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Annual Report to Congress

By statute, the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) submits an Annual Report to Congress by June 30 of each year. Our Annual Report must provide a summary of the most pervasive and serious problems encountered by individuals and employers applying for immigration benefits with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Annual Report also reviews past recommendations to improve USCIS programs and services.

Take the CIS Ombudsman Customer Satisfaction Survey.

Year In Review. Calendar year 2023 was, for USCIS as well as the CIS Ombudsman, a time to reduce backlogs and corresponding processing times. USCIS succeeded on many fronts, reducing processing times overall and the backlog of cases pending past those processing times by 15 percent, despite competing priorities which impact its ability to fully achieve its mission.  

No Longer on the Defensive: Recommendations for a Proactive Approach to Collecting Biometrics from Asylum Applicants in Removal Proceedings. USCIS assists with the processing of defensive asylum applicants by taking biometrics for background and security checks—an activity for which it does not receive funding but to which it still must devote resources. This has been a challenging task for the agency, resulting in a “frontlog” of applications waiting to be receipted, impacting immigration court proceedings. USCIS needs to consider ways to improve customer service for these applicants and enhance internal and external coordination.

Reexamining the Administration of the English Portion of the Naturalization Test. In December 2022, USCIS announced a major naturalization test redesign effort, acknowledging its current approach had the potential to create barriers. Stakeholders expressed concern that the proposed revisions could create more barriers than those they were intended to address. While USCIS has not yet taken any action regarding the test redesign implementation effort, there are things the agency can consider to improve the testing of English as it determines naturalization eligibility.

USCIS’ Prioritization Dilemmas: Lessons from the Form I-601A Backlog. USCIS must always balance workloads, prioritizing some workloads at the expense of others. The current backlog of Forms I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, however, serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of prolonged deprioritization of a workload. The CIS Ombudsman offers ideas on how the agency might improve future such situations.

Lost Mail and the Challenges of Delivering USCIS Documents. Delayed or lost documents and notices can lead applicants or petitioners to miss required actions, resulting in delays or denials, the impact of which can range from inconvenient to severe. The CIS Ombudsman believes USCIS can take further steps to improve its mail delivery process, including increasing online options and encouraging the use of tools that permit closer coordination for mail delivery.

Meeting the Growing Demand for Employment Authorization Documents. The growth in demand for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) over the past several years has presented challenges to USCIS in terms of sheer numbers. USCIS has taken many steps to strengthen the use of EADs and to mitigate their superfluous production, but given the increasing importance of EADs and the growing volume of applications, the CIS Ombudsman recommends USCIS consider both short-term and long-term actions to increase card production capacity and decrease physical card demand.

Clarifying Processing Times to Improve Inquiries and Manage Expectations. Limiting case inquiries to those cases that are “outside normal processing times” based on a threshold the agency sets is a necessary protocol for USCIS. The agency’s posting and presentation of these concepts and wait times, however, are confusing and frustrating, even to frequent users of USCIS services. While USCIS considers options for reconfiguring its display of processing times, we offer ideas to better educate users on the information provided. 

Looking Backward, Looking Forward: Thoughts on the Future of USCIS. In this “thinkpiece” from the CIS Ombudsman, we offer some perspective on the challenges USCIS has faced recently and ideas for consideration as the agency tries to move past them.

Last Updated: 07/17/2024
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