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Expansion of the Direct Mail Program [59 FR 33903 - 33906][FR 37-94]
FEDERAL REGISTER CITE:
59 FR 33903 - 33906
July 1, 1994
BILLING CODE: 4410-10
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Immigration and Naturalization Service
[INS No. 1660-94]
RIN 1115 - AD73
Expansion of the Direct Mail Program
Immigration and Naturalization Service, Justice.
Interim rule with request for comments.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (Service) is expanding its Direct Mail Program, under which certain applications or petitions for immigration benefits can be mailed directly to a service center for processing. This interim rule amends the regulations to allow those types of applications designated for Direct Mail to be filed with service center directors. This change will reduce processing time and in-person visits to local Service offices.
This interim rule is effective July 1, 1994. Written comments must be submitted on or before August 30, 1994.
Please submit written comments, in triplicate, to the Records Systems Division, Director, Policy Directives and Instructions Branch, Immigration and Naturalization Service, 425 I Street, NW., Room 5307, Washington, DC 20536. To ensure proper handling, please reference INS No. 1660-94 on your correspondence.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Pearl Chang, Senior Examiner, Adjudications Division, Immigration and Naturalization Service, 425 I Street, NW., Room 3214, Washington, DC 20536, telephone (202) 514-3240.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service is amending Sec. 103.2 governing the filing of applications/petitions for benefits under 8 CFR parts 103, 245, 245a, 264, and 274a, by providing service center directors the authority to accept and process applications/petitions being designated for Direct Mail. The existing regulations provide that applications for certain benefits be filed with the district director having jurisdiction over the applicant's place of residence. This amendment will give the Servi
ce the flexibility to shift filings to the service centers as it continues to expand the Direct Mail Program.
Most applications/petitions are filed by mail directly to a service center. The service centers receipt the cases, handle preliminary processing, and either issue a decision or forward the case to a local Service office for an interview, field review or investigation based on an analysis of individual facts and profiles. The Service's strategic plan is to have the service centers absorb additional workload by eventually adding more types of petitions/applications that can be accepted by service centers un
der the Direct Mail Program.
Traditionally, most Service customers had to make several trips to a Service office to obtain forms, information, and to actually file applications. To improve service to its customers, in 1985 the Service developed a three-phase strategic plan called the Direct Mail Program. The objective was to facilitate and improve service by gradually automating and streamlining the adjudication process.
Direct Mail Program - Phases I and II
In the first two phases of the Direct Mail Program, the public began mailing a variety of applications/petitions directly to one of the four service centers instead of submitting these applications in person at the Service field offices. Currently, almost 60 percent of all applications and petitions filed with the Service are processed at one of these four service centers thereby alleviating the severe overcrowding that occurs in Service offices if the workload had to be processed locally. It has also imp
roved consistency, productivity, and timeliness of application processing, and has provided more information about case status through receipt and other notices. As a result, the Direct Mail Program enjoys broad public support.
An important reason the service centers have been able to absorb the additional workload can be attributed to the development and use of automated technology such as the Computer Linked Application Information Management System (CLAIMS). This system is used to track applications and petitions and to process and issue notices and decisions on all filed cases. Encouraged by these positive results, the Service is embarking on the third and final phase of the Direct Mail Program.
Direct Mail Program - Phase III
Phase III of the Direct Mail Program is intended to further alleviate adjudication burdens of local Service offices, thereby enabling the Service offices to provide more intensive contact services with the public, such as responding to inquiries, conducting interviews, and performing field examinations.
During the next several years, the Service plans the expansion of the Direct Mail Program through two complementary strategies as follows:
1. Continued form-by-form nationwide conversion
In terms of plans for future nationwide implementation, the Service plans the following conversions.
a. Application for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) - Form I-765.
Currently about one-half of all EAD applications are filed and processed through Direct Mail. This conversion has improved inventory control, data integrity, and overall service. It has also meant the employment authorization data is available sooner for verification purposes.
During the next 12 months, the Service plans to shift almost all remaining EAD applications to Direct Mail as a new production system becomes available in the service centers and the capacity is developed to assimilate the workload into the service centers. On an interim basis, two types of applications will continue to be filed locally so they can be pre-screened before being sent to the service center for processing. These are:
i. Applications with eligibility based on an alien being in proceedings before an immigration judge; and
ii. Applications with eligibility based on a separate application for adjustment of status under section 245 of the Act that was filed and is pending at the local office.
It should be noted that the proposed changes in filing procedures for EADs will require applicants to initially submit their applications with two (2) color photos and, until a new application form containing a fingerprint block and revised filing instructions is available, a completed signature card to a local INS office. Applicants may also be asked to appear at a local office to pick up their first EADs as a means of verifying their identity. After this one-time visit to the local INS office, the Serv
ice will be able to electronically verify the applicant's identity when future applications are filed.
