By: Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Robert J. Dupont

Reeves and Associates compels the USCIS to finally implement the law requiring conversion of the F-1 visa category to the F-2B category in the US District Court lawsuit of Maniago et al v. Neufeld et. al, Case No. CV 04-7981, Judge R. Gary Klausner. Now, Filipino visa beneficiaries may immigrate faster.

The Immigration Nationality Act [INA] § 204(k) requires automatic conversion from F2B to F1 status when a parent-petitioner becomes a U.S. citizen. With the enactment of the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), Congress specifically recognized a visa classification problem that was unique to Philippine immigrants. Unmarried sons and daughters of legal permanent residents (“F2B category”) have a shorter waiting period for their visa number to become current than unmarried sons and daughters of United States Citizens (“F1 category”). The F2B category is current for petitions filed in November 1995, whereas the F1 category is only current for petitions filed in January 1991. While it may appear that there is only a four year additional wait, it is actually 8 to 10 years because there are less visas available in this category. Now, naturalized petitioners may request a re-classification for their children beneficiaries to the F2B category so that they may immigrate earlier.

The law provides that an already naturalized petitioner may file a formal request to “re-classify” their children’s status to the F2B category. If that date is current, the Embassy must schedule an interview for issuance of the immigrant visa. Reeves & Associates found that Embassy officials regularly ignored requests of applicants to re-classify their immigrant visa category and interview the alien for their immigrant visa.

In September 2004, Reeves and Associates filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court and obtained relief for 16 clients who were waiting for visa processing in Embassies located in Manila, London, and Bahrain. In this litigation Attorney Robert Dupont of Reeves and Associates demanded that the Department of State, Embassy officials, and USCIS employees comply with the re-classification provisions as provided by CSPA.

At first, the State Department refused, claiming that petitions filed by the lawful permanent resident parents for their children under the age of 21 were not covered by the re-classification statute. The government argued that persons originally designated F2A (unmarried children under 21) did not benefit from the re-classification statute and that they would remain classified as F1. Reeves & Associates successfully argued that immigrants in the F2A visa category should be automatically re-classified as F2b upon reaching age 21.

R&A prevailed with all 16 plaintiffs and the USCIS has agreed to complete the re-classification of their cases. Petitioners from the Philippines who have naturalized must pay attention to the status of their petitions they have filed for their sons or daughters. If the son or daughter is still unmarried and their petition is current in the F2B category, they must make a formal request to be re-classified from F1 to F2B status. Petitioners must also follow up on their request and any effort to deny processing based on the fact that their original petition was F2A must be challenged.

If you require legal assistance with this complex issue, we recommend that you consult with an experienced attorney who has been successful in forcing government officials to grant the proper classification and expedite the issuance of the immigrant visa.