On 12/8/11 I attended our quarterly AILA-VOLOG meeting at USCIS at the Newark District Office. I continue to recommend this important meeting to all New Jersey immigration lawyers in the NJ. I try not to miss them. VOLOG presents an excellent opportunity to meet the section heads, hear the latest news about what's going on in the Newark District office and even discuss problem cases. There is no other way to stay current in this ever changing field. Despite my reminders however, very few new faces attend.

In attendance were the USCIS Supervisors along with the Chief of Staff Russell Owen. The AOS unit will be moving shortly to the 14th floor to a new larger facility. Officers will have offices rather than cubicles that exist now. Also, building renovations will begin shortly. A survey was recently completed that ranked the customer service high in Newark and I agree with that. The office is extremely accessible to attorney. However, the survey noted the biggest problem was building access. We have been complaining for years about the long lines and the difficulty attorneys and clients experience entering the Newark USICS facility. USCIS blames the building management General Service Administration and the Federal Protective Service who provides the guards but hopes that the survey will facilitate a change. We have heard that before and nothing is ever done. AILA-NJ is considering litigation.

After several months USCIS finally announce that they have found a replacement for the Section 245(i) , 751, waiver unit that was vacated when Randi Borgen was elevated to Field Office Director. We congratulate Ms. Borgen for her new position and know she will be a great Field Office Director. We were happy to meet Ms. Maria I. Guerra who filled the spot and look forward to corresponding with her. We were again assured that interpreters would not be allowed in to the adjustment unit and all interpreting would be done via the phone through a USCIS contractor. This will hopefully eliminate the unauthorized practice of law performed by several interpreters.

We were advised as to the slowdown of filings in the adjustment unit but the increase in Naturalization filings. Naturalizations are currently taking about 4 months, adjustments about 4.5 months. In 2011 approximately 15,000 green cards were issued out of the Newark office and approximately 36,000 naturalizations were granted. No mention of how many individuals were placed into removal during 2011. One new issue that arouse was the process to follow when a 1-485 is denied by the service and thereafter granted by a Judge after an appeal is taken. The service requires a new I-485 be filed with no fee, and copy to the court. This way a green card can be generated.

Question were raised about Visa Waiver adjustments and the Newark office noted that they continue to processing them as long as there is no final orders entered against the alien. If there is the file will be held pending further guidance which should be coming shortly.

We were then introduced to Ms. Abigale Sanford who is a management and programs analysis for USCIS from Washington DC. She is currently heading the "transformation" program. This is a new program that USCIS is rolling out to eliminate the paper filing and move towards an electronic filing system. The program is rolling out slowly and has many issues that we hope USCIS will consider in the future. But despite out complaint we can't stop progress.

Facing an immigration matter should not be taken lightly, contact an experienced New Jersey immigration lawyer who will be able to provide you with the guidance you deserve.