[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 183 (Thursday, September 21, 2006)]
[Pages 55206-55208]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 06-7791]



U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

[USCIS No. 2391-06; DHS Docket No. USCIS-2006-0026]
RIN 1615-ZA37

Expanding Pilot Program Affecting the Filing Procedures for 
Certain Form I-485 Applicants Residing Within the Jurisdiction of the 
Dallas, El Paso, or Oklahoma City Offices

AGENCY: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: This Notice expands a pilot program being conducted by U.S. 
Citizenship and Immigration Services that changes the procedures for 
certain aliens filing Form I-485, ``Application to Register Permanent 
Residence or Adjust Status,'' based on a family relationship, the 
diversity visa lottery, or qualification for most special immigrant 
categories. Under the expanded pilot program, affected aliens residing 
within the jurisdiction of the Dallas District Office, El Paso District 
Office, or Oklahoma City Sub-Office will be required to file Form I-485 
and any necessary documentation and fees in person at the appropriate 
local office, rather than by mail, after self-scheduling an appointment 
using Internet-based InfoPass. This pilot program tests an alternative 
to current filing and processing procedures with the goal of achieving 
a 90-day processing time for affected Forms I-485.

DATES: As applied to the Dallas District Office, this Notice is 
effective October 23, 2006 and will terminate on September 21, 2007. As 
applied to the El Paso District Office and Oklahoma City Sub-Office, 
this Notice is effective November 20, 2006 and will terminate on 
September 21, 2007.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kristie Krebs, Adjudications Officer, 
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland 
Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW., Suite 1000, Washington, DC 
20526, Telephone (202) 272-1001.


I. Background

A. General Filing Requirements

    To apply for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, aliens 
residing within the United States must file Form I-485, ``Application 
to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status,'' along with any 
required documentation establishing eligibility, at a U.S. Citizenship 
and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center or USCIS' Chicago 
Lockbox Facility. Currently, applicants must file Form I-485 by mail. 
The filing location is specified in the instructions to Form I-485 and 
on the USCIS Web site, http://www.uscis.gov, and depends on the 
immigrant classification on which the Form I-485 is based and the 
alien's residence. For example, an alien whose Form I-485 is based on 
his or her marriage to a U.S. citizen and who resides in the State of 
Colorado must file Form I-485, with a concurrently filed Form I-130, 
``Petition for Alien Relative,'' or evidence that such Form I-130 has 
already been approved (typically in the form of a Form I-797, ``Notice 
of Action,'' issued by USCIS), supporting documentation, and required 
fees to USCIS' Chicago Lockbox Facility. See Direct Mail Instructions 
for Form I-485.
    After mailing-in the Form I-485 application package, the applicant 
will receive an appointment notice from USCIS to appear at one of 
USCIS' Application Support Centers (ASCs) for biometrics capture, which 
involves electronically taking the applicant's photograph, 
fingerprints, and signature. USCIS uses this information to conduct 
background checks and produce a secure, biometric Permanent Resident 
Card (Form I-551) in the event of application approval. For those 
immigrant categories requiring a personal interview, the applicant (and 
petitioner, if applicable) also will receive an appointment notice to 
appear at the local USCIS office for a personal interview. See, e.g., 8 
CFR 245.6 (interviews are required for adjustment applicants but may be 
waived for children under the age of 14, when the applicant is clearly 
ineligible for adjustment of status, or when deemed unnecessary by 
USCIS). Once adjudication is completed, USCIS will mail the applicant a 
written decision. 8 CFR 103.2(b)(19).

