Frustrations of Dealing With the Immigration Bureaucracy

When I first started writing about immigration law matters for Nolo, my editor was always after me for overusing the word “should.” You “should” get a receipt notice from the Immigration Service Center, I would say; the immigration authorities “should” process your application within several weeks; you “should” be called in for an interview.

The trouble was, telling readers that any of these things “will” happen flies in the face of reality, both then and now. A recent “success story” by California attorney Carl Shusterman provides a great illustration of why. As you can see from the article (“Success Story: Appeal Granted After Misplaced File and Misinformation” — scroll down to item five), some of the bureaucratic craziness that this applicant had to put up with included:

  • USCIS denying a waiver request with no mention of, and therefore no evidence that the agency had considered, the facts of the case and the evidence submitted
  • a denial letter that said on one side that the applicant could appeal — while saying on the other side that she could not
  • USCIS misplacing her case file after she had submitted an appeal, and
  • a year-long wait for transfer of the file to the appropriate office.

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending: The file was finally located and the waiver granted. But the frustration, and long hours of legal work that must have gone into this were no doubt intense — and well known to anyone who practices immigration law. It’s part of why I got out of active law practice. And it’s a big part of why any immigration applicant should think seriously about hiring an experienced attorney.