Field Operations Stakeholder Meeting
On October 6, 2010, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Field Operations Directorate (FOD) and the Office of Public Engagement (OPE) hosted the Field Operations Stakeholder Engagement. USCIS provided updates and answers to stakeholder questions. Present during the meeting were headquarters, regional, and district leadership from the FOD. At the beginning of the meeting, USCIS stated that Debra Rogers would be leaving USCIS to become the Deputy Ombudsman for the Office of the CIS Ombudsman at Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Headquarters. Donald J. Monica will be Acting Associate Director for FOD. Mr. Monica provided a brief introduction and addressed questions received from stakeholders prior to and during the meeting.
Adjustment of Status
Field Operations is also in the process of instituting new case management procedures that will allow employment-based Form I-485s relocated to a field office to be captured in a monthly inventory. The National Benefits Center is prepared to start this process in the next few months. Field Operations will also look into ways that they might be able to consolidate the inventory generated by these new case management procedures with the quarterly inventory published by the Service Center Operations Directorate.
Stakeholders also requested that USCIS look into pre-adjudicating I-485s and granting approvals without interviews. At this time, USCIS presumes that all cases forwarded to Field Offices require an interview and notes that oftentimes adjudications are not done until the time of interview.
USCIS addressed issues of removability, outstanding warrants, and medical exemptions. The FOD noted that if, during the course of a Form N-400 adjudication, it is determined that an applicant is removable, DHS (either through USCIS or ICE) may exercise its prosecutorial discretion to place the applicant in removal proceedings by issuing the applicant a Notice of Appear (NTA), Form I-862. Once removal proceedings are pending, USCIS will generally hold adjudication of the applicant’s Form N-400 in abeyance until a final administrative decision is made in the removal proceedings. One exception is in the 9th Circuit where, based on circuit precedent, USCIS will deny the application when removal proceedings are pending. Field Operations recognizes that there are various issues that may arise and that sometimes these issues are controlled by district offices. The FOD intends to establish national guidance that should help standardize the process to the extent possible. Additionally, USCIS indicated that it is not likely it will notify an applicant or representative of outstanding warrants prior to a naturalization interview.
Immigration Service Officers (ISOs) are not authorized to question medical diagnoses provided by a licensed medical professional on the Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. However, ISOs must verify whether the medical professional has established the necessary nexus between the applicant’s medical condition and his or her inability to comply with the English and/or civics educational requirements for naturalization.
If an applicant or representative feels that the ISO is improperly reviewing or questioning the Form N-648, the applicant or representative may request to speak to the ISO’s supervisor. Case-specific questions and concerns regarding the Form N-648 can also be raised by calling the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283 or visiting a local field office with an InfoPass appointment.
In addition, USCIS conducted a complete review of the Form N-648. As part of the review process, USCIS held engagement sessions with stakeholders to get the feedback and suggestions regarding how best to improve Form N-648 and the Form N-648 adjudication process. On February 1, 2010, USCIS published a draft Form N-648 in the Federal Register and published a final version of the new form in December 2010. USCIS believes that the new Form N-648 is more comprehensive and easier for medical professionals to complete and for naturalization applicants to understand.
USCIS intends to provide general training on the new Form N-648 for interested stakeholders, including medical professionals. The training will introduce the new form and help answer stakeholders’ questions regarding how to complete the new form. Training for USCIS Supervisory Officers will occur in January 2011 followed by a requirement that all USCIS officers who handle N-648’s be trained within 30 days of the supervisory training.
USCIS reminded applicants that they should use their legal name when completing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. An applicant’s legal name is the name on his or her birth certificate unless it has been changed after birth by a legal action such as marriage or a court order.
Finally, stakeholders indicated that they were worried about delays in adjudication following the naturalization interview. Pursuant to Section 336(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), USCIS has up to 120 days from the date of an applicant’s naturalization interview to make a final decision on the applicant’s N-400. In most instances, USCIS is able to make a decision in less than 120 days. However, in some cases, USCIS requires the full 120 days to make a decision. If USCIS is unable to make a final decision within 120 days from the date of the naturalization interview the applicant may apply to the appropriate U.S. District Court for a hearing on the matter. USCIS does not consider a naturalization application delayed if it is still within the 120 day period. Applicants and/or representatives are welcome to make case status inquiries; however, this is not likely to speed up the adjudicative process if USCIS is within the 120 days.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Cases
Contact with USCIS
Please note that “My Case Status” online is designed to reflect certain actions that are updated in our national systems. The system currently has limited capabilities; it does not receive updates nor can it notify applicants regarding cancelled interviews.
The Customer Service Directorate (CSD) is currently working on revising attorney and BIA-accredited representative access to Tier 2 customer service representatives at the NCSC. This will allow attorneys and representatives to bypass the Tier 1 contractor representatives and have direct access to Tier 2 USCIS ISOs. In addition to this service, USCIS reminded stakeholders that the NCSC uses the Service Request Management Tool (SRMT) to track some inquiries or requests and that this tool may be useful for future inquiries or case history.
InfoPass appointments can be used for case status and general inquiries. Generally, applicants should wait 30 days to schedule a second appointment if an application is outside processing times. On the day of the appointment, an applicant or representative should not have to wait more than 30 minutes beyond their scheduled appointment time. If you find this is not the case, please bring it to the attention of local leadership.
Stakeholders also noted that some locations previously allowed individuals to schedule fingerprint appointments on the spot when the field office was co-located with an Application Support Center (ASC) and other locations allowed attorneys to discuss multiple cases during a single InfoPass appointment. The FOD stated that they would look into the self-scheduling concept for fingerprint appointments, but due to technical limitations and USCIS management structure this may not be possible. Field Operations also indicated that they want to ensure that everyone has equal access to USCIS through InfoPass. This requires that USCIS maintain appointment times (currently scheduled 20 minutes apart) and efficiently manage the daily schedule of appointments.
Finally, most Field Office Directors supply local contact information at their regular American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and stakeholder meetings for urgent matters. USCIS is aware that processes differ by office and that USCIS needs to review local liaison contact and consider centralizing inquiry processing through the Service Request Management Tool (SRMT). This includes reviewing local liaison contact and centralizing inquiry processing through the Service Request Management Tool (SRMT).
USCIS is aware that family-based adjustment of status cases at district and field offices are not reported on the Processing Times drop-down menu and is working to correct it. Family-based adjustment processing times for field offices will be included on the dropdown menu in the future. This information can, however, be found by clicking on the “Check Processing Times” link on the left side of the USCIS home page at https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/processTimesDisplayInit.do.
Currently, Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, is used only to electronically notify an applicant or petitioner of acceptance of an application or petition. The form does not provide email notification for interview appointment cancellation.
Policies and Procedures
Last Reviewed/Updated: 02/24/2011