\ afm \ Adjudicator's Field Manual - Redacted Public Version \ Appendices \ Appendix 10-8 Complying with Particular Timeframes When Processing Cases [Appendix added 08-09-2006]
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Complying with Particular Timeframes When Processing Cases
[Appendix added 08-09-2006]
The following is the text of a memorandum issued by the Associate Director of Domestic Operations to All Regional Directors, District Directors, the National Benefits Center, and Service Center Directors.
A focus on active case management means managing each case through each stage of processing to decision and through any post-decision processing. Meeting our processing time goals on a case also means doing things at the right time.
The National Filing Tracking System (NFTS) has been adapted to help local offices actively manage case inventories and individual case suspense periods, ensuring that cases are returned to active processing as soon as possible. Reports and processes in service centers provide equivalent assistance.
In order to ensure that each case is managed through the process, the below guidance is provided with respect to certain discrete timeframes relating to case processing. References to days are always calendar days.
– Since we scheduled the appointment, we must make every effort on our part to conduct the interview as scheduled. Given the ramifications, we should only reschedule an interview at customer request where there are compelling extenuating circumstances beyond the individual’s control. Note: When we reschedule an interview based on the applicant’s request, the processing clock for initial EAD eligibility starts over. See 8 CFR 103.2(b)(10). Where we do reschedule an interview, our goal is to have the re
scheduled interview occur within 90 days of the initially scheduled interview.
Rescheduled naturalization testing
– Where a person fails the required test(s) on the first try, the second test should be rescheduled within 60 to 90 days of the first interview. To the extent practicable, the applicant should be notified of the re-test date on the date they fail the test. Where that is not practicable, they should be advised at the interview that they will be rescheduled for between 60 to 90 days in the future, and the actual retesting notice should go out as soon as possible. This will give the applicant certainty wit
h respect to when they will be retested.
Manually rescheduled fingerprint notices
– should be completed within 10 days of the request, with a new appointment scheduled within a 14 day timeframe. Note: Where done as a result of the individual’s request for a discrete new appointment as opposed to appearing at the alternate time provided on the earlier appointment notice, this similarly restarts the processing clock for initial EAD eligibility.
Appointment scheduling lead times
- The minimum acceptable lead time for scheduling various kinds of appointments is listed below. These timeframes are for notices served by regular mail. Shorter lead times can be used where the time for the customer to receive the notice is substantially less than regular mail, such as scheduling by phone or through email, or where, during an interview or other in-person interaction, an appointment is scheduled for the customer:
ASC appointment – 10 days
Oath ceremony – 10 days
Interview – 10 days
Lead time for remote scheduling
– Where a pre-processing site, such as the NBC, or, for N400s, the service centers, is scheduling the interview and then transferring the file to the local office for that interview, the following lead times apply in terms of minimum and maximum advance scheduling times:
N-400 – a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 60 days before the actual interview date.
I-485 – a minimum of 45 days and a maximum of 60 days before the actual interview date.
Other applications and petitions - a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 60 days before the actual interview date.
These lead times give us sufficient time to handle logistics at both the shipping and receiving office. They also preclude scheduling too far in advance. These lead times reflect the customer notification period referenced earlier. For example, the 10 day customer interview appointment notification is within the above 30 to 60 day lead time for scheduling an N400 appointment, and simply requires that the notice to the customer go out at least 10 days prior to the interview
Request for Evidence (RFE)
– Our processing time goals and associated processing timelines guide our production management efforts. On an application or set of applications where a customer could receive interim benefits, our objective is to pre-screen the application within 30 days of filing to identify whether there is any missing initial evidence. That’s because we do not want to issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or advance parole based on an incomplete application simply because we haven’t conducted this initial
Note: Interim benefits include the ability to remain in the U.S. while their application is pending when they would otherwise have no legal basis to remain, employment authorization, or advance parole.
If the case is missing initial evidence and we promptly send an RFE for such evidence, it stops the clock for eligibility for an EAD, and the clock will start over when we receive it or the time expires. Similarly, we want to try to identify any common additional evidence that might be required, because our sending a notice requesting that evidence will stop the processing clock.
Conducting this initial review early, and not simply issuing EADs and advance paroles on incomplete applications, is a basic premise of both the Dallas Office Rapid Adjustment (DORA) up-front pilot which we are running in our Dallas office and the NBC process.
An RFE should not be used where there is clear evidence of eligibility or ineligibility. For more information on RFEs and NOIDs, see the February 16, 2005 memorandum from William Yates on “Requests for Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID)” and the May 4, 2004 memorandum from William Yates on “Requests for Evidence (RFE).” USCIS is also working with DHS on a proposed rule which would allow USCIS to better tailor RFE periods to the type and source of the material needed in order to minimize
An RFE is a single opportunity to provide the information. Just as an extension of the RFE timeframe cannot be provided, we will not repeatedly request the same evidence. Where an interview notice indicated that the customer was to bring a specific document or evidence to the interview, but does not, we will not repeat the request through an RFE.
Of course, that does not mean that a general request to bring, for example “all evidence of your claim to eligibility to your interview” would be sufficient for this purpose because it is not specific. Similarly, if an issue arises first at an interview, the customer should be afforded an opportunity to respond to the new request for evidence.
Where we send an RFE, also commonly referred to by the I-72 or N-14 pre-printed forms that are sometimes used, the following timelines apply:
Form N-400 – consistent with
8 CFR 335.7
, customers are given 30 days from the date of our request; if a response is not received the case is adjudicated on its merits.
All other applications – consistent with
8 CFR 103.2(b)(8)
-(15), customers are given 12 weeks (84 calendar days) to respond.
When the necessary information is identified at the interview, ideally the applicant or petitioner leaves the interview with the RFE notice. Where that is not practicable, the notice should be sent within 14 days of the interview.
Applicants should be encouraged to submit material earlier in order for case processing to resume. Offices should have procedures in place to match up RFE responses with the pending application, and to resume processing quickly once the response is received. Rather than either trying to make up for the time lost because of the missing and necessary material or treating the case as brand new, cases should be returned to processing in place.
To set expectations on the processing time on a case after an RFE response, USCIS publishes a 60-day processing time goal, which means our goal is to within that period either make a decision or schedule any necessary interview or process involving the applicant. To reset customer expectations and minimize unnecessary case status inquiries, RFE notices should clearly indicate this.
Notice of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) – the RFE timelines also apply to NOIDs, both in terms of the period for customer response, and to our goal to finalize the decision within 60 days of response.
In summary, active case management means managing each case through the process, with a goal of each case being completed correctly and within our timeframes with the exception of any discrete times spent in active suspense. It also means managing cases in active suspense based on the associated call-ups and returning them to active processing as soon as possible and appropriate.