Bureaucracy can mean two things. One meaning is neutral as in, “It requires a large bureaucracy to run something as complex as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).” The other meaning is pejorative, “If it were not for all the bureaucracy, things could get done much cheaper and faster at USCIS.” When bureaucracy is used pejoratively, the usual gripe is that the bureaucratic rules and procedures are not there to streamline functions to make things more efficient, but rather as an end unto themselves. If someone questions: Why do we need to do it this way? The answer is: Because we do.
Forms are an example of bureaucracy imposing rules to streamline processes. In the case of USCIS, before a person can receive a benefit, certain information must be gathered. A person seeking a benefit, like a visa or U.S. citizenship, could write a letter presenting the needed information. An examiner would have to scour the letter for the required information and missing information may not be readily visible and so a lot of time would be consumed. Instead, forms are used to create efficiency which equates to quicker and cheaper.
However, sometimes forms reveal the other kind of bureaucracy – where the forms are created and must be used for their own sake. Again, using the case of USCIS, a benefit seeker often feels like he or she is filling in the same information over and over again on different forms. In the case of adjusting status to permanent residence and the accompanying benefits, for a represented person, USCIS requires 2 Form G-28’s, an I-130, an I-485, an I-765, an I-131, two G-325’s and an I-864, an affidavit of support. Count ’em, there are nine forms asking the same things over and over with only slight variation. If the person petitioning for a loved one does not earn enough money to be a financial sponsor, someone else must file the I-864, but so must the original sponsor. The form is submitted to show lack of qualification and the need for another form. Supporting documents also must be presented by the non-qualifying petitioner. Odder still is when the petitioner does not need to file an I-864 at all. In such a case, the petitioner must file a form, an I-864W, that says the person does not have to file an I-864.
As inane as these examples may be, I suppose there could be some bureaucratic justification for them. In the case of the I-864W, a clerk processing the application, a person not necessarily fluent in all the nuances of the law, may look for the I-864 and not realize none is needed rather than simply omitted. A form to point this out may have a purpose. However, recently the California Service Center sent me a request for two new forms to be filled out and signed for a petitioner and a beneficiary – with the beneficiary living on the other side of the world. Instead of the Forms G-325 they already received, the California Service Center says it requires Form G-325A. The forms are virtually identical. There is no discernable difference between the two forms. Both, incidentally, indicate on them that they are expired. Here is a G-325 and here is a G-325A. I see no difference between the forms. To me is seems like bureaucracy for its own sake causing expense to the government and delay in adjudication for absolutely no reason. Similar experiences have occurred when a submitted form was rejected because it was expired, yet the newer version of the form is unchanged from the former. If there is a reason to require someone on the other side of the world to sign a form just like a form already in the file and send it back, I would love to know it. If you can discern a difference between the two forms or even discern why there even are two separate forms, please let me know. With your permission, I will tell the world. Posted January 26, 2013.