Chapter 5: Privacy and Confidentiality in Customer Service

A. Privacy in Customer Service​

1. Background​

Broadly stated, the purpose of the Privacy Act is to balance the government’s need to maintain​ personal​ information with ​the rights and ​protection​s​ against unwarranted invasions of privacy stemming from federal agencies’ collection, maintenance, use, and disclosure of personal information.​ [1] See 5 U.S.C. 552a.


​Under the Privacy Act, a federal agency must provide certain protection
s​ for personally identifiable information (PII) that it​ collects, disseminates, uses, or maintains​. ​In particular, the Privacy Act covers systems of records that an agency maintains and retrieves by a person’s name or other personal identifier (for example, Social Security number). The Privacy Act requires that privacy information in the custody of the federal government be protected from unauthorized disclosure​; violations of these requirements may result in​ civil and criminal penalties.​

2. Application of the Privacy Act in Customer Service​

DHS defines PII as​ any information that permits the identity of an individual to be directly or indirectly inferred, including any information which is linked or linkable ​to that person regardless of whether the person is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, visitor to the United States, or employee or contractor of the Department. ​

Sensitive PII is defined​as information which​,​ if lost, compromised, or disclosed without authorization, could result in substantial harm, ​embarrassment, inconvenience, or unfairness to a person. ​Some examples of PII that USCIS customer service personnel may encounter include:​

Name​

A-Number​

Address​

Date of Birth​

Social Security Number​

Naturalization or Citizenship Certificate Number​

USCIS employees have a professional and legal responsibility to protect the PII the agency collects, disseminates, uses​,​ or maintains about persons. All USCIS employees must exercise due care when handling all PII and all information encountered in the course of their work. All USCIS employees processing PII must know and follow the policies and procedures for storing, handling, and sharing PII. Specifically, USCIS employees ​must​:​

Collect PII only when authorized; ​

Limit the access and use of PII; ​

Secure PII when not in use; ​

Share PII, only as authorized, with persons who have a need to know; and​

Complete and remain current with all PII training mandates.​

Providing information to a customer about his or her case often involves releasing information covered under the Privacy Act. It is imperative that USCIS employees and contractors verify the identity of the customer, his or her authorized representative, or both​,​ and ensure that they are entitled to receive case information. USCIS employees and contractors should never release PII over the phone until the identity of the caller and his or her need to know the information have been confirmed.​

In addition, written responses to Service Requests or other inquiries ​are​ sent to the address of record. If the customer provides an address for a response that is different than the address listed in USCIS systems or in the applicant’s or petitioner’s file, the response should indicate that the customer must update his or her address before USCIS is able to send any correspondence to that address.​

3. Congressional and Other ​Third-​Party Releases​

Numerous laws, regulations, and policies limit the disclosure of information contained in ​USCIS files and USCIS data systems. ​While the Privacy Act is limited to the protection of information regarding a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen, by policy, this protection is extended to all ​persons​. In addition, ​specific statutory, regulatory, and policy protections​ may apply to certain​cases​, such as ​Violence ​Against​ Women Act (​VAWA​), ​T​,​ and U ​cases​.​

Information from other agencies, such as ​U.S. ​Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), may be locat​ed in USCIS files and systems. ​This information must not be released in response to an inquiry, although it may be appropriate to refer the inquiry to another agency​. ​

Case inquiries from Congressional offices are covered by guidance provided by the ​USCIS ​Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA) and any such inquiries must be handled by OLA or a designated congressional liaison in accordance with the OLA Standard Operating Procedures​. ​

Generally speaking, the Privacy Act prohibits the disclosure of information subject to the protections of the Act without the consent of the individual to whom the information relates​. ​There are enumerated exceptions of the Act that may apply​.​

One of those exceptions authorizes disclosure to either House of Congress, or any​ Congressional​ committee or subcommittee, joint committee​,​ or subcommittee of ​a​ joint committee if the matter is within their jurisdiction.​For all other requests from members of Congress, such as constituent requests, USCIS requires that a written, signed, and notarized privacy release be obtained from the applicant or petitioner before any information is released.​

Similarly, prior to respondi​ng to a non-Congressional third-​party case inquiry, a written, signed, and notarized privacy release must be obtained from the applicant or petitioner​. ​

