What’s a Mandamus Lawsuit?

Filing a Mandamus lawsuit is complicated and confusing. But if your case has been stuck for many months or years, it’s best to hire an experienced immigration attorney.

When a person applies for a green card or other immigration service and it seems to go smoothly, but then inexplicably encounters a wall of delays, it can be very frustrating.

It’s even more frustrating when these mysterious delays drag on for months and then years, and no amount of email, InfoPass appointments, or discussing the case with people through the appropriate administrative channels seems to be moving the case forward. My team has observed this most frequently in applications for naturalization or immigrant visas for relatives living abroad. When this type of delay occurs, it may be time to consider filing a Mandamus lawsuit.

In immigration law, a mandamus lawsuit is used to hold the government accountable. The filing of a Mandamus Claim constitutes a claim against a United States government official or employee for the purpose of compelling that person to do business in an administrative matter that is not arbitrary and to which they are required by law.

The various US immigration authorities are required by their own laws and regulations to make a decision on all applications submitted – they must either accept or reject the application. The government cannot just leave the applicant in limbo forever. Thus, filing a Mandamus lawsuit reminds either the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the US Department of State of this responsibility and prompts them to proceed with granting or denying the application. Filing such a lawsuit doesn’t automatically guarantee that the deadlocked application will be granted, but it does mean that the frustrating and seemingly endless wait and uncertainty is finally over. This allows applicants to move forward and determine their next steps once a decision has been made.

Success Story: Mandamus Trial Wins

Has your immigration case stalled? Maybe it was held up by years of “administrative processing” or “background checks”? If that’s your situation, you might want to learn more about a recent win our team had with a Mandamus letter to see if it could help you out of a bind.

Situation: Stuck in the limbo of “administrative processing”.

My office recently had some clients who encountered this problem. The US citizen’s wife, Sarai*, had applied for an immigrant visa in 2011 on behalf of her husband, Abdul*, an Iranian citizen. The I-130 application was approved within normal processing times, the National Visa Center received all application forms and supporting documents, and the application had been forwarded to the consulate in Qatar, where Abdul had relocated to live and work during he was waiting for approval. In 2013, Abdul was informed that he was scheduled for an immigrant visa interview. He obtained all the necessary police clearances and completed his medical, then he went to his visa interview in 2013, and then…nothing.

He waited, checking the status of his application on the embassy website daily, and still no decision. The delays went back and forth and the only explanation they got was that the case was being delayed for “administrative handling”.

Both incredibly accomplished professionals, Sarai and Abdul were recently married and had a young child. However, due to the delays in Abdul’s visa, they were forced to spend increasing amounts of time apart. Sarai struggled to care for her little boy on her own in the United States while trying to work part-time and pursuing her clinical psychology degree. Meanwhile, Abdul struggled to continue his professional life so far away from his family, extend his work visa in Qatar and take more time abroad, not knowing when he would have to drop everything to be able to Move to USA to join his wife and child.

When they walked into my office, they were at the end of their tether – the uncertainty was taking a huge toll on their lives and emotional well-being. They had tried everything they could think of to inquire about the status of the case and see if they could move it forward, but it stubbornly got stuck. We spoke about their options and the possibility of filing a Mandamus lawsuit. I explained that this would very likely shut down the case, which would bring them a solution to the application process so they could move on with their lives and make other important decisions for their family.

Mandamus Lament: Beginning to End

They eventually decided to file the lawsuit. We helped them with this, and within months of submitting it, we saw some progress. We have been informed that the US Embassy in Qatar will re-examine the case and make a decision. Shortly thereafter, Abdul received a call from a representative at the US Embassy in Qatar. He was told that he would receive information through the embassy’s case status website and that he would need to “update” various documents, such as his medical examination, his criminal record check, and that he would need to present a valid, unexpired passport to the embassy. All these documents have been updated and delivered to the embassy. And about a month later, Abdul received a favorable decision in his case and received his immigrant visa! Success!

Abdul and Sarai were thrilled. Sarai had moved to Qatar to be with Abdul for some time and now the couple and their son had the opportunity to return to the United States together as a family. After 5 years of marriage and a life on hold, they could finally start building their life together here in the United States. We are incredibly happy for her and so glad we were able to help bring her family back together.

What does a Mandamus letter do?

A Mandamus letter can help you resolve undue delays in the immigration process that have caused you to put your entire life on hold. If you apply for immigration, you have a right to a decision in this case. Under the Administrative Procedures Act (APG), the government has a legal obligation to make a final decision on any immigration application in a timely and appropriate manner. If your case has been delayed without good reason, an experienced immigration attorney can help you file a Mandamus lawsuit in federal court, compelling the government to comply with this mandatory legal duty, even in times of uncertainty in our country or even worldwide, such as dealing with the corona virus.

What does a Mandamus letter not do?

A Mandamus letter is an extremely effective legal tool used to compel various federal agencies to make a decision in your immigration case. Filing this type of lawsuit does not guarantee that the government will approve your request, but it does guarantee that your case will no longer remain in an indeterminate state of limbo. The government will be forced to look at your file, assess the evidence you provide and take action against your application.

When nothing else seems to be working and your efforts and requests for information about the status of your pending application are getting no response, a Mandamus lawsuit is often the best way to get the answers you need to solve your case and your life to continue , however there are times when a Mandamus letter is not the right answer for your immigration situation. If this is the case, it is best to contact a qualified immigration attorney in your area.

Why is my green card taking so long?

There are many reasons why the US government might delay your immigration application. Do any of the following situations sound familiar to you?

Her case was dropped due to FBI background checks; You have applied for naturalization or a green card and experienced long waiting times without a decision; or your case has been pending for many months or even years due to “administrative delays”.

If this sounds like what happened to you, contact an immigration attorney. Find out if a Mandamus lawsuit could be the solution to these endless delays! An experienced immigration attorney can help you put an end to this uncertainty and resolve your immigration case as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Green card processing time

Graphic of the application with the stamp “Approved” and a passport next to it; Image by Mohamed Hassan, via

If you have experienced delays related to your immigration application, know that you are not alone. According to the LA Times, federal immigration courts are backlogged at an all-time high, and the sheer number of cases awaiting a decision in California is among the highest in the United States.

In addition to the high number of cases currently being processed, there are several common reasons why your immigration application may be delayed:

Administrative delays in processing: Green card applications (I-485, application for adjustment of status), citizenship applications (N-400, application for naturalization) and other immigration applications go through numerous channels on their way to approval, which slows processing time, which requires administrative processing. Until the decision is made, your application may get stuck at many points in the bureaucratic process. When immigration authorities are questioned about these delays, the likely answer is that your application is “pending,” “under review,” or “under investigation.”

Delays in Background Checks and Security Checks: USCIS conducts background checks and security checks on all applicants for immigration services. These checks involve multiple federal agency checks and long delays are possible even if you have a clean background and no criminal record. Anecdotal evidence suggests that post-9/11 security policies have increased verification of these controls, increasing the likelihood of delays due to profiling of applicants’ names and countries of origin, particularly those from Morocco, Algeria, Russia, China and India , Pakistan and the Middle East.

Issues related to citizenship applications, green cards, or other immigration-related benefits have a significant impact on your current circumstances as well as your future success. It’s important to know that you have certain rights when it comes to receiving a timely decision on your application, and those rights are protected by US law.

Filing a Mandamus lawsuit is complicated and confusing. But if your case has been stuck for many months or years, it’s best to hire an experienced immigration attorney.

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