Integrity Legal

27th July 2010

This author has recently been informed that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is poised to conduct a thorough policy review which will delve into USCIS’s customer service procedures and look for ways to improve the US immigration system. As a first step, USCIS announced that a public survey would be conducted. Below are excerpts from a USCIS press release (distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association [AILA]), which outlines the purpose of the policy review and provides guidance regarding further methods of information gathering in an effort to improve USCIS customer service policies:

WASHINGTON— U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced the results of a public survey that launched the USCIS Policy Review, an unprecedented, top-to-bottom examination of the agency’s adjudication and customer-service policies. The survey results helped USCIS select the first 10 issue areas to address in the agency-wide review.


Informed by the survey responses, the agency’s needs, and input from the workforce, the USCIS Policy Review will begin by examining policies in the following issue areas: National Customer Service Center; Nonimmigrant H-1B; Naturalization and Citizenship; Employment-based Adjustment of Status; Family-based Adjustment of Status; Employment-Based Preference Categories 1, 2 and 3; Refugee and Asylum Adjustment of Status; Form I-601; General Humanitarian; and Employment
Authorization and Travel Documents.


“As an agency, we must achieve consistency in the policies that guide us and in how we implement them for the public benefit,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “To achieve that critical goal, we are partnering with the public in this major undertaking to review our adjudication and customer-service policies. We will work collaboratively toward the shared objectives of consistency, integrity, transparency and efficiency.”


In April 2010, USCIS issued a survey that asked any interested member of the public, as well as its own workforce, to help identify the issue areas that the agency should examine first. USCIS received approximately 5,600 survey responses from diverse stakeholders. Those results are now available, along with a summary developed by USCIS’s new Office of Performance and Quality.

Some have questioned the need for such a survey as there are those who feel that USCIS’s current policies do not need improvement. Clearly, this is not the official view of USCIS as can be evidenced by the following statement:

On April 15, 2010, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched the USCIS Policy Review, an unprecedented, top-to-bottom examination the agency’s adjudication and customer service policies with the engaged participation of the USCIS workforce and the public. USCIS issued a survey that asked any interested member of the public, as well as its own workforce, to help identify the issue areas that the agency should examine first. Nearly 5,600 stakeholders responded to the survey, representing current immigrant and non-immigrant visa holders, employers, immigration attorneys and advocates, among others, in addition to responses from approximately 2,400 members of the USCIS workforce. Those responses helped USCIS select the first 10 issue areas to address in the agency-wide review. USCIS is now convening working groups to review the first 10 issue areas.

The press release went further than merely providing information regarding this important policy review. In an effort to provide the public with relevant information, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) also provided a “Q & A” component to the recent press release. The following are questions and answers arising in connection with USCIS’s policy review initiative:

Questions and Answers


Q. What is the USCIS Policy Review?


A. The USCIS Policy Review is a comprehensive review of policy, guidance, and procedures related to our adjudications and customer service. The Policy Review is divided into four stages: (1) assembling and categorizing existing policy documents; (2) deciding which issue areas to review first, with input from surveys of the workforce and external stakeholders; (3) completing a review of policies in each identified issue area; and (4) consolidating and publishing updated policy documents (as appropriate), once approved.


Q. How does the Policy Review advance major goals already established for USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)?


A. In the 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR), DHS identified the effective administration of the immigration system as a key priority. In particular, the QHSR emphasized the importance of a system that produces fair, consistent and prompt decisions for the public it serves. The Policy Review is designed to ensure that USCIS meets that standard in its work.


Q. How does the Policy Review relate to USCIS’s responsibilities and authority under federal law?


A. By law, USCIS is charged with setting policies and priorities for the administration of immigration services. USCIS will be reviewing those policies in our current effort. If the Policy Review identifies the need for proposed regulatory changes, we will fully engage in the federal rulemaking process. The purpose of the Policy Review is not to develop proposed changes to the immigration statutes established by Congress.

Q. Will the Policy Review change USCIS policy?


A. In many cases, yes. Working groups will evaluate policy based on USCIS goals, legal requirements and stakeholder concerns. These working groups will draft updated policy documents and proceed through USCIS’s policy-approval process. If the Policy Review identifies the need for proposed regulatory changes, USCIS will fully engage in the federal rulemaking process.


Q. What happens to existing policies during the course of the Policy Review?


A. While the Policy Review is underway, all policies already in place remain in full force and will be honored. From time to time in the course of the agency’s operations, policy issues may arise that require immediate attention outside the course of the formal Policy Review. We will continue to give these issues immediate attention as the need arises.


Q: What prompted the Policy Review?


A. USCIS is committed to ensuring that our policies are consistent and up to date. To that end, the agency has launched the USCIS Policy Review to examine our policies with input from the public it serves and from its workforce.


Q. Has USCIS previously undertaken a comprehensive review of its policies?


A: No. The effort to undertake a top-to-bottom review of our adjudication and customer service policies is an unprecedented initiative for USCIS.


Q. How will USCIS seek the public’s input during the Policy Review?


A. In keeping with our commitments to customer service and transparency, USCIS will engage practitioners, advocates, businesses, applicants, and other interested stakeholders throughout the course of the Policy Review. The survey was the first opportunity for stakeholders to participate. As we review policies in specific issue areas, we will offer a number of further opportunities for the public to offer input. For example, in some issue areas, we will conduct public meetings to solicit stakeholders’ views on specific policy matters. In many cases, we will also published drafts of new or revised policy memoranda on our website for public comment, now a regular step in USCIS’s policy development process.


Q. What did the survey ask?


A. The survey asked any interested member of the public, as well as the USCIS workforce, to help identify the issue areas that the agency should examine first. The survey also included comment sections.


Q. How many people responded to the survey?


A. Nearly 5,600 external stakeholders responded to the survey, representing current immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders, employers, immigration attorneys and advocates, among others. Nearly 2,400 members of the workforce from USCIS offices worldwide also participated in the survey.


Q. How has USCIS used the survey results?


A. The survey results helped USCIS identify which issue areas to address first in its agency-wide review. USCIS considered quantitative and qualitative feedback from the surveys along with operational and programmatic needs to develop the initial list of issue areas for review.

Q. In addition to the survey, what progress has USCIS made in the Policy Review?


A. USCIS has assembled thousands of existing policy documents and categorized them into issue areas. USICS is now convening internal working groups to begin examining and evaluating the policy documents in the first 10 issue areas.


Q. What is the expected length and scope of the Policy Review?


A. The Policy Review is a multi-year effort designed to work thoughtfully through thousands of policy documents, many of which overlap or complement each other, in collaboration with the USCIS workforce and external stakeholders. New policy documents, once drafted, will be submitted through the USCIS clearance process, with many posted on the USCIS website for public comment.

At the time of this writing, there have been relatively few changes in the law regarding US Family Visas. Although administrative and regulatory changes have had a significