InfoPass is a free online service that allows individuals to schedule an appointment with a USCIS immigration officer. The online platform offers 12 different languages to make scheduling an in-person appointment easier. InfoPass is accessible from both computers and mobile devices to make scheduling available anywhere. The appointments scheduled through InfoPass are intended for specific inquires, while routine matters are typically handled through the phone or online. Nevertheless, recent reports warn that the InfoPass online scheduler could soon be obsolete. Under the new program, the USCIS National Customer Service Center would first handle all requests for an in-person appointment.
Regional USICIS offices in Hartford, CT; El Paso, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Sacramento, CA; and San Francisco, CA may be the first centers included in the new pilot program for scheduling InfoPass appointments. Under the program, scheduling InfoPass appointments at the above mentioned USCIS field offices will now be facilitated through the USCIS National Customer Service Center. If implemented across the nation, the program would eliminate the self-scheduling InfoPass appointment feature online. The new change comes in conjunction with new efforts to increase efficiency by decreasing self-scheduled InfoPass appointments for inquiries better addressed by the USCIS National Customer Service Center or through the USCIS website.
To make an InfoPass appointment at one of the selected pilot USCIS field offices, one must now first call the Service Center (1-800-375-5283), speak to a Tier 1 officer, and request to schedule an InfoPass appointment. The call will then be escalated to Tier 2 officer who will review the case and will confirm if the issue is appropriate for an InfoPass appointment before scheduling the appointment. The reports of the new pilot program are not yet confirmed online by USCIS; however, we will continue to monitor the situation.
Last week, USCIS released a memo outlining stricter requirements for petitioners and applicants seeking immigration benefits. The memo outlines that a petitioner or applicant must provide a “valid signature” to receive approval from a USCIS. A valid signature is defined by USCIS as any handwritten mark or sign by an individual to signify his or her knowledge of the contents of the request. It is not required that the valid signature be legible or in English, nor is it required to be in cursive handwriting. An individual unable to write in language may use “X” or a similar mark as a signature. As per USCIS, a signature created by a typewriter, world processor, stamp, auto-pen or similar device is not acceptable.
According to a previous memorandum, petitioners or applicants previously could use power of attorney (POA) signatures for applications for immigration benefits. This was allowed under general agency principles. However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) found that signatures from POAs “create an additional evidentiary burden, making it more difficult to litigate or prosecute immigration fraud when the filing is signed and filed by a POA.” Additionally, USCIS found that adjudicating officers did not treat applications with POA signatures with consistent scrutiny.
According to USCIS, the petitioner must write an authorized signature. Failure to comply may result in a rejected form. For example, a petition for a high skilled worker (H-1B) must include the signature of an authorized employer. The new requirement excludes applications on behalf of minors under the age of 14 and applicants who are mentally incompetent. USCIS will reject and return any request for immigration benefits not accompanied by a valid signature. Additionally, USCIS reiterated that a Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative, does not authorize a representative to sign the forms on behalf of the petitioner or the beneficiary.
While it is good news to see USCIS bring in consistency among USCIS officers and offices while increasing efforts to crack down on immigration fraud, this new requirement will put an additional burden on the businesses who, at times, are unavailable to sign the forms at a short notice. For corporations utilizing legal entities for administrative ease, the new requirement will present a hassle starting March 17th of this year when the guidance becomes effective.
 Under general legal principles, an individual or entity may authorize another to act on his or her behalf, and that person becomes an “Agent.”