Message to USCIS: Support Your Local (and National) Postal Service

Author: on December 19, 2011

In a little-known practice that has been in place for a number of years, if an application is sent to any of the addresses for the Vermont Service Center by U.S. Postal Service, the postal service does not deliver it to the VSC, but rather, holds the application at a postal facility for the VSC to pick up.  And the VSC only picks up the mail once a day.  What’s more, the VSC tells us that they only treat the application as “received” when they get it, not when it is delivered to the address designated by USCIS on its website and forms instructions, even if there is a delivery acknowledgment and a Postal Service delivery confirmation.  On the other hand, if you submit your application using FedEx, UPS, or one of the other services, it gets delivered to the VSC directly, the VSC opens the package, and “receives” it into the system.

Who gets hurt by this practice?  Imagine a U.S. employer who has just entered into a contract for a project and needs the special skills of a particular foreign national. The employer has sent an H-1B petition via USPS to the VSC.  It arrived at the VSC mailing address on November 22, but it was rejected because it was not picked up by VSC until November 23, after the H-1B cap had been hit. Notwithstanding that fact that most of us would consider that a timely filing, the employer is simply out of luck.

The struggling U.S. Postal Service is out of luck too, because USCIS and the VSC are essentially telling their customers: “Don’t use the post office if you want to be sure we get the application on time.”

Where USCIS designates a street address or a post office box address as the place to which to send an application, a petition, or any other document, customers should be able to rely on timely delivery to that address as sufficient.  An arbitrary decision about when to pick up the mail should not have a “make or break” impact on a U.S. employer’s filing. This doesn’t make sense, it isn’t fair, it isn’t right, and it needs to be fixed.

  • We had to file an I-485 at VSC within 4 years of issuance of U status. That deadline was Saturday June 18th. We used USPS Express (overnight, right?) Mail, postmarked at the local post office on Thursday June 16th. USPS delivery confirmation reflects that the package was delivered to the proper VSC address on Saturday June 18th (our deadline). Unfortunately, the receipt from VSC reflects a receipt date of Monday June 20th. Too late! I will write a letter to challenge their receipt date, with evidence of delivery date, but according to a 2007 VSC Liaison Meeting Minutes, “If the mail is received at the post office after our second pickup [for the day], the mail is considered to have been received the following day.” Under what authority may VSC “consider” any date other than the date actually delivered to the address they provide for filing?!?