Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman -
Families and Children: Family reunification has long been a pillar of U.S. immigration policy. The USCIS Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver program advances family unity in a concrete and meaningful way, and recent guidance addresses some of the most pressing stakeholder concerns. The Ombudsman previously made recommendations and continues to bring to USCIS’s attention issues with policy and practice in the processing of Special Immigrant Juvenile self-petitions. Pervasive and serious problems persist in this area. In the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, USCIS has provided discretionary relief to more than 560,000 individuals who were brought to the United States as children. Through this program, thousands of young people now have the ability to continue their education and work lawfully in the United States. Despite the successful program launch, DACA represents approximately 15 percent of the requests for case assistance received by the Ombudsman during this reporting period.
Employment: U.S. employment-based immigration programs are designed to foster economic growth, respond to labor market needs and improve U.S. global competitiveness. The Ombudsman is pleased to report on progress in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program. However, as discussed in prior Ombudsman Annual Reports, there are longstanding issues with USCIS policy and practice in the high-skilled categories, as well as emerging issues in the seasonal and agricultural programs. Specifically, there are issues with the application of the preponderance of the evidence legal standard and gaps in agency policy. Stakeholders cite redundant and unduly burdensome RFEs, and data reveal an RFE rate of nearly 50 percent in one key high-skilled visa category. Employers continue to seek the Ombudsman’s assistance to resolve case matters and systemic issues in employment-based adjudications.
Humanitarian: USCIS humanitarian programs provide relief for immigrant victims of persecution, abuse, crime and trafficking. This Annual Report section discusses progress and challenges in USCIS processing of humanitarian immigration benefits, including lengthy processing times and unnecessary and unduly burdensome Requests for Evidence for certain victims. This section also includes a discussion of the seven-fold increase in credible fear claims – a product of a confluence of factors including regional violence and economic conditions in Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala – resulting in lengthy affirmative asylum processing times.
Interagency Process, Integrity, and Customer Service: USCIS provides customer service through a wide variety of programs and initiatives. Between April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, USCIS hosted or participated in more than 3,200 stakeholder events, including eight national multilingual engagements and 557 local outreach events in languages other than English. USCIS revised forms pertaining to fee waivers and appeals/motions, in an effort to be more clear, concise, and user-friendly. However, improvements are needed in USCIS’s calculation of processing times, responses to service requests, and fee waiver processing.