USCIS offers new procedures on its website, but experts recommend caution
Immigration has expanded the services that can be managed directly online, such as processing an H-2A or H-2B visa, but immigration attorneys warn of problems when carrying out this type of procedure online.
In recent years, doing an online immigration process has become more frequent and there are more and more resources available for immigrants.
The list of benefits offered by the Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that can be accessed online includes, among others, renewing the green card (green card), applying for citizenship (naturalization), verifying the status of your case , notify a change of address or eliminate the conditions of a residence .
But in recent days, the USCIS has implemented new tools to carry out new efforts, such as the following:
- That a citizen asks his spouse.
- Apply for an H-2A or H-2B visa
- Manage a humanitarian permit (parole)
- Extend residence time for a nonimmigrant.
In addition, several of the tools available are in Spanish and the page has a helpdesk staffed by Emma, a chat that responds in real time.
Other resources available on the USCIS website provide information on the rights and responsibilities of permanent legal residents and citizens. In addition, there is also a tool that calculates the processing time of an application.
This service includes 34 types of forms, including the petition for family-based residence (Form I-130), the petition for employment-based residence (Form I-140), the request for a work permit (Form I-765 ) or the citizenship petition (Form N-400).
Once you mark the type of form sent to the USCIS, the tool asks which office across the country is processing the process and calculates how long it takes to complete the process.
For example, naturalization, in the Kendall, Florida office, the waiting time ranges from 5.5 to 11 months, while in Los Angeles, California, it ranges from 9.5 to 19.5 months.
While modernizing the system brings enormous benefits for immigrants, it is also true that “it is risky for scams,” says Alex Gálvez, an immigration attorney who practices in Los Angeles, California. “Before starting any procedure, make sure you are on a page from the United States government. If it ends in .com or any other indication, do not do it because it is very likely that it is a fake site to get money out of it and get you into trouble, “he adds.
USCIS also warns that “protecting the integrity of the immigration process” is one of its “priorities” and that one of the ways to do this is to “simplify the process for reporting immigration fraud and abuse.”
The federal agency requests that, when detecting a scam, that they immediately contact them at the site enabled to report this type of problem .
The tool includes tips for filing forms , a list of the most common scams , finding legal services or preventing asylum fraud , among others.
If in doubt, stop
Gálvez also warns that, “there is no doubt that the tool facilitates many procedures, but it becomes risky when one submits an application and does not take full responsibility for reading each of the instructions and ensuring that it qualifies for the benefit that it is asking for. ”
Other attorneys consulted by Univision Noticias indicated that, in the event that a person who does not qualify for a certain benefit, but still submits an application, may be exposed to lose their rights to remain in the United States.
In the event that an immigrant insists on going through the USCIS website and decides not to ask a lawyer beforehand, “you can also schedule an appointment with an agent to explain how it is done,” says Jaime Barrón, an immigration attorney practicing in Dallas, Texas.
For immigration lawyer Ezequiel Hernández, who runs in Phoenix, Arizona and frequently collaborates with the editorial staff of Univision Noticias, “the USCIS service online is good, but the problem is that if they reject a process they do not give more explanations because they have no responsibility to give legal advice to an immigrant. ”
USCIS indicates that if you have questions regarding their online tools and resources, contact them 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they will respond.
The page also includes a guide to finding an office near you or how to make an appointment to speak personally with an agent regarding your immigration case.