Greenberg Traurig, LLP  


Immigration News Flash

March 27, 2006

USCIS Prepares to Implement its “Bi-Specialization” Program

USCIS has provided guidance for its implementation of the new “Bi-Specialization” Program (the “Program”). This Program was developed in order to centralize the processing of both immigrant and non-immigrant petitions. As a result, Service Centers will be tasked with the responsibility of processing specific types of petitions. This means that the Service Centers will split the review of certain petitions and become specialized accordingly.

Historically, the agency has required that petitions be submitted on the basis of either an applicant’s or petitioner’s geographic location. This organization effectively required each Service Center to “specialize” in the processing of all types of visa petitions, a process that sometimes results in a disparity of processing times between Service Centers. For example, the Texas Service Center is currently processing first preference immigrant petitions with receipt notices dated January 4, 2006, whereas the Nebraska Service Center is currently adjudicating the same petitions with a receipt date of October 1, 2005, more than three months slower than its sister center. Such a difference in processing times could have serious ramifications for an employer’s business future plans.

Particular details of this new Program are still forthcoming, however, the Program is expected to be incrementally integrated from April to September of 2006. Consequently, USCIS announced today that, effective April 1, 2006, all Petitions for a Non-Immigrant Worker (filed on Form I-129) should be filed with the Vermont Service Center (“VSC”). Similarly, all Petitions for an Immigrant Worker (filed on Form I-140) should be filed with the Nebraska Service Center (“NSC”). All forms accompanying each of these filings, including Petitions to Amend/Extend Status for a dependent and/or permanent residency applications should be filed at these same locations.

USCIS will be implementing a plan of shared responsibility for these petitions between two Service Centers. Consequently, ultimate responsibility for all I-129 filings will be shared between the VSC and the California Service Center (“CSC”), while all I-140 filings, family-based immigrant petitions (on Form I-130) and adjustment of status applications (Form I-485) are going to be shared between the both the NSC and the Texas Service Center. Despite these changes, there will be no immediate change to the Service Centers’ filing addresses. Nor will petitions be refused if they are erroneously filed at the wrong Service Center. In fact, USCIS plans to use an overnight delivery service to help transfer cases to the correct Center and will honor the original receipt date of the filing. In addition, although this process may result in a one-day delay of receipt notices, the actual receipt notice will be issued by the Center assuming responsibility for that case. For further information on this new Program, please review the USCIS Fact Sheet.

GT will continue to monitor these developments. In the coming months, we will provide you with additional information regarding this new Program as it becomes available.