B. Dallas Pilot Program

    USCIS is continually striving to improve the efficiency of the 
processing of Forms I-485 to reduce processing times and prevent 
backlogs. By statute, USCIS has the authority to ``implement innovative 
pilot initiatives'' to eliminate current and prevent future backlogs in 
the processing of immigration benefits. See 6 U.S.C. 271(a)(5). Based 
on this statutory authority, USCIS launched a pilot program in May 2004 
to test an alternative to current filing procedures for certain Form I-
485 applicants to achieve a 90-day processing time. See http://uscis.gov/graphics/fieldoffices/dallas/Pilot_overview.htm. The pilot 
program, called the ``Dallas Office Rapid Adjudication'' pilot program, 
has been limited to the Dallas District Office and is a voluntary pilot 
program. Id.
1. Pilot Program Eligibility Requirements
    To be eligible to participate in the pilot program, the applicant 
must be filing Form I-485 based upon:
    (1) A family relationship (e.g., spouse, parent, child, sibling) 
demonstrated by an approved or concurrently filed Form I-130 with an 
``immediately-available'' immigrant visa as explained in the 
instructions to Form I-130 (see 8 CFR 204.1(a)(1));
    (2) The diversity visa lottery (see Immigration and Nationality Act 
(INA) sec. 203(c); 8 U.S.C. 1153(c); 8 CFR 245.1(a));
    (3) Qualification as a battered or abused spouse or child (see 8 
CFR 204.2(c)) demonstrated by an approved Form I-360, ``Petition for 
Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant;'' or
    (4) Qualification as a Special Immigrant, as set forth at section 
101(a)(27) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27), demonstrated by an 
approved or concurrently filed Form I-360, excluding special immigrants 
who are religious workers.
2. Pilot Program Filing Procedures
    Prior to the Dallas pilot program, an applicant falling within one 
of these categories would have had to file his or her Form I-485 
package by mailing it to the Chicago Lockbox Facility in accordance 
with the Direct Mail Instructions for Form I-485. Instead, under the 
filing requirements of the Dallas pilot program, eligible applicants 
now may file their Form I-485, together with any petition being 

[[Page 55207]]

filed (i.e., Form I-130 or Form I-360) or proof of petition approval, 
supporting documentation, and applicable filing and biometric capture 
fees, in person at the Dallas District Office. To file in-person, 
eligible applicants first must schedule an appointment electronically 
using ``InfoPass.'' InfoPass is a USCIS Internet-based system for 
scheduling appointments found on USCIS' Web site at http://infopass.uscis.gov/. It may be accessed from any computer with Internet 
access. For those applicants who do not have Internet access, USCIS 
offers InfoPass at kiosks located at its local offices.
    If the application package is complete at the time of filing, a 
USCIS officer will conduct any required interview on that same day. 
Participants thereafter will receive an appointment notice for 
biometrics capture at a local ASC. Once all required background checks 
are completed and any derogatory information is resolved, a USCIS 
officer will complete adjudication of the Form I-485 and any 
concurrently filed petitions. If the application package is not 
complete, the USCIS officer will not accept the application package.
    While USCIS believes that the Dallas pilot program has been 
successful, USCIS has determined that the pilot program should undergo 
some changes so that USCIS can better gauge the effectiveness of the 
alternative filing and processing procedures that form the basis of the 
pilot program. USCIS is issuing this Notice to announce these changes 
to the pilot program.

II. Changes to the Pilot Program

    USCIS is changing the Dallas pilot program by: (1) Adding two 
additional USCIS offices that will conduct the pilot program; (2) 
making the filing procedures mandatory for those individuals who meet 
the current eligibility requirements for pilot program participation 
and reside within the jurisdictions conducting the pilot program; and 
(3) modifying the processing procedures for incomplete application 
packages presented at InfoPass appointments. These changes are 
discussed below. This Notice does not change the eligibility 
requirements or filing procedures established by the Dallas pilot 
program discussed above.
    Because USCIS is increasing the number of participating USCIS 
offices, USCIS is naming the pilot program, ``District Office Rapid 
Adjudication'' (DORA). USCIS has referred to the Dallas pilot program 
as ``DORA,'' an acronym for ``Dallas Office Rapid Adjudication.'' USCIS 
is using the same acronym to refer to the expanded pilot program, 
``District Office Rapid Adjudication.'' At the end of an initial 180-
day period, USCIS will evaluate the results of the DORA pilot program 
and determine whether it should be extended past the termination date 
specified in this Notice, September 21, 2007.

A. Pilot Program Locations

    This Notice is increasing the number of locations that will conduct 
the pilot program from one USCIS office to the following three USCIS 
     Dallas District Office (current);
     El Paso District Office (new); and
     Oklahoma City Sub-Office (new).
    Therefore, only eligible applicants who currently reside within the 
jurisdiction of the Dallas District Office, El Paso District Office, or 
the Oklahoma City Sub-Office are subject to the requirements of the 
pilot program. See 8 CFR 245.2(a)(1) (stating that aliens must apply to 
the director having jurisdiction over his or her place of residence, 
unless otherwise provided for in the regulations or instructions to the 
application form).

