USCIS Field Operations Stakeholder Meeting
USCIS Field Operations Directorate Quarterly Meeting
On May 25, 2010, the Field Operations (FO) Directorate and the Office of Public Engagement hosted the first quarterly stakeholder meeting to provide updates and address stakeholder concerns. The FO Directorate was established in January 2010, and includes 26 districts (divided into 4 regions) as well as the National Benefits Center. Four Regional Directors oversee the district and field employees. The objective of the first quarterly stakeholder meeting was to introduce FO leaders, and to provide an opportunity for open discussion.
FO leaders provided the following updates:
- The national average for processing Applications for Naturalization (the Form N-400) is 5 months and for processing Applications to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (the Form I-485) is 4.2 months.
In May 2002, USCIS issued a memorandum entitled Procedures for Handling Naturalization Applications of Aliens Who Voted Unlawfully or Falsely Represented Themselves as U.S. Citizens by Voting or Registering to Vote. This important document is available online and addresses various concerns offered by stakeholders in advance of the first quarterly meeting. As part of a broad policy review process, USCIS welcomes stakeholder feedback on this memo.
- USCIS has revised the Medical Certification for Disability Benefits (Form N-648) which was posted in the Federal Register on May 28, 2010. Please click on the following link to review the revised form during the 30-day comment period. FO is also developing policy guidelines and field guidance.
- USCIS just instituted a new process whereby draft guidance or memoranda will be posted for public comment. Please visit the USCIS website at Draft Memorandum for Comment. Each memorandum is available for comment for ten business days after posting. The final date for comments is listed after each link. Please email all comments to email@example.com and put the title of the relevant memorandum in the subject line of your message. This process is managed by OPE; responses are analyzed and shared with relevant Program Offices.
- The FO Directorate is willing to host regional liaison meetings and looks forward to expanded opportunities to elicit and address stakeholder input.
Adjudications and Standard Operating Procedures
Stakeholders were interested in learning more about the adjudications process and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for Immigration Services Officers. FO leaders indicated that each application or petition is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis, and as a function of all available information or evidence. It is difficult to provide general answers to case-specific questions – especially where criminal or medical histories are at issue. For example, pending criminal charges or an incomplete probationary period may impact an applicant’s eligibility. USCIS at times may withhold a final adjudication pending resolution of a criminal case or a period of probation. Where an application may require a medical certification, USCIS generally does not require use of a specific provider but rather prefers that applicants identify and utilize professionals they know and trust. Please note that Agency practice involves ISOs consulting with their immediate supervisors and/or local counsel for guidance on case-specific adjudication questions.
USCIS is currently conducting a bottom-up review of all of our policies and SOPs. Headquarters received approximately 3,000 documents from the field that will be part of this assessment. USCIS also posted a policy review survey on our website to collect stakeholder feedback. As USCIS continues this review process, the Agency intends to engage on specific policies and to gather stakeholder comments and concerns.
Customer Service and Case Status Inquiries
There were a numbers of questions and concerns raised by stakeholders regarding customer service and case status inquiries. In general, USCIS encourages applicants or their representatives to follow a specific procedure:
- Contact the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 and request to generate a service inquiry. This will direct the inquiry to the appropriate district office and permit USCIS to track the status of our response.
- Schedule an appointment through InfoPass to speak with an Immigration Services Officer (ISO). ISOs are trained to manage field, service center, and lockbox inquiries. If your query is not addressed during the initial appointment please ask to speak with a supervisor. USCIS will not give out phone numbers or emails of our adjudicators.
- If you do not receive adequate responses, please go up the chain of command: Field Office Director, District Director, Regional Director, and then Headquarters. All inquiries sent directly to Debbie Rogers should go through the Office of Public Engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Additional information can be found on the USCIS website at Contact Us.
- A list of Regional Directors and District Directors is available at the end of this document.
Requests for Evidence (RFEs)
RFEs are a high priority for USCIS. The Service Center Operations (SCOPS) Directorate has initiated a nationwide review of RFEs. The FO Directorate is joining in the effort by looking at ways to improve RFEs generated in the field. The Agency currently sends out two types of RFEs: 1) initial evidence based on information on the form or regulatory requirements and 2) additional evidence which oftentimes arises when an adjudicator interviews an applicant and identifies that additional evidence is needed to make a decision. However, there are times when the information in a case and/or statutory requirements warrants a denial by USCIS without sending an RFE.
Role of the Attorney/Representative
Stakeholders continue to be concerned about how some attorneys are treated by USCIS adjudicators in the context of benefit interviews, particularly with regard to seating arrangements. FO leaders agree that, barring safety or security concerns, attorneys and/or accredited representatives should be able to sit next to their clients during benefit interviews. We are working on guidance to address concerns expressed by stakeholders and will post it once available on the USCIS website.
If an attorney or accredited representative feels that an adjudicator is asking inappropriate questions during the interview, they should ask to speak with a supervisor. USCIS has spent a considerable amount of time training the ISOs on interview techniques; the FO Directorate also has a quality assurance process on test administration to identify and address issues of concern.
The Agency respects the attorney-client relationship and asks that attorneys and accredited representatives likewise respect USCIS staff in the context of benefit and other interviews/interactions. Future guidance will address how ISOs should report instances involving perceived inappropriate conduct by attorneys and/or accredited representatives and also the reverse (i.e., how attorneys and/or accredited representatives should report perceived inappropriate behavior by ISOs).