After reviewing the comments to this rulemaking, the Service proposes to revise the filing instructions on Form I-765 to reflect the procedures outlined above and then publish the new instructions in the Federal Register.
b. Application for Alien Registration Card - Forms I-90, I-90A, and Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Resident I-698.
The Service also plans to convert all applications for an alien registration card to a single Direct Mail process. Manufacturing of a card requires that persons first have had their right index fingerprint and signature recorded on a secure document so they can be incorporated into the card. Currently some of these types of applications are filed by Direct Mail and the person then is instructed to appear for this process to be done. In other instances, the person must take his or her application to a loc
al office for this process. The local office then forwards the application to the service center for receipting and processing.
The Service plans to convert Forms I-90, I-90A, and I-698 to Direct Mail, first by requiring that these applications be accompanied by a completed fingerprint card, FD-258, and then by revising the application forms to capture the right index fingerprint. This will standardize the collection of fingerprints and signatures and enable the Service to electronically capture and store this data for future verification. Although controls will have to be introduced to ensure the appropriate fingerprint and photo
are submitted, ultimately an applicant will not normally have to appear at the local INS office for these processes.
After reviewing the comments to these planned changes, the Service will revise the filing instructions on Form I-90 to reflect the procedures outlined above and then publish the new instructions in the Federal Register.
c. Application to Adjust Status - Form I-485.
The Service also plans to convert adjustment of status applications to Direct Mail over the next several years. This conversion will be done incrementally by type of eligibility for adjustment - for example, shifting all applications for adjustment of status based on having asylee status for a year.
The Service is also considering shifting the processing of completing the transition of refugees to permanent resident status to Direct Mail. However, this would require the introduction of a formal application process.
Office-by-office implementation of Direct Mail
Effective July 1, 1994, the Baltimore District Office will serve as the pilot site for the installation of CLAIMS and conversion to Direct Mail. (
the Notice published elsewhere in this issue of Federal Register by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.) Beginning in Baltimore, CLAIMS will be installed in local INS offices on an incremental basis. The installation of CLAIMS at any district office will permit a shift of most casework to Direct Mail for that district. This office-by-office conversion will take place in tandem with the nationwide form-by-form conversion until the Direct Mail Program is complete.
It should be noted that the Service plans to continue to accept and process certain applications locally even after Phase III is implemented. Petitions for orphans will still be filed and processed locally, as will applications for waivers of grounds of excludability discovered during an interview. Applications for border crossing cards and waivers when applying for admission will continue to be filed and processed at Ports-of-Entry.
Where to File.
1. 8 CFR 103.2(a) requires that an application, petition, and/or other document submitted to the Service be executed and filed in accordance with the instructions on the application form, as stipulated by the particular section of the regulations requiring its submission. These instructions always provide information on where an application or petition should be filed, including the mailing address. In a direct mail environment, an applicant should file his or her application or petition with either the d
istrict director or the service center director having jurisdiction over the applicant's place of residence, as directed by the instructions on the form, to avoid processing delays.
2. Prior to the Direct Mail Program, Service regulations typically required that applications or petitions be filed with the district director having jurisdiction over the applicant's place of residence. Since the inception of Direct Mail, the Service has been gradually amending its regulations by replacing the "district director" with "director" to apply to both district directors and service center directors. Most of these amendments were made when the Service made rules to implement the Immigration Act
of 1990. However, certain sections in 8 CFR parts 245, 245a, 264, and 274a still require that the form be filed with the "district director" having jurisdiction over the alien's place of residence. This interim rule amends the pertinent sections by removing the remaining references to "district director" and replacing them with "director" to conform with the Direct Mail policy.
The Service's implementation of this rule as an interim rule, with provision for post-promulgation public comment, is based on the "good cause" exception found at 5 U.S.C. 553(a)(2) and (d)(3). This regulation relates to agency management as it expands the scope of the service center directors to accept and process certain types of applications/petitions under the Direct Mail Program. This change will provide flexibility to transfer filings to service centers as the Direct Mail Program is expanded, thereb
y alleviating the severe overcrowding that occurs in Service offices if the workload had to be processed locally. It will also improve consistency, productivity, and timeliness of application processing, and will provide more information about case status through receipt and other notices.
Regulatory Flexibility Act
The Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, in accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 605(b)), has reviewed this regulation and by approving it certifies that this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. This rule is merely administrative in nature and expands the scope of Service officers.
Executive Order 12866
This rule is not considered by the Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, to be a "significant regulatory action" under Executive Order 12866, Sec. 3(f), Regulatory Planning and Review, and the Office of Management and Budget has waived its review process under section 6(a)(3)(A).
Executive Order 12612
The regulation will not have substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship between the National Government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. Therefore, in accordance with Executive Order 12612, it is determined that this rule does not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a Federalism Assessment.
Executive Order 12606
The Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service certifies that she has addressed this rule in light of the criteria in Executive Order 12606 and has determined that it will enhance family well-being by reducing the processing time for aliens applying for certain immigration benefits.