4. Requests from Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs)​

Information may be shared with other DHS components under the existing DHS information sharing policy, which considers all DHS components one agency​. ​Requests from LEAs outside of DHS should be referred to the Fraud Detection and National Security (FD​NS) supervisor for the office. ​For requests from ​f​ederal, ​s​tate, or local government agency representatives who want to review or wan​t copies of documents from an A-​file, USCIS employees should refer to USCIS records procedures regarding outside agency requests for USCIS files. ​

If an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigator requests information, the USCIS employee should provide the information upon verifying the ​requestor’s identity. ​USCIS employees and contractors are also reminded that they must provide prompt access for auditors, inspectors, investigators, and other personnel authorized by the OIG to any files, records, reports, or other information that may be requested either orally or in writing, and this cooperation may not be impeded by supervisors​. ​

B. Maintaining Confidentiality of VAWA, T, and U Cases​

1. Background​

Applicants and recipients of immigration relief under the Violence ​Against​ Women Act of 1994 (VAWA)​ [2] See Pub. L. 103-322 (Sept. 13, 1994). and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000​ [3] See Pub. L. 106-386 (Oct. 28, 2000). (T and U nonimmigrant status for victims of trafficking and other serious crimes) are entitled to special protections with regard to privacy and confidentiality​. ​The governing statute prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of information about VAWA, T, and U cases to anyone other than an officer or employee of DHS, the Department of Justice (DOJ), or the Department of State (DOS) who has a need to know.​ [4] See 8 U.S.C. 1367.

This confidentiality provision is commonly referred to as “Section 384” because it originally became law under Section 384 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, which protects the confidentiality of victims of domestic violence, trafficking, and other crimes who have filed for or have been granted immigration relief​. ​

Because an unauthorized disclosure of information regarding a VAWA, T, or U case can have significant consequences, it is imperative that USCIS employees maintain confidentiality in these cases. Victims of domestic violence, victims of trafficking, and victims of crimes can be put at risk, as can their family members, if information is provided to someone who is not authorized. ​Anyone who willfully ​uses, publishes, or permits any information pertaining to such victims to be disclosed in violation of the above-referenced confidentiality provisions may face disciplinary action and be subject to a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation.​

2. Scope of Confidentiality​

Duration of Confidentiality Requirement​

By law, the confidentiality provisions apply while a VAWA, T, or U case is pending ​and​after it is approved, and ends when the application for immigration relief is denied and all opportunities for appeal of t​he denial have been exhausted. ​However, as a matter of policy, USCIS has extended the confidentiality to include denied petitions​. ​

Disclosure of Information​

USCIS cannot release any information regarding VAWA, T, and U cases until the identity of the requestor of information is verified ​and​that person’s authorization to know​ or ​receive the prot​ected information is verified. ​Such identity and eligibility verification must be done before responding to any inquiry, expedite request, referral, or other correspondence​. ​

Exceptions for Disclosure of Information​

USCIS is permitted to disclose information pertaining to VAWA, T, and U cases in c​ertain, limited circumstances. ​These circumstances include:​

Census Information​ – ​Disclosure of information may be made in the same manner and circumstances as census information may be disclosed by the Secretary of Commerce.​ [5] Under 13 U.S.C. 8.

Legitimate Law Enforcement Purposes​ – ​Disclosure of information may be made to law enforcement officials to be used solely for a legitimate law enforcement purpose.​

Judicial Review​ –​ Information can be disclosed in connection with judicial review of a determination provided it is in a manner that protects the confidentiality of the information. ​

Applicant Waives Confidentiality​ –​ Adults can voluntarily waive the confidentiality provision; if there are multiple victims in one case, they must all waive the restrictions.​

Public Benefits​ –​ I​nformation may be disclosed to f​ederal, ​s​tate, and local public and private agencies providing benefits, to be used solely in making determinations of eligibility for benefits​.​ [6] In accordance with 8 U.S.C. 1641(c).

