A battered spouse of a U.S. citizen who has been supporting a daughter studying at Northern Marianas College was allegedly forced to stop working for over a year now due to the inaction of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on her application to renew her employment authorization document, or EAD.
Fengying Li Urumelog, a Chinese citizen, also alleged that her underlying I-360 petition based on her status as a battered and abused spouse of a U.S. citizen has been pending for more than 3 1/2 years for which she already been determined to be prima facie eligible.
USCIS’ alleged inaction has prompted Urumelog to sue Service Center Operations associate director Donald Neufeld, USCIS district director David Gulick, USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the U.S. District Court for the NMI.
Urumelog, through counsel Samuel I. Mok, wants the court to compel USCIS to decide on her pending application for renewal of her EAD.
Urumelog also asked the court to force USCIS to decide on her underlying I-360 petition, which has been pending since May 17, 2012.
Mok said that Urumelog has already written follow up letters to USCIS, called the USCIS national customer service hotline, made and attended an InfoPass Appointment to speak to a USCIS officer in person, and communicated with ranking USCIS officials about her situation, to no avail.
Mok said USCIS’ failure to decide on Urumelog’s application for renewal of her EAD for more than one year is “outrageous and unreasonable” as these decisions are usually made within two to three months of receipt.
According to the petition, on May 17, 2012, Urumelog filed an I-360 petition based on her status as a battered and abused spouse of a U.S. citizen, an I-485 application for adjustment of status, and an I-765 application for employment authorization.
On May 25, 2012, USCIS determined that Urumelog had established a prima facie case for classification as a battered and abused spouse under the Violence Against Women Act.
In December 2012, Urumelog’s I-765 application for employment authorization was granted by USCIS for a period of one year and an EAD was issued to her. She then started working as a sales associate for T Galleria on Saipan.
In October 2013, she submitted an I-765 application to renew her EAD based on her pending I-360 petition as a battered and abused spouse of a U.S. citizen. Two months later, USCIS granted a one-year renewal of her EAD.
On Oct. 24, 2014, Urumelog submitted a second I-765 application to USCIS for renewal of her EAD but USCIS issued a rejection notice less than a month later, erroneously stating that Urumelog failed to submit the requisite $380 filing fee.
According to Mok, there is no filing fee for I-765 applications for employment authorization submitted under the federal Violence Against Women Act.
Uremelog resubmitted her I-765 application along with a letter response to the rejection notice by pointing out that there is no fee associated with EAD applications submitted pursuant to VAWA.
On Dec. 22, 2014, USCIS issued a receipt notice for Uremelog’s re-submitted I-765 application. In doing so, Mok said, USCIS implicitly acknowledged that it had erred in initially rejecting the original I-765 application that was submitted.
Since then, Mok said, USCIS has failed to issue a decision on Urumelog’s I-765 application for renewal of her EAD despite the passage of more than one year. Mok said Urumelog was prohibited from working as her prior EAD had expired in December 2014.
As a result, Mok said, Urumelog had to stop working at T Galleria, which has resulted in the loss of her livelihood and income.
During an InfoPass appointment at the USCIS office on Saipan last June 23, 2015, a USCIS officer told Urumelog that her I-765 application was currently at the Vermont Service Center and that there was nothing he could do.
According to the USCIS officer, “Vermont does what Vermont do,” which he explained to mean that the Vermont Service Center was known for indifference in delays and would process her application at its own pace irrespective of the amount of time it took.
The USCIS officer then typed something on his computer and told Urumelog that he had just sent a message to the Vermont Service Center inquiring about her pending EAD application.
On July 1, 2015, Urumelog filed a new I-765 renewal application for an EAD and submitted a payment of $380 despite the fact that no such fee was required under VAWA because she wanted to make sure the delay in the processing of her application was not due to her failure to pay.
Urumelog insisted on filing a new I-765 application as she was desperate to resume working in order to pay her bills and support her daughter who was attending college at NMC full-time.
To date, Mok said, USCIS has not acknowledged receiving the new I-765 application that Urumelog filed nor has she received any decision regarding her pending I-765 application submitted on Dec. 3, 2014, and officially received by the USCIS on Dec. 22, 2014.
To date, he said, petitioner has not received any decision regarding her pending I-360 petition as the battered and abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or her pending I-485 application for adjustment of status filed with USCIS on May 17, 2012, and May 15, 2012 respectively.
Also, the lawyer said, there are no outstanding or pending requests for evidence issued by USCIS.
“In short, it appears petitioner’s I-765 application for renewal of her EAD, her I-360 petition, and her I-485 application for adjustment of status have all entered a ‘black hole’ with nobody at the USCIS willing to concretely assist her in solving this problem beyond promising to send an email,” Mok said.
Mok said the USCIS’ failure to make a decision on Urumelog’s I-765 application for renewal of her EAD and I-360 petition as the battered and abused spouse of a U.S. citizen has caused immediate and ongoing hardship by precluding her from obtaining a job and earning a living so she can support herself and her daughter.