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    Congressional Staff FAQ

    Following are some of the most frequently asked questions from congressional staffers.

    Q. What resources are available to me as a caseworker involved with immigration matters?

    A. There are five essential documents:

    • The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, 10th Edition;
    • Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations; Aliens and Nationality;
    • Visa Bulletin, published monthly by the Department of State;
    • Handout contains much information regarding additional sources of information; and

    The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Internet Website.

    Q. How do I know if my problem involves the Department of State, USCIS, or the Department of Labor?

    A. The answer depends on whether the problem involves a visa, a petition requesting permission to enter the United States, or labor certification.

    If the problem involves a visa, it probably involves the Department of State, which is the only federal agency than can issue a visa. There are two types of visas:

    • Nonimmigrant Visa This visa is identified by a multicolored stamp placed in the passport, allowing the bearer to enter the United States temporarily for a specific purpose.
    • Immigrant Visa This visa is not stamped in a passport, but is a packet of documents surrendered to an immigration officer at the port of entry. The packet includes an approved petition filed by an individual, a business or an organization (such as a religious group) seeking to sponsor an immigrant's entry into this country.

    If the problem involves a petition requesting permission to enter the United States as an immigrant, or under certain circumstances, as a nonimmigrant, such as for employment or as a fiancé, the situation involves USCIS.

    If the problem involves labor certification, it involves the Department of Labor.

    Q. Where does my constituent file a petition or an application for an immigration benefit?

    A. There are two different locations for filing petitions and applications:

    • At Service Centers USCIS has four Service Centers that process applications and petitions that do not require a personal interview (such as an I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker). All applications for naturalization (N-400) and applications for work authorization documents (I-765) are filed at a Service Center. Service Centers process about five million applications and petitions a year.
    • At Immigration Field Offices and Sub-Offices USCIS operates field offices and sub-offices in every state and several foreign countries that process applications and petitions that require personal interviews. Examples include interviews concerning an adjustment of status, removal of conditional status, requests for advance parole, and orphan petitions.

    Headquarters for USCIS is the office which contains the administrative personnel who plan and oversee all service programs. This office does not accept or adjudicate applications or petitions.

    A list of USCIS Offices by State is on this website.

    Q. Whom do I contact when I have questions or problems?

    A. If the situation involves a petition or application that is being adjudicated, first contact USCIS office where the application or petition was filed. That office has access to the file, and can give you the most current information about the case. All USCIS field offices, sub-offices, Service Centers, and Asylum Offices have home pages on this web site.

    If the situation involves an inspection at a port of entry, contact the field office with jurisdiction over that port of entry.

    Q. When do I contact Headquarters?

    A. If the matter concerns a policy, or if you believe the problem is not being adequately addressed by a field office or sub-office.

    Q. Should I contact you by phone or in writing?

    A. Generally, it is best to telephone when the situation is urgent and you need a response quickly. However, your initial contact, especially with complex situations, should be written. Responses may take up to 60 days. Please use the Immigration Casework Intake Sheet to initiate these requests.

    Q. When are cases expedited?

    A. Cases are expedited only when emergent conditions warrant taking them out of turn. Otherwise, cases are processed in chronological order.

    Q. What general guidelines should I follow when handling USCIS cases?

    A. Here are several tips for providing good constituent services:

    • Develop a good rapport with those with whom you will be working within USCIS.
    • Develop an ability to remain objective. Becoming emotionally involved with a constituent situation can be devastating, and it prevents you from being able to give the best assistance to the constituent.
    • Learn how to say "No" with compassion. Many times immigration laws and regulations do not permit you to help the constituent do what he or she wants you to do.
    • Ask for help. Immigration is a very complex matter, and USCIS is here to serve you.

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