Congressional Oversight Authority (​for example, ​Government Accountability Office audits)​ – ​The Attorney General and the ​Secretary of Homeland Security ​can disclose information on closed cases to the chairmen and ranking members of Congressional Committees on the Judiciary, for the exercise of Cong​ressional oversight authority. ​The disclosure must be in a manner that protects the confidentiality of the information and omits personally identifying information (including location-related information about individuals).​

Communication with Non-Governmental Organizations​ (NGO)​ –​ Government entities adjudicating applications for relief​ [7] This applies to application for relief pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1367(a)(2). and government personnel carrying out mandated duties under ​the ​Immigration and Nationality Act (​INA​)​ [8] See INA 101(i)(1). may, with the prior written consent of the ​foreign national ​involved, communicate with nonprofit NGO victims’ service providers for the sole purpose of assisting victims in obtaining victim services. Agencies receiving referrals are bound by the confidentiality provisions.​

National Security Purposes​– ​The ​Secretary of Homeland Security​, the Secretary of State, or the Attorney General may provide in their discretion the disclosure of information to national security officials to be used solely for a national security purpose in a manner that protects the confidentiality of such information.​

3. Providing Customer Service in VAWA, T, and U Cases​

When an applicant for VAWA, T, or U benefits requests customer service, USCIS employees must handle the request with care to ensure confidentiality is maintained.​

Change of Address​

A change of address can be made by submitting a written request with an original signature to the Vermont Service Center (VSC). ​Applicants with ​VAWA, T, or U related cases should ​not​use change of address resources online​. Instead, these applicants should​submit a Change of Address (​Form AR-11​)​, or call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) to change their address. ​

If the case has been transferred to a ​USCIS f​ield ​o​ffice, the VSC transfer​s​ the change of address request to the appropr​iate office. ​A change of address in VAWA, T, or U cases that has been transferred to a ​f​ield ​o​ffice can only be made by a supervisor.​

An applicant may also appear in person at a USCIS ​f​ield ​o​ffice to request a change of address​. ​The applicant’s identity must be verified prior to making the requested change​. ​If the case is at the ​VSC​, the ​f​ield ​o​ffice must also notify the VSC of the change of address. ​

Telephonic Inquiries to the NCSC​

As previously noted, the identity of the ​person​ inquiring about a confidential case must be verified and that person’s eligibility to receive information must also be verified. Such verification ​cannot​be effectuated telephonically.​

C. Asylum, Refugees, Credible Fear Determinations, and Reasonable Fear Determinations​

1. Background​

Federal regulations generally prohibit the disclosure to ​third​parties​ of information contained in or pertaining to asylum applications, credible fear determinations, and reasonable fear determinations​.​ [9] See 8 CFR 208.6. This includes ​information contained in the Refugee and Asylum Processing System (RAPS) or the Asylum Pre-Screening System (APSS)​, ex​cept under certain limited circumstances​. ​As a matter of policy, ​this regulation is extended to Registration for Classification as Refugee ​(​Form I-590​) ​as well as Refugee/Asylee Relative Petitions​ (​Form I-730​)​. ​

These regulations safeguard information that, if disclosed publicly, could subject the claimant to retaliatory measures by government authorities or non-state actors in the event the claimant is repatriated, or could endanger the security of the claimant’s family members who may still be residing in the country of origin.​

Moreover, public disclosure might give rise to a plausible protection claim by the claimant where one would not otherwise exist by bringing an otherwise ineligible claimant to the attention of the government authority or non-state actor against which the claimant has ma​de allegations of mistreatment.​

Confidentiality is breached when information contained in or pertaining to an asylum application (including information contained in RAPS or APSS), refugee application, or I-730 petition is disclosed to a ​third-party​ in violation of the regulations, and the unauthorized disclosure is of a nature that allows the ​third-party​ to link the identity of the applicant to: ​

The fact that the applicant or petitioner has applied for asylum or refugee status;​

Specific facts or allegations pertaining to the individual asylum or refugee claim contained in an asylum or refugee application; or​

Facts or allegations that are sufficient to give rise to a reasonable inference that the applicant has applied for asylum or refugee status. ​

The same principles generally govern the disclosure of information related to credible fear and reasonable fear determinations, as well as to applications for withholding or deferral of removal under Article 3 of the Convention ​Against​ Torture, which are encompassed within the asylum application.​As mentioned above and as a matter of policy, USCIS extends the regulatory safeguards to include refugee case information as well as Form I-730 information.​

In the absence of the asylum or refugee applicant’s written consent or the Secretary of Homeland Security’s​specific authorization, disclosure may be made only to U.S. Government officials or contractors and U.S. ​f​ederal or ​s​tate courts on a need-to-know basis related to certain administrative, law e​nforcement, and civil actions.​

The release of information relating to an asylum or refugee application, credible fear determination, or reasonable fear determination (including information contained in RAPS or APSS) to an official of another government or to any entity for purposes not specifically authorized by the regulations without the written consent of the claimant requires the express permission of the ​Secretary of Homeland Security​.​

2. Inquiries Related to an Asylum or Refugee Application or Credible or Reasonable Fear Determination​

Information contained in, or pertaining to, any asylum or refugee application must not be disclosed to any ​third-party​ without the written consent of the applicant, except as permitted by ​regulation ​or at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security.​ [10] See 8 CFR 208.6.

