Q&A’s published on the World Journal Weekly on June 11, 2023 – 1. Receiving the immigration letter does not mean that the I-485 will be approved 2. The status of the case does not reflect the processing status 3. Engineers worked in a China state owned enterprise usually do not affect immigration 4. Different immigration categories have different processing times


1. Receiving the immigration letter does not mean that the I-485 will be approved

I am now in OPT status. I submitted my immigration application and the priority date is September 2022. At the end of last year, I sent my I-485 to USCIS, and I went for fingerprinting in March this year. I recently received a letter from the Immigration Bureau asking me to submit some additional materials. Does this mean that my case is being handled? I don’t think my priority date is current yet, and my I-131 and I-765 application are still pending. I just want to know when can I get my combo card? That way I can go back home.

Mr. Lee answers,
Receiving a request for information from USCIS in an I-485 application means that someone at the agency is looking at your case, but that does not mean that your case will be approved since the priority date is not current. Cases cannot be approved before immigrant visas are available. It is difficult to say when your employment authorization and advance parole applications will be approved. Your fact situation does not say when you applied for the benefits, but I will assume for purposes of the question that you applied for them also in September 2022. At that time, USCIS had decoupled applications and was no longer issuing combo cards. (We have recently seen the resurrection of such in a few recent I-485 cases requesting both benefits, which is a good sign). Current USCIS published processing projections for the vast majority of its cases by service center are the following:

Advance Parole: Texas Service Center – 17.5 months; Nebraska Service Center – 11 months; California Service Center 18 months; National Benefits Center – 11.5 months; Vermont Service Center – 8 months.

Employment authorization: Texas 17 months; Nebraska 17 months; California 18.5 months; NBC 11.5 months; Vermont 15 months.

It may unfortunately take some time for USCIS to issue you these benefits. I note that we have had some recent I-485 filings in which advance parole/employment authorizations came quickly and even in the form of combo cards. While grateful for these cases, we believe that USCIS should seriously work on its backlogs.

2. The status of the case does not reflect the processing status

Yesterday I received an update from USCIS that my I-765 card was issued. But the strange thing is that I-131 on myUSCIS shows case closed, but the status on I-485 and I-130 are still under review. Is this normal? This morning I received 5 more emails from the USCIS, saying that they are going to process my case, but the online case status is still the same as yesterday. Is my I-485 going to be approved? Or is there a combo card first?

Mr. Lee answers,
USCIS does not generally close out an I-131 advance parole request when related to an I-485 adjustment of status to permanent residence filing unless the I-485 is being approved. We have had situations in which I-765 employment authorization requests have been approved when the I-485’s have been on the cusp of being approved. (We recently had such situation about a month ago). It may very well happen that you will receive unofficial and later the official notice of the I-485 approval. The online case status system does not always reflect current conditions in a case’s processing. Whatever is placed on the online case status system is only as current as the individual officer or clerk inputting information into the system.

3. Engineers worked in a China state owned enterprise usually do not affect immigration

My I-140 petition has been approved and I can now file the I-485 form. I looked at the form and found that I had to fill in my previous overseas work experience, even if it was 5 years ago. I used to work in a state-owned enterprise. Does this work experience affect the I-485 application?

Mr. Lee answers,
Form I-485, Page 5, Part 3 requests employment history for the last five years whether inside or outside the US. Page 6 of Part 3 requests that you provide your most recent employment outside of the US if not already listed. So an applicant is obligated to provide the information of most recent non-US employment even if not within the past five years. The information can be used to check back on representations made by applicants when they filled out visa applications to the US in the past. Depending upon the level of the position, work experience in a state-owned enterprise in China may raise questions of whether the applicant was or is a member of the Communist Party. While an engineer in such an enterprise may not raise eyebrows, a director in the enterprise could cause questions to be asked.

4. Different immigration categories have different processing times

I would like to know how the Immigration Bureau will give the number? Is it the date according to Priority Date? Or the date the I-485 was filed? For example, many of the I-485s in front of and behind the number MSC2390198XXX show card making or approval. Shouldn’t the I-485 be processed according to the smoothness of the number? Can you still jump in line?

Mr. Lee answers,
A USCIS case number is assigned at the time that an application or petition is receipted by the agency. Case numbers are chronological by service center, e.g. Vermont Service Center (VSC), California Service Center (WAC), National Benefit Center (MSC). The first two numbers indicate the year and the rest the chronological number of the application receipted during the year. The priority date of cases for family-based petitions is the date of receipt while priority date for employment based cases is either the labor certification receipt date (where a labor certification is involved) or receipt date where there is no labor certification, e.g. EB-1, NIW. Cases are generally processed chronologically, but they are processed chronologically according to the type of case. There are different processing times for the different categories of family-based and employment-based cases. Expediting a case out of line can be done where USCIS offers premium processing for a certain fee. Without such, it is very difficult to expedite an application or petition. Under USCIS guidelines, it may expedite a benefit request if it falls under one or more of the following criteria or circumstance:

  • Severe financial loss to a company or person, provided that the need for urgent action is not the result of the petitioner’s or applicant’s failure: (1) to timely file the benefit request; or (2) to timely respond to any requests for additional evidence;
  • Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons;
  • Nonprofit organization (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)) whose request is in furtherance of the cultural or social interests of the United States;
  • S. government interests (including cases identified as urgent by federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Department of State (DOS), DHS, or other public safety or national security interests); or
  • Clear USCIS error.