How (and When) to Request Congressional Assistance on your Case

Following up with USCIS, the US Department of State, and US embassies or consulates abroad is never a fun task. Phone lines are often run by robots who refuse to transfer you to a human, and it can takes weeks (or months) to receive a helpful response to an electronic inquiry or email.

In recent months, these government agencies have continued to make following up harder as case delays grow and case processing errors become more common. USCIS has changed its phone system so that routing to a customer representative is nearly impossible and the NVC essentially only accepts requests and inquiries through a public online form rather than phone calls or special email accounts that they used to use for attorneys and others.

Given these circumstances, it is sometimes necessary to try other routes once all of the general contact and follow up options have been exhausted. One option for checking in on a severely delayed or mishandled case (after first contacting the responsible agency and receiving unsatisfactory results) is to request assistance from a member of Congress.

State representatives have people on staff whose job it is to liaise with government agencies on behalf of their constituents. This can be a very helpful service for individuals who need a hand getting USCIS, USPS, or another government agency to take action on their case or other issue.

Here is an overview of how to go about requesting assistance from a Senator, courtesy of AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association):

  1. Search for your local representatives (dependent on what state you live in).
  2. Click on the legislator’s webpage and look for the “Services” (or “Help Center”) tab. Under “Services,” look for the option on “Help with a Federal Agency” (or something along these lines). You can also search “Help with Federal Agency” in the legislator’s webpage search bar.
  3. You will likely need to fill out an authorization or privacy release form. Please note that each representative or senator will generally have their own version of the form, as well as their own instructions for completing and submitting the form to their office, thus you will need to look for a form each time you contact a different legislative office for case assistance.

Immigration attorneys often have contacts at these offices and can assist with making these requests, but most representatives will only accept requests directly from their constituents, so the request form must be completed and submitted by the individual looking for assistance. Some offices may allow attorneys or others to be copied on correspondence if a privacy release is signed.

Congressional officers are usually very quick to reply and confirm that they have received your request. It may take a few weeks for them to receive a response from USCIS or whichever agency they are contacting on your behalf, so you should wait at least two weeks before following up with them. By showing interest in the outcome of your case, these representatives can often be very effective at encouraging USCIS (or other agencies) to take action.