Will 750,000 Permanent Residents need to replace their Green Cards?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues Permanent Resident Cards (Forms I-551) to lawful permanent residents to serve as evidence of immigration status, registration, identity, and employment authorization, and as an entry document upon return from a trip outside of the United States. The USCIS proposes to terminate the numerous lawful permanent residents’ green cards that possess cards without expiration dates. This rule proposes to establish a 120-day period to apply for replacement cards. The application process proposed by this rule will enable USCIS to electronically store applicants’ biometric information that can be used for biometric comparison and authentication purposes.

In addition, USCIS proposes to notify the public of the termination of this new requirement in a Notice published in the Federal Register. Please note that the cards, issued between 1977 and 1989, do not have expiration dates.

This policy raises some serious concerns to permanent residents who have green cards without expiration dates. First, USCIS must address how they will provide adequate notice to applicants who are affected by this policy. Thus, USCIS has announced that they will not contact the card holders, will only allow 120 days to replace their cards, and will need to pay nearly $400.

In response to these issues Senator Robert Mendez raised important concerns regarding the implementation of this policy in a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff.

“While I commend the Department for taking important steps to reducing fraud and improving the security of our homeland by making sure we know who is carrying a green card, I have concerns about the process in which this effort will be carried out and the impact it could have on hundreds of thousands of legal permanent residents – people who have played by the rules for 20-30 years,” wrote Menendez.

Menendez is asking USCIS to provide specifics as to how they will be able to handle such a large influx of applications, when delays exist for current new applications. Additionally, he is asking for USCIS’ outreach plan, since individual cardholders will not be contacted directly. Finally, he requests that USCIS reconsider the application fee, as many of the cardholders may be on fixed incomes and unable to handle the cost.

Full text of the letter follows:

August 24, 2007

The Honorable Michael Chertoff
Secretary of Homeland Security
United States Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Chertoff:

I am writing with regard to recent reports of a proposal announced by the Citizen and Immigration Services Division of the Department that would require replacement applications and fees for legal residents carrying green cards that lack expiration dates. While I commend the Department for taking important steps to reducing fraud and improving the security of our homeland by making sure we know who is carrying a green card, I have concerns about the process in which this effort will be carried out and the impact it could have on hundreds of thousands of legal permanent residents – people who have played by the rules for 20-30 years, many of whom may be living on a limited income, and will now have to come up with almost $400 to pay these new fees in a short period of time.

My first concern has to do with the proposed time frame of 120 days, in which the Department will have to process approximately 750,000 legal permanent residents applying for new green cards. In light of recent changes in passport regulations which have resulted in unexpected delays, frustration, and a huge backlog of applications, it seems questionable that 120 days is sufficient time to process and replace hundreds of thousands of green cards. As a United States Senator from New Jersey, my office was inundated with questions and requests for help on the passport issue. That is why I request that the Department outline the specific plans they will have in place to avoid or deal with such setbacks, should they occur, so I can better help my constituents impacted by this proposal.

My second concern is the fact that the proposal states affected legal residents will not be individually notified. With legal permanent residents given only 4 months to come up with almost $400 to reapply for permanent residency, I would hope that the Department has a specific outreach plan for reaching those affected by this change in regulation. Therefore, I specifically request information on the Department’s plans to adequately get the word out to legal permanent residents who need to apply for new green cards.

Finally, I believe the fee is excessive for people who have been here contributing to our country for decades, have played by the rules, obeyed the law, and otherwise have no reason to be hit with an unexpected $400 fee. In addition, they will only have 120 days to come up with the fee, which may be impossible for those on fixed incomes.

We all share the same goal – to ensure that the security of our nation is protected by knowing who is here to live the American dream and who is here to destroy it. However, I believe we have to use caution so that we are not inefficiently or unfairly treating those who are abiding by the law. That is why I request details as to how the Department plans to notify green card holders affected by this proposed regulation and to deal with the volume of requests that will be flowing in. I also encourage you to reconsider the fees these individuals will have to pay in order to maintain their legal status.

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue. I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

ROBERT MENENDEZ
United States Senator

Looking into the Crystal Ball – October 2007 Employment-based Immigrant Visa Cutoff Dates Projected

Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting at the State Department, discussed with AILA Liaison informal projections on employment-based visa availability for the October 2007 Visa Bulletin. It is predicted that October 2007 First and Second Preference categories will be similar to the September 2007 visa bulletin. In the Employment Third preference categories, the cut-off dates are likely to be similar to those found in the January 2007 Visa Bulletin.

On a positive note, all numbers available under the FY-2007 Employment annual numerical limit will be utilized.

Changes to Expedited Passport Processing

The government has issued its new proposed expedited passport processing rule. It no longer will commit to processing passports within three days. We speculate that the government has changed its policy due to the criticism it received for not complying with its own expedited processing policy. The new expedited processing program will be posted from time to time on the Department of State website.

Question of the Week: The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) made a mistake, what do I do?

“The USCIS sent me a receipt notice with an error stating that I previously filed two I-129 petitions. How do I correct this error to accurately reflect the fact that I only filed one petition?”

Answer: As a member of The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), we have a liaison system that can be used to resolve these types of errors. After we contact our AILA liaison he will raise this error to the appropriate USCIS representative to resolve the government’s mistake.

Best,

Kaushik Ranchod

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This information is not intended to provide solutions to individual problems and does not constitute an attorney client relationship. Readers are cautioned not to attempt to solve individual problems on the basis of information contained herein and are strongly advised to seek competent legal counsel before relying on information in this e-mail. The above information should not be construed as legal advice. Please note that laws change frequently.




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