If you filed an I-918 U application in or after March 2014, you probably feel like you’ve been stuck in a time warp. The Vermont Service Center (VSC) seemingly hasn’t worked on any new I-918 cases since March 2014. Month after month, thousands of new I-918s get filed, yet, no old cases get adjudicated.
USCIS has repeatedly told the public that there are too many cases, not enough officers, and they’re simply overwhelmed. Over the past years, the workload has increased over 200%, yet the staffing hasn’t increased.
There is a special group of officers who work on these types of cases – specially trained in working with victims, the dynamics of abuse, PTSD, and the legal standards involved. When there are only 100 officers and 2000 cases coming per month an incredible backlog was bound to happen.
Earlier this month, USCIS announced that its solution to help solve the glacial pace at which I-918s are being adjudicated is to transfer some of the files from VSC to the Nebraska Service Center (NSC). I’m not thrilled about this announcement, but it’s happening regardless of my opinion.
On one hand, if VSC truly can’t handle the work, I’m glad that they have realized it and will moving the cases to an office that hopefully can handle the work. Waiting two years to get an initial review on a case was absolutely insane.
On the other hand, though, U cases involve victims of horrific crimes. These are sensitive cases where USCIS has to be careful not to re-traumatize the client by asking for unnecessary evidence or going beyond the requirements to establish eligibility for the relief sought. While VSC is sending people to NSC to train the adjudicators, I am cynical. It’s an extremely difficult area of the law, and I worry that putting these cases with adjudicators who have no experience working with victims will lead to unduly harsh decisions.
So, what changes now? Nothing changes immediately. Transfers of currently pending cases will start in July – and not every case currently pending at VSC will move over to NSC. Everything will still be filed with VSC until new mailing instructions come out.
Once the NSC starts issuing decisions, we will see if our worst fears play out – that Requests for Evidence, Notices of Intent to Deny, and Denials are sent out at a significantly increased rate because the new adjudicators don’t truly understand the law, the policies, and evidence presented. It will lead to increased work for the practitioners, increased fees and stress for clients and increased work (and backlogs!) for the NSC. I hope I’m wrong. I want to be wrong.
I hope that the adjudicators at the NSC are efficient, effective, and know the right standard of law to apply in these cases. I hope that the I-918 backlog is reduced so that clients don’t have to wait two years for an initial review, but only have to wait five months. Here’s hoping!