Mandamus Actions

 A “Mandamus Action” is a lawsuit used to compel someone, such as an officer or employee of the United States government, to act on an administrative matter that is not discretionary; where they have a legal duty to do so and have not. In the context of immigration law this generally means that a government entity such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is charged with making a ruling on a petition of some form and has not provided a decision after a considerable period of time.

When appropriate, Goel & Anderson brings mandamus actions on behalf of clients who find their matters are in limbo and they cannot get the answers they need. Of course, because the defendant is the government, these are federal cases that are tried in U.S. District court and it is not advisable to bring a “writ of mandamus” unless all reasonable administrative remedies are exhausted.  

There are common misunderstandings as to what a mandamus action can provide. No matter how strong the case, the suit cannot compel a favorable decision on behalf of a plaintiff, it only forces a decision to be made, which might be the approval, or even the denial of a petition. Nor does it carry any redress if the plaintiff has already lost a significant opportunity in a time-sensitive issue through the inaction of immigration officials. An example might be where the child of an existing visa holder turned 21 while waiting for a petition decision and became too old to qualify for the petition they had presented. The issue is moot because the government agency in question is no longer compelled to provide a decision in a situation where the petitioner is ineligible. Another example of a moot case would be the winner of a diversity lottery who only qualified for a visa within a specific fiscal year that ended before he/she got a decision.  A mandamus action can only compel an official to act in a matter where they have a legal obligation to act, and they have no such obligation if the plaintiff no longer meets the qualifications of their petition.

Very often clients come to us after a visa petition, submitted on their behalf by another law firm, has not been processed by the government within a reasonable or expected timeframe. In such cases, we first use every possible opportunity to resolve the issue through our channels of communication with USCIS because our goal is to get our client a decision or answer, not simply to file a lawsuit. Frequently, these steps taken by a Goel & Anderson partner are enough to get the agency to act.

We will bring a suit if it is clear that the government agency does in fact have a clear duty to adjudicate the petition in question, not merely use their discretion to do so. Goel & Anderson has a history of creating successful outcomes for its clients in this area. The pressure we exert on the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Attorney General by a suit in which they would have to defend the inaction of the USCIS or the Department of Labor in federal court can often resolve the matter before an actual trial.

For more information about mandamus actions, or to engage Goel & Anderson to assess whether litigation may be appropriate in your case, please contact us to schedule an in-person or telephonic consultation.