This includes neither confirming nor denying that a particular individual filed​:​

Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal (​Form I-589​);​

Registration for Classification as Refugee (Form I-590); or​

Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition (​Form I-730​)​. ​

USCIS employees should respond to inquiries related to Form I-589, Form I-590, and Form I-730 applications in different ways depending on the inquiry:​

Request for Disability Accommodation at an Upcoming Form I-589 Interview​

Tier 2 ​officers​ may create a ​Service Request Management Tool (​SRMT​)​ request and submit the request to the ​a​sylum ​o​ffice with jurisdiction over t​he pending asylum application. ​The ​a​sylum ​o​ffice then contact​ the applicant to arrange for disability accommodation at the interview.​While ​officers​ must not confirm or deny the existence of a pending asylum application, those making disability accommodation requests for upcoming asylum interviews should be told that the request is being recorded and will be forwarded to the appropriate office for follow-up.​

Change of Address Request​

Tier 2 ​officers​ may create a Service Request and submit it to the ​a​sylum ​o​ffice or ​s​ervice ​c​enter with jurisdiction over the pending asylum application or Form I-730 petition​. ​The office then fulfill​s​ the Service Request.​While ​o​fficers​ must not confirm or deny the existence of a pending asylum application, those making address change requests should be told that the request is being recorded and will be forwarded to the appropriate office.​

NCSC Status Inquiries for Form I-589 Applications and Form I-730 Petitions​

NCSC personnel may not respond to any status inquiries, and may not confirm or deny the existence of an application or petition. Instead, NCSC personnel ​should​direct the caller to the local office with jurisdiction over the application. The office with jurisdiction over the application must respond to the inquiry.​

NCSC Status Inquiries for I-590 Applications​

NCSC personnel may not respond to any status inquiries and may not confirm or deny the existence of an application or petition. Instead, NCSC personnel ​should​obtain all relevant information from the inquirer and refer the inquiry to the ​USCIS ​Headquarters Refugee Affairs Division​ (RAD)​ for response.​

Inquiries Regarding Subsequent Applications or Petitions Based on Underlying Form I-589, Form I-590​,​ or Form I-730​

Officers ​may respond to inquiries regarding subsequent applications or petitions that are based on an underlying Form I-589​,​ Form I-590​, or Form I-730​ (including ​Application for Travel Document (​Form I-131​)​, ​Application for Employment Authorization (​Form I-765​)​, or ​Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (​Form I-485​)​ applications or petitions).​ Officers ​may not confirm or deny the existence of the underlying application.​

General Inquiries​

USCIS employees may respond to general questions about the asylum program, the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP), and credible a​nd reasonable fear screenings.​ [11] Examples of general inquiries include: Who can apply for asylum or refugee status, how to apply for asylum or access the USRAP, bars to protection, whether applicants are eligible for work authorization, number of days it normally takes before an interview is scheduled. However, for all specific case status questions relating to I-589 applications or I-730 petitions, the inquirers must be directed to contact the local ​a​sylum ​o​ffice or ​s​ervice ​c​enter with jurisdiction over the application. For specific case status questions relating to I-590 refugee applications, the inquiry must be referred to ​RAD​ for response.​

Asylum ​o​ffices may accept case inquiries from the applicant or the applicant’s attorney​ or ​representative with a properly completed ​Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative​ (​Form G-28​) ​on file​. ​

Asylum offices may receive case inquiries​ in a variety of ways, such as by mail, email, phone, fax​,​ or in person​. ​When it is possible to verify the identity of the applicant or attorney​ or ​representative inquiring, offices may respond using any of those communication channels. If it is not possible to verify the identity of the inquirer, ​a​sylum ​o​ffices ​should ​respond to inquiries by providing a written response to the last address the applicant provided.​

RAD ​does not respond to inquiries over the phone, but instead asks the inquirer to put his or her request in writing so that the signature and return address can be co​mpared to information on file. ​RAD respond​s​ to an inquiry received by email only if the email address matches the information the applicant submitted to the Resettlement Support Center.​

D. Temporary Protected Status​ (TPS)​

1. Background​

Like refugee and asylum cases, information pertaining to TPS cases may not be disclosed to certain ​third​parties​ because unauthorized disclosure of information may put the applicant or the applicant’s family at risk.​ [12] See INA 244(c)(6). See 8 CFR 244.16.

