Integrity Legal

28th November 2009

The Department of Homeland Security is a vast bureaucracy with many different components. The Ombudsman’s office can be very helpful for those who have had a file go missing or otherwise need assistance in dealing with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Recently, Secretary Napolitano of Homeland Security appointed a new Ombudsman. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), noted the appointment in a recent press release:

“In a message to employees yesterday afternoon, Secretary Napolitano announced the appointment of January Contreras as Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman for the Department of Homeland Security.”

Secretary Napolitano was quoted as saying that the new Ombudsman has “valuable experience,” which will assist in her future endeavors. To further quote the above press release:

“Ms. Contreras previously served as a Senior Advisor to Secretary Napolitano, where she helped lead the Department’s response to the H1N1 flu and oversaw Department initiatives for the White House Council on Women and Girls. She formerly led the Arizona Department of Health Services, managing nearly 2,000 employees and overseeing the state’s public health and behavioral health systems. In addition, she has 10 years of experience in litigation and policy including health and its interaction with immigration policy and legislation.”

The aforementioned press release also noted the exact nature of the USCIS Ombudsman’s role:

“The CIS Ombudsman provides independent analysis of problems encountered by individuals and employers interacting with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and proposes changes to mitigate those problems.”

Contacting the USCIS Ombudsman’s office can be very beneficial for those with a pending K1 visa or K3 visa application. However, the office should not be contacted simply to request information regarding the status of a pending case as the USCIS website is probably the more appropriate place to seek this information.

This author hopes that the appointment of this new Ombudsman will further protect the interests of those processing their application with USCIS. With that in mind, in recent months the USCIS Service Centers seem to be processing applications with a great deal of efficiency and there does not appear to be any reason to believe that this will not continue in the future. It should be noted that the Ombdsman does not oversee the administration of the US Embassy Thailand. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State (the agency with jurisdiction over US Embassies and Consulates, like the US Consulate in Chiang Mai) are two separate agencies and their staff do not generally have overlapping jurisdiction. For issues concerning the Embassy it is usually best to contact the Embassy directly.


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