The Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS) issued a Stakeholder Notice on September 20, 2011 announcing that effective September 12, 2011, it began issuing I-797 Receipt Notices and Approval Notices directly to the Petitioner and Applicants as opposed to counsel of record. You may view the Notice at http://1.usa.gov/q4f70r.
This unannounced changed caused anxiety across the country as immigration lawyers scrambled to advise clients of the processing change and to ensure that clients actually received its Receipt and Approval Notices.
Though it appears minor at first glance, this processing change is quite significant. In my role as immigration counsel, it is critical that I be aware of case status so that I may properly and timely advise clients of status, results, impact and next steps. In the past, when I received an I-797 Approval Notice, I placed a copy in my file and sent the original to my client with a detailed letter explaining the Notice, the validity dates and any and all steps the client must take in connection with the Notice. While I can still send such a letter to my clients, I now must impose upon my client to send me a copy of the official Approval Notice as the courtesy copy I receive from the CIS is insufficient.
Clients hire counsel to handle their immigration needs because of our substantive knowledge of the law and agency procedures. Our clients specifically authorize us to represent them before the CIS. So, why would the CIS bypass counsel and send official communications directly to our clients?
My clients are wonderful and take seriously their immigration processes. So, I know we will develop a process and rhythm to adjust to this change by the CIS.
To the CIS, I say the following: there are many things broken about the immigration system and its procedures. The process of sending Receipt and Approval Notices to Counsel of Record was not broken. I implore the CIS to direct its energies to more meaningful endeavors.