B. Mandatory Participation

    Under this Notice, USCIS is requiring all Form I-485 applicants who 
meet the pilot program's eligibility requirements and who reside within 
the jurisdiction of one of the three USCIS offices conducting the pilot 
program to follow the pilot program's filing procedures during the 
period that the pilot program is in effect.
    Currently, because the pilot program is voluntary, and eligible 
Form I-485 applicants may choose to file their application package by 
mail in accordance with normal filing procedures rather than 
participate in the pilot program, USCIS cannot fairly judge the 
effectiveness of the pilot program or the associated costs of the 
program. Full participation by eligible applicants will allow for a 
valid evaluation of the pilot program and comparison of the pilot 
program with the current Direct Mail process used in all other offices. 
See 69 FR 67751 (Nov. 19, 2004) (Direct Mail process for Forms I-485, 
I-765, and I-131).
    Once the pilot program terminates, applicants must return to 
following the Direct Mail process for filing their Form I-485 
application packages as specified in the instructions to the Form I-
    The filing procedures under the DORA pilot program will be 
specified in the addendum that accompanies the Form I-485 when the Form 
I-485 is distributed by the Forms Center. It also will be available 
with the electronic version of the Form I-485 for applicants who obtain 
a copy of the form from the USCIS Web site. This addendum has been 
revised in conjunction with this Notice. USCIS also will provide 
additional guidance for individuals residing within the jurisdictions 
of the Dallas, El Paso, or Oklahoma City offices who are affected by 
this Notice via its Web site at http://www.uscis.gov. In addition, 
USCIS will change the Web pages for the Dallas, El Paso, and Oklahoma 
City offices, accessible from http://www.uscis.gov, to reflect the 
filing procedures under the DORA pilot program.
    This Notice does not affect Form I-485 applicants who do not reside 
within the jurisdictions conducting the pilot program. Such applicants 
must continue to file their Form I-485 application packages in 
accordance with current filing instructions for Form I-485. This Notice 
also does not affect existing filing procedures for applicants in the 
districts that are conducting the pilot program, but who are seeking 
employment-based LPR status. The eligibility and filing requirements 
for all applications and petitions, including Form I-485, Form I-130, 
and Form 360, are available on the USCIS Web site at http://www.uscis.gov.

C. Processing Procedures

1. Incomplete Application Packages
    USCIS is changing the procedures followed by USCIS officers in the 
processing of Forms I-485 application packages that are incomplete. 
Under this Notice, if the applicant attempts to file an application 
package that is not complete at his or her InfoPass appointment, the 
USCIS officer may propose to the applicant that the officer intends to 
reject the package based on missing information or evidence identified 
by the officer in writing. Nevertheless, the USCIS officer will accept 
the application package for filing if the applicant insists on 
submitting the application package despite the noted deficiencies and 
risk of denial.
2. Pilot Program Applicants Seeking Employment Authorization or Advance 
    USCIS notes that, at the time of the InfoPass appointment, a 
participating pilot program office may, in its discretion, accept a 
Form I-765, ``Application for Employment Authorization,'' and a Form I-
131, ``Application for Travel Document,'' along with the appropriate 
fees and supporting documentation, with the Form I-485 package. If 
either Form I-765 or Form I-131 is not complete, or the applicant 
chooses to submit the forms at a later date, the applicant must

[[Page 55208]]

file the forms, accompanied by the appropriate filing fees, with the 
USCIS office specified in the instructions to those forms. Currently, 
such applications must be mailed to the Chicago Lockbox Facility. This 
Notice does not alter the filing and processing procedures for such 

III. Paperwork Reduction Act

    Under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13, 109 
Stat. 163 (1995), all Departments are required to submit to the Office 
of Management and Budget (OMB), for review and approval, any reporting 
or recordkeeping requirements. USCIS acknowledges that this Notice will 
increase the burden for those applicants in the Dallas, El Paso, and 
Oklahoma City offices, by requiring that they first schedule an 
appointment electronically before submitting the completed Form I-485 
in person at the appropriate office.
    Since travel and interview time are already included in the 
instructions to the Form I-485, the only additional burden on the 
public will be scheduling an appointment electronically prior to 
submitting the application in person at the appropriate office. It is 
estimated that approximately 60% (5,517) of the affected applicants 
have a computer with direct access to the internet. For those 
applicants with direct computer access to the Internet, it is estimated 
that it will take approximately 10 minutes to schedule an appointment 
with USCIS. For the other 40% (3,677) of the applicants who will need 
direct Internet access through friends, private businesses, local 
schools, libraries, or USCIS kiosks, it is estimated it will take 
approximately one hour to schedule an appointment.
    Accordingly, USCIS will adjust the burden hours associated with 
filing the Form I-485 using the OMB's electronic system (ROCIS) to 
reflect the increase in the burden hours on the public.

    Dated: September 15, 2006.
Emilio T. Gonzalez,
Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
[FR Doc. 06-7791 Filed 9-20-06; 8:45 am]