- Nationality: China
- Case: Motion to Reopen I-765
- Processing Time: 1 month
- Client’s misdating on checks threatened her legal status in the U.S.
- USCIS unwilling to reset 30-day timeline despite giving client a new case number.
- Falling out of status at any point could result in a multi-year U.S. ban.
- Short time frame to file all the documents.
When considering any immigration issue, including I-765 filings, even the smallest errors can have enormous, life-altering consequences. Entire lives can be turned upside down with a simple misprint, an incorrect date, or a missed response. Unfortunately for our client, Ms. Chen, she found herself in one of these potentially damaging situations just after she graduated from college. Ms. Chen was a remarkably bright person; she had just finished her degree at one of the best schools in the country. She did so after immigrating to the U.S. from China, and she had kept legal status here the entire time she was getting her degree. She very much wanted to stay here, and it’s not hard to see that she would have a very positive effect on the U.S. if she were allowed to continue living here, either to work or to work on graduate degrees. To stay here, she needed to get a recommendation from her Designated School Official (DSO), and file an I-765 form with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation. She got that recommendation on November 5th and did her initial filing on time, 20 days after the original recommendation. However, she put the incorrect dates on her check when she did the filing. On December 11, she was notified of the error and given the option to resubmit all of her documentation with the correct check dates, which she did on December 12.
She received no word from USCIS regarding her status until March of the next year, and the news was not good; her I-765 case was denied and closed because according to USCIS, she hadn’t filed her submission within the 30-day deadline of her DSO’s recommendation. Of course, USCIS was using the November 5th recommendation date as their barometer when they issued this denial. Not knowing what to do, Ms. Chen does what every college student does: she hit the internet. She found our firm online and liked what she saw in reviews from past clients, so she gave us a call.
“She was young, inexperienced, and scared. She was having her whole future thrown into question by this denial, and she didn’t know if she had any options left. She could have returned to China, but that would have meant packing up her whole life, including her cat, and flying it back to China. We felt terrible for her. The mistake with the check date was hers, but this was obviously not a situation where she was the only person at fault. We didn’t want her to fall through the cracks in the system.” – Margaret Rosales
KEYS TO SUCCESS
We knew her case was on life support. The main goal was to never have her fall out of status with regard to her legality here in the United States. If she gave up on her I-765, she would not only fall out of status immediately, but also all the time from when her grace period post-graduation would have counted towards her time being out of status. Those months could have earned her a multiple-year ban from the United States. That made the first action we recommended to her more critical, as we only had about two weeks to file for a motion to re-open her case, if that’s the path she wanted to take. We reviewed her files, and thought it was clear that it was an unfair circumstance that led to her I-765 filing to be denied. When USCIS recommended that she re-file her case with correct check dates, they issued her a new case number, indicating that Ms. Chen was correct in thinking that her deadlines had been reset. However, when they issued the denial, they cited the old, original date and case file in the denial. We argued that her case deadlines should have been reset, and that USCIS and her school official were maybe not in the wrong, but definitely not on the ball regarding her case.
The problem in these cases is usually the schools themselves. Every school, public or private, is extremely wary of lawsuits, and while the DSO’s generally do a good job, they are extremely hesitant to ever admit fault. Doing so would open their schools to possible litigation and could potentially cost the official their job. The school official did write Ms. Chen a letter regarding her case, but we considered the letter to be very weak legally. It simply reiterated the circumstances and unfortunate circumstances of Ms. Chen’s case, but the letter stopped short of accepting any blame for the circumstances.
This was a blow to her case, and even though we felt that the combination of the letter from the school and our argumentation about USCIS’ changing of case numbers indicated that they should have changed the filing deadline meant that she had a shot, we were very concerned that her case would be denied. However, this case was less about ensuring that her I-765 filing was re-opened and more about buying Ms. Chen time. We know that USCIS handles a lot of cases, and as indicated by the long time between her second filing and her rejection notice, that simply filing a motion to reopen would likely buy Ms. Chen many more months to figure out another plan, months where she would still be in status here in the United States. So, upon our recommendation, we went ahead with the plan to file a motion to re-open.
The motion to re-open Ms. Chen’s I-765 is still with USCIS, but Ms. Chen, who had originally planned to work here in the United States after her graduation, decided to go back to school instead. This gave her many more immigration options, of which we informed her when she told us of her decision. Ms. Chen successfully left and re-entered the country and now has obtained a fresh visa from which to work, none of which she would have had time for without the motion to re-open.
*Name has been changed to protect client identity
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