What is Mandamus?

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What is Mandamus?

Hello everyone. Erin Cobb here. Welcome back to Kriezelman Burton & Associates’ series on immigration terms and abbreviations. Today we are going to be talking about the term mandamus. Formally called a petition of writ of mandamus, mandamus is a type of lawsuit that is filed in federal court as a way to compel an official of the U.S. government to perform his or her duty. In the immigration context, this usually means compelling the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to decide an application that has been pending for a very long time.

Now, in this case, your lawyer has to prove three things, among others, to get the court to order the agency to make a decision. One, they must prove that the agency, usually USCIS, has the duty to decide your application. Two, that you have the right to have your application decided. And three, the real issue in these types of cases, whether the delay in making a decision is unreasonable. For example, the court could look to the expected processing times and whether your application falls outside of that, whether you’ve been harmed or there’s been some other effect upon you because of the delay, or if Congress, or the agency itself, has set particular expectations for that application that you’re not meeting.

How does this actually work? Well, the attorney will draft a document called a complaint. This is the first paper that’s filed with the court, which essentially says, “this is our problem and this is how it can be fixed.” Once the complaint has been filed with the court, the attorney has to serve or give copies to the opposing parties. In this case, the opposing parties would be the immigration service and other federal agencies.

After receiving the complaint, USCIS is automatically given 60 days to respond to the complaint. It usually uses this time to investigate why the case is taking so long. At this point, the judge that was assigned to the case will set a status hearing. The agency attorneys and your own attorneys will discuss the case and decide how to move forward. Sometimes, the agency recognizes that the amount of time the application has been pending is unreasonable, and they will just settle the case by deciding the application. Other times, however, the attorneys will wrangle and fight about it, but always through a formal written procedure in front of the judge. It is important to remember that a judge cannot order immigration to grant your application with a mandamus suit. Instead, the judge is ordering the service to decide your application. It is then up to USCIS to grant or deny the application as is appropriate.

As you can tell, the process can be short or can be drawn out. Regardless of the duration of your mandamus suit, it is advised to speak with an immigration attorney to ensure you have the correct information or go through the process in the proper way. Please never hesitate to contact the attorneys at Kriezelman Burton & Associated with any immigration cases. We are here to assist you. Call or fill out our contact form online to schedule a consultation today.