United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Ombudsman Debra Rogers recently submitted her annual report to
Congress. The report outlined the goals and projects that the USCIS
has been working on over the past year. Ombudsman Rogers identified
key USCIS problem areas and offered recommendations for increasing
efficiency and service. The report concluded by setting forth goals
for the upcoming year.
This past year, USCIS emphasized "quality and consistency
in benefit adjudications." The agency reviewed their policies
and tried to offer guidelines on how immigration benefits should be
uniformly decided. Part of the effort to promote quality and
consistency in adjudications included improving technology. USCIS
launched the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS), which allows
immigrants to electronically file Form I-539, Request to Extend or
Change Nonimmigrant Status. USCIS plans to expand the services that
ELIS offers in the coming years.
The report noted several problem areas in USCIS operations. A
key concern was the lengthy processing times of Employment
Authorization Documents (EADs) that have led to gaps in employment,
job loss, and other problems for many applicants. The
Ombudsman's Office recommended that USCIS set shorter
processing time goals and improve EAD application monitoring and
tracking in order to resolve some of the issues. The report went on
to mention problems with the Validation Instrument for Business
Enterprises (VIBE) system. VIBE is meant to verify the business
information that is filed in support of employment based
immigration petitions, but there have been reports of incorrect
data. Petitioners also complained about the extraordinary ability
employment based visa adjudications being very subjective, so the
report recommended that USCIS establish formal rules to define
extraordinary ability standards. Other recommendations included
improving transparency and consistency in deferred action
processing, and clarifying the role of attorneys during USCIS
Finally, the annual report laid out priorities for 2013. These
goals included using technology to make the adjudication process
more efficient and ensuring access to immigration benefits for
those who are at-risk. In light of the recent Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) announcement on deferred action, the
Ombudsman's Office will also be observing the implementation of
the policy directive and offering recommendations.
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On March 8, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, bearing an edition date of March 8, 2013, for immediate use by employers.
A bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators has introduced the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, an 844-page bill that aims to bolster border security and seeks to provide some of the nation's 11 million undocumented people with a path to citizenship.