22, 2013
More States Expected to Exert Control Regarding Illegal Immigration Problems, ImmigRantings, August 3, 2013