The law prohibits the release of information contained in the TPS application or in supporting documentation to ​third​parties​ without the written co​nsent of the applicant. ​A ​third​party​ is defined as anyone other than:​

The TPS applicant;​

The TPS applicant’s attorney or authorized representative (with a properly executed G-28 on file);​

A​ DOJ​ officer, which has also been extended to include a​ DHS​ officer following the transfer of certain immigration functions from DOJ to DHS; or​

Any f​ederal or ​s​tate law enforcement agency.​

2. Inquiries Related to TPS​

USCIS may not release any i​nformation contained in any TPS application and supporting documents in any form to any third party, without a court order or the written consent of the applicant​.​ [13] See 8 CFR 244.16 for exceptions.

Status inquiries may not confirm or deny the existence of a TPS application, or whether an individual has TPS, until the identity of the inquirer has been confirmed and it has been determined the inquirer is not a ​third​party​ to whom information may not be released​.​

USCIS e​mployees must adhere to these same TPS confidentiality provisions regarding the dis​closure of information to third​parties even if the information is contained in a TPS-related form such as the ​Application for Employment Authorization (​Form I-765​)​, which every TPS applicant must file​;​ a TPS-related waiver requested on ​Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (​Form I-601​);​ or a TPS-related ​Application for Travel Document (​Form I-131​)​.​With respect to confidentiality, employees must treat these records as they do other TPS supporting documentation in the TPS application package.​

USCIS employees may respond to general questions about the TPS​ program.​ [14] Examples of general inquiries include: Who can apply for TPS, how to apply for TPS, bars to TPS, whether applicants are eligible for work authorization, and the number of days it normally takes to adjudicate an application for TPS. However, for all case-specific questions relating to Form I-821 applications, identity must first be confirmed and eligibility to receive such information must first be established​. ​

Offices must not take or respond to inquiries about the status of a TPS application made by telephone, fax, or email because it is not possible to sufficiently verify​ the identity of the inquirer. ​Offices may accept written status requests signed by the applicant (or the applicant’s ​attorney or representative ​with a properly completed G-28 on file)​. ​

3. Exceptions for Disclosure​

Information about TPS applications and information contained in supporting document​ation can be disclosed to third​parties in two instances:​

When it is mandated by a court order; or​

With the written consent of the applicant.​

Since they are not considered “​third​parties,​” information about TPS cases can be disclosed to officers of DOJ, DHS, or ​any federal or s​tate law enforcement agency.​ [15] See 8 CFR 244.16. Information disclosed pursuant to the requirements of the TPS confidentiality regulation may be used for ​immigration enforcement​ or in any criminal proceeding.​

E. Legalization​

1. Background​

Statutory and regulatory provisions require confidentiality in legalization cases and LIFE Act legalization cases, prohibiting the publishing of any information that may be identified with a legalization applicant.​ [16] See 8 U.S.C. 1255a(c)(4) and 8 U.S.C. 1255a(c)(5). See 8 CFR 245a.2(t), 8 CFR 245a.3(n), and 8 CFR 245a.21.The laws also do not permit anyone other than sworn officers and employees of DHS and DOJ to examine individual applications.​

Information contained in the legalization application can only be used in the following circumstances:​

To make a determination on the legalization application;​

For criminal prosecution of false statements violations;​ [17] See 8 U.S.C. 1255a(c)(6).or​

In preparation of certain reports to Congress. ​

A breach in confidentiality of legalization cases can result in a $10,000 fine.​

2. Exceptions for Disclosure of Information​

USCIS is permitted to disclose information pertaining to legalization cases in c​ertain, limited circumstances. ​These circumstances include: ​

Law Enforcement Purposes​

USCIS is required to disclose information to a law enforcement entity in connection with a criminal investigation or prosecution, when that information is requested ​in writing​.​

Requested by an Official Coroner​

USCIS is also required to disclose information to an official coroner for purposes of affirmatively identifying a deceased individual (whether or not the individua​l died as a result of a crime).​

Census Information​

Disclosure of information may be made in the same manner and circumstances as census information may be disclosed by the Secretary of Commerce.​ [18] Under 13 U.S.C. 8.

