Integrity Legal

23rd August 2009

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is a very large bureaucracy that handles the processing of many petitions for US Immigration benefits. The Service can take a great deal of time to process visa applications and simple delay is not considered out of the ordinary. That being said, there are certain situations in which a delay by USCIS is unwarranted.

If it becomes necessary to compel a government agency to fulfill their statutorily mandated obligations, then a Writ of Mandamus can be filed to compel the agency or officer to perform their duty. A Mandamus action is a civil action and is promulgated by a court of competent jurisdiction. It specifically compels a government officer to carry out their duties in the manner prescribed by law. A piece of legislation known as the Mandamus Act, can be found at 28 U.S.C.: 1361. This provision specifically states that Mandamus is an, “Action to compel an officer of the United States to perform his duty.”

With regard to USCIS, a mandamus action will likely be brought before a Federal District Judge in a United States District Court. If granted, the court’s order will be binding upon the USCIS officer who allegedly failed to adequately fulfill his duties.

The writ of Mandamus exists for a very good reason as it was designed to create a check on the unfettered powers of government officers. That being said, those thinking of filing for a writ of mandamus should give the decision a great deal of thought because the ultimate result could turn out to be detrimental in certain cases. For example, should a case get caught up in the system making it necessary to file a Mandamus action, because the Mandamus order only compels the officer to take action, and does not compel the officer as to what decision should be made, it could turn out that the officer simply denies the application and the case comes to an end, albeit more quickly than it likely would have had the Mandamus order not been granted.

With this in mind, the Mandamus action should be utilized judiciously as not every case calls for it. In those cases where a Mandamus action would be appropriate, the seeker of such a writ should weigh all of his or her options in order to make a full determination as to whether the Mandamus action is appropriate in light of the unique facts in that particular case.


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