Immigration Law

USCIS Set to Close Overseas Offices, Jeopardizing US Military Families

Miriam Jordan, New York Times, Mar. 12, 2019

"The Trump administration is preparing to shutter many of its immigration operations abroad, cutting back on a key support system for those applying overseas to relocate to the United States.

The director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, L. Francis Cissna, told senior staff members this week that the international division, which has operations in more than 20 countries, would close down by the end of the year, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.

... “This is another instance of the Trump administration halting legal immigration by denying people the opportunity to file for immigration benefits in the most expedient manner,” said Margaret Stock, a former United States Army lieutenant colonel and an immigration attorney who frequently handles such cases.

... The overseas division provides logistical assistance to American citizens, lawful permanent residents and refugees seeking to bring family members to the United States; people who have been persecuted and wish to resettle in the United States; Americans who adopt children internationally; and members of the military and their families applying for citizenship. It also plays a crucial role in immigration fraud detection.

“It will be a great blow to the quality and integrity of the legal immigration system,” said Barbara Strack, who retired last year as the chief of the Refugee Affairs Division at the agency. “It will throw that system into chaos around the world.”

The International Operations Division has about 240 employees working at 24 field offices in 21 countries.

... United States military personnel abroad would no longer be able to file immigrant visa petitions for spouses and family members locally.

“It’s going to smack all government employees abroad, including folks in the military, who have a foreign spouse or kids they are trying to bring to the U.S. legally,” said Ms. Stock, who handles a number of such cases in her immigration practice.

She said that one of her clients, an American defense contractor living on a military base in Kuwait who married a Yemeni woman, could be forced to remain apart from his wife for an extended period of time after returning to the United States if he cannot apply for her green card abroad.

“If he can’t get it through international operations, he will be thrown into the general U.S. backlog and have to be separated from his wife for more than a year,” Ms. Stock said."