Available from another Source​

USCIS may disclose information furnished by an applicant pursuant to the legalization application, or any other information derived from the application, provided that it is available from another source (​for example​, another application​ or if ​the information is publicly available)​.​

3. Inquiries Related to Legalization​

Case-specific information may be provided to the applicant and the applicant’s attorney or authorized representative (with a ​properly completed​G-28 on file) after the inquirer​’s identity has been verified. ​No others are authorized to receive legalization information unless one of the enumerated exceptions to disclosure noted above applies.​

F. Special Agricultural Workers (SAW)​

1. Background​

Material in A-files filed pursuant to​ the​ SAW program is protected by strict confidentiality provisions​.​ [19] See INA 210. This pertains to the 1987-1988 SAW program. The statute provides that the ​employee​ who knowingly uses, publishes​,​ or permits information to be examined in violation of the confidentiality provisions shall be fined not more than $10,000. In general, USCIS may not use information furnished by the SAW applicant for any purpose other than to make a determination on the application, for termination of temporary residence, or for enforcement actions ​relating to ​false statements in applications​.​ [20] See INA 210(b)(7). The applicant may not waive the confidentiality provisions and they even survive the death of the applicant.​

2. Exceptions for Disclosure and Use of Information​

It is appropriate for DHS and DOJ employees to have access to SAW material​. The materials ​are subject to the above mentioned penalties for unlawful use, publication​,​ or release​. ​USCIS is permitted to disclose information pertaining to SAW cases in​ certain, limited circumstances​. These circumstances​ include:​

Law Enforcement Purposes​

USCIS is required to disclose information to a law enforcement entity in connection with a criminal investigation or prosecution, when that information is requested in writing​.​

Requested by an Official Coroner​

USCIS is also required to disclose information to an official coroner for purposes of affirmatively identifying a deceased individual (whether or not the individual died as a result of a crime)​.​

Criminal Convictions​

Information concerning whether the SAW applicant has at any time been convicted of a crime may be used or released for immigration enforcement or law enforcement purposes.​

3. Inquiries Related to Special Agricultural Workers​

In general, it is permissible to disclose only that an applicant has applied for SAW and the outcome of the adjudication​. ​Case information may be provided to the applicant and the applicant’s attorney or authorized representative (with a ​properly completed​G-28 on file) after the inquirer’s identity has been verified​. ​No others are authorized to receive SAW information unless one of the enumerated exceptions to disclosure noted above applies​.​

G. Nonimmigrants​ under “S” Visa Category​

N​onimmigrants ​under the S visa category ​are ​foreign national​ witnesses or informants​. ​An S nonimmigrant is not readily identified in USCIS systems​. However, ​if a USCIS employee discovers that a customer ​is an S nonimmigrant​or has applied for ​such​ status, the case must be handled carefully​. ​Inquiries regarding ​an ​Interagency Alien Witness and Informant Record​ (​Form I-854​) ​as well as inquiries regarding ​an A​pplication for ​E​mployment ​A​uthorization​ (​Form I-765​)​ filed ​on the basis of being a ​principal nonimmigrant witness or informant in S classification, and qualified dependent family members ​should come from a law enforcement entity​.​ [21] See 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(21).

If a​ customer ​makes an inquiry regarding the status of a Form I-854 or a Form I-765 filed as an S nonimmigrant, the USCIS employee must neither confirm nor deny the existence of such applications and ​should​inform the customer that inquiries on these applications must be submitted through appropriate law enforcement channels​. ​

Also, under no circumstances ​may​USCIS employees ask questions about the S nonimmigrant’s role in cooperating with law enforcement, the type of criminal activity for which the nonimmigrant is an informant or witness, or any specific information about the case in which the S nonimmigrant may be involved​. ​

H. Applicants in the Witness Security Program​

Applicants in the Witness Security Program (commonly known as the Witness Protection Program) are not identifiable in USCIS systems​.​Such applicants​ should not tell anyone, including USCIS employees, that they are ​participants ​in the program​. ​Identities of ​foreign national​s in the program must be in separate immigration files​. However, ​one file will have documentation of a legal name change. ​

If an applicant indicates that he or she is in the Witness Security Program, the applicant should be referred to the U.S. Marshals Service​. ​Also, under no circumstances should USCIS employees ask questions about why or how the applicant was placed in the Witness Security Program or any specific information about the case which resulted in the applicant being placed in the Witness Security Program.​