|It was the Saturday before New Year’s Day 2009, when I checked my office email at home and noticed our support team had sent me an NIW and three I-485 approval notices for a particular family. I had a moment of doubt and quickly checked our online Oracle Siebel records: yes, the concurrently filed I-140 NIW and I-485 cases for Dr. Jones’* family had been approved concurrently within 3 months. I immediately called Dr. Jones from my cell phone as I could not wait until after the holiday to share the good news. When I informed Dr. Jones of her unexpectedly fast approvals, she was also in disbelief. |
But, thankfully, Dr. Jones’ speedy result was a reality thanks to the USCIS Texas Service Center’s newly implemented fast track adjudication program for concurrently filed I-140/I-485 cases. Normally, concurrently filed I-140/I-485 cases take around 12 to 18 months for approval. Under the fast track program, first announced in February 2008, the Texas Service Center will select some concurrently filed I-140 and I-485 cases and adjudicate these cases within a couple of months. Our firm has received several concurrent approvals for I-140/485 cases within 3 months of filing. Most of these cases were concurrently filed I-140 EB-1 or NIW (by applicants from countries that have immediate visa number availability). While clearly this fast track process has brought significant benefits to all alien applicants, for Dr. Jones, it meant even more than a regular approval: it saved her career.
Dr. Jones was first referred to me through an old client, and she retained our firm for her NIW and I-485 cases in June 2008. Shortly after her graduation, she took a postdoctoral position in computational engineering for biological studies with a medical research center. As Dr. Jones was born in a Middle Eastern country, a visa number was immediately available to her. But she was not in a hurry to file her NIW case as her employer had secured an H-1B visa for her for the next three years. Under our firm’s assistance, Dr. Jones began collecting the evidence and letters of recommendation she would need for her case.
Unfortunately, in early September, Dr. Jones was unexpectedly let go by her employer, eliminating her and her family’s valid non-immigrant status. We immediately suggested that Dr. Jones file her NIW and I-485 concurrently as quickly as possible so that she could take advantage of the 245(k) rule and put herself and her family back in legal status. Additionally, the I-485 filing would allow her to apply and use an EAD work permit to seek employment opportunities. So, in late September 2008, our firm filed Dr. Jones’ I-140 and her family’s I-485s concurrently. In early November, Dr. Jones received approved EAD work permit based on the pending I-485.
During this time, based on her strong credentials, she was able to secure a very significant senior researcher position with a prestigious medical institute. However, the position involved federal funding that required the researcher to have US permanent residency or citizenship. Before the approval of Dr. Jones’ green card, her then-prospective employer worked hard to accommodate her in a lower level position that did not require permanent resident status, but everyone involved was still hoping that Dr. Jones would be able to fill the senior research spot. So it was incredibly fortunate that Dr. Jones’s NIW and I-485 were approved so rapidly, as with the approved green card, all obstacles for the senior research offer were eliminated, and Dr. Jones was able to start the new position.
In addition to Dr. Jones’ case, our offices have had several other concurrently filed I-140/I-485 cases approved within 3 months. Attorney Amy Jing Feng had three I-140 NIW/I-485 concurrently filed cases receive approval within 3 months during 2008. She commented that all three cases were not the strongest cases amongst our clients: one was an engineer with no journal publications, but a strong conference paper, several project reports that had been implemented and high recommendation from the corporate clients. Two of these clients were from Korea and the other from Colombia.
Attorney Lisa Ryu also saw one of her concurrently filed I-140 NIW/I-485 cases approved within 3 months. She commented that the applicant did not possess any special qualifications making him stand out from our other clients. But the petition package was very clearly organized, and all issues were addressed with supporting documents. Both attorneys’ experiences confirm with our other team members’ impressions that the cases approved by the Texas Service Center’s fast track process are average cases with strong and clear presentation.
Without doubt, Dr. Jones and other clients mentioned above are lucky beneficiaries of the USCIS Texas Service Center’s fast track program. Though the program will select cases by USCIS initiatives, a well prepared and complete filing package with flawless presentation certainly increases the likelihood of being selected for this fast-track process. Our firm’s recent fast approvals of concurrent filings are mostly EB-1 and NIW category I-140 cases.
Though an attorney cannot request the fast track program, our firm’s representation will increase the chances of being selected for fast track approval by (1) submission of all I-140/485 concurrent filing cases to the Texas Service Center (the only Center to implement the fast track so far; (2) preparation of a complete package to reduce the risk of requests for additional evidence (which will delay the case); and (3) preparation of strong presentation and legal claims in the petition letter to boost an average case with distinguishing characters.
Please note, the fast track program applies only to those who have filed an I-140 and I-485 concurrently. Therefore, the fast track program will not help applicants that face visa retrogression and are not eligible to file an I-485 with the I-140. Nevertheless, the USCIS program is certainly an exciting and welcome change, and a good experiment for future expanded implementation of expedited processing.
*A pseudonym was used for client’s privacy
*Attorney Jian Joe Zhou is the Co-managing attorney at Zhang & Associates, PC (www.hooyou.com). Joe has more than 8 years of experience in employment/business immigration and international law practice. Joe received his SJD, LLM, and MLI degrees from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and his LLB from East China University of Politics & Law. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Ms. Lauren Miyamoto contributed to this article.