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The CIS Ombudsman's Webinar Series: Engagement with USCIS on the HART Service Center One-Year Anniversary


On April 30, 2024, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) hosted a joint webinar with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the Humanitarian, Adjustment, Removing Conditions, and Travel Documents (HART) Service Center’s one-year anniversary. 

During the webinar, staff members from USCIS and the CIS Ombudsman shared information on the HART Service Center’s purpose and virtual structure, the form types that the HART Service Center adjudicates, and hiring, onboarding, and training efforts in its first year.  

CIS Ombudsman’s recommendations to USCIS on processing times

  • USCIS has stated that, after reviewing its processing times, the agency enhanced its focus on humanitarian-based benefits. As a result, USCIS established the HART Service Center in 2023 with the goal to improve the quality and efficiency of humanitarian caseload processing.   
  • In the CIS Ombudsman’s 2023 Annual Report to Congress, we examined USCIS’ backlogs in the article titled “Backlogs in the Long Term: 2022 in Review” and made a number of recommendations to USCIS on how to improve operations and address processing and policy issues that are some of the agency’s largest challenges.    

Background on the HART Service Center 

  • The HART Service Center was announced on March 30, 2023, and preparations began several months earlier to get the center up and running. Other USCIS service centers support the HART Service Center by receiving forms, doing physical onsite paper-based file exchanges, scanning, and performing other paper-based activities, such as receiving responses to notices of intent to deny or requests for evidence.   
  • The HART Service Center has no physical location and will eventually be a 100% virtual service center, working across multiple time zones. When fully staffed, it will have 481 employees. 

HART form types

Year one progress

  • In its first year, the HART Service Center fully onboarded 379 employees, bringing the staffing level up to 86%. The remaining 14% are in various stages of the hiring process. The HART Service Center is on target to reach its goal of being 95-98% staffed by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2024.  
  • 322 employees have completed training related to HART Service Center operations, including 251 officers. In addition to form-type training, some workloads require specialized training on such issues as victim awareness, the dynamics of domestic violence and confidentiality protections, among others. Officers new to the agency must also attend and pass the Immigration Services Officer BASIC training program offered through the USCIS Academy Training Center.  
  • A significant portion of the new HART Service Center employees were trained on Form I-601A. As part of its overall efficiency and backlog reduction efforts, USCIS has invested in an agency-wide process to digitize all form types. The Form I-601A workload is mostly electronic and the Form I-601A backlog has decreased since September 2023, with 9,080 Form I-601A adjudications completed in FY 2023. This trend continued into FY 2024, with the HART Service Center completing 12,880 Form I-601A adjudications as of January 2024.  
  • Many newly onboarded officers have been assigned to the Form I-360 VAWA workload. The HART Service Center expects to see progress with this workload as FY 2024 continues. 
  • The Form I-730 workload is complex because multiple USCIS directorates adjudicate this form. A HART initiative to properly identify cases in its workload that were ready for immediate adjudication greatly reduced its backlog of Forms I-730 FTJ-A pending over 90 days.  
  • The Form I-918 bona fide determination workload gained traction by employing efficiencies to review more petitions, and the HART Service Center expects to see these gains continue in FY 2024.  

114 attendees joined the webinar. Attendees submitted written questions and comments, and some received live responses during the webinar. The questions and feedback received from attendees were reviewed and shared with USCIS. Our office will post responses to the questions once we receive them from USCIS. USCIS will also post an FAQ that addresses the questions that were posed during the webinar.

For more information, please also visit USCIS’ National Engagement Overview of the HART Service Center and its HART Service Center Frequently Asked Questions pages.  


  • Nathan Stiefel, acting CIS Ombudsman  
  • Ciro Parascandola, chief of Public Engagement, CIS Ombudsman 
  • Connie Bae, chief of staff, Service Center Operations Directorate, USCIS   
  • Jonathan Micale, acting director of HART, USCIS  
  • Laurie Goudge, acting deputy director of HART, USCIS 
  • Jennifer Mickey, chief of staff of HART, USCIS 
Attachment Ext. Size Date
Presentation: Joint Webinar with USCIS on the HART Service Center PDF 692.8 KB 04/30/2024
Last Updated: 07/12/2024
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