USCIS Card Production Delays & Obtaining I-551 Stamps as Temporary Proof of Status
On July 21, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ombudsman’s Office published an alert regarding card production delays. According to the alert, in June 2020, USCIS reduced the capacity to print secure documents, including Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) Cards and Employment Authorization Documents (EAD), after it ended a contract with a third-party card production facility. While USCIS intended to hire federal employees to replace the contractors, the current hiring freeze at USCIS has delayed production of the cards. As such, USCIS has not been producing the permanent resident cards and EAD cards in a timely manner, so some foreign nationals have been delayed in receiving these secure documents.
Specifically, there have been increased delays in the receipt of permanent resident cards, where applicants who have entered the U.S. and paid the ELIS (Electronic Immigration System) fee 120 days prior have yet to receive their permanent resident cards. Similarly, there have been cases where permanent resident cards are not issued weeks after the adjustment-of-status approval. At this time, USCIS expects these backlogs will continue for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, if there is a furlough of USCIS employees on Aug. 3, 2020, the card production backlogs may worsen. In the meantime, individuals who are affected by the delays in the issuance of their permanent resident cards should remain patient in light of the current production backlogs at USCIS.
Additionally, individuals who have not received their permanent resident cards due to the production delay may be able obtain I-551 stamps as temporary proof of their status in order to allow international travel and work authorization. Affected individuals may reach out to USCIS to make an Infopass appointment at a local USCIS office to obtain the I-551 stamps. However, due to COVID-19, some field offices have closed or resumed only partial services and, as such, it may be difficult to secure an Infopass appointment at this time. Individuals may refer to the USCIS page for updates on office closings, including a list of offices that are closed and their anticipated reopening dates. Additionally, USCIS has confirmed over the past months that the USCIS Contact Center (1-800-375-5283) will continue to schedule local office appointments for those seeking an I-551 stamp “where there is an emergent need,” which may include the need for necessary international travel or for documentation establishing work authorization. However, USCIS has been inconsistent in its discretion on what is considered an “emergent need” to secure an appointment to obtain the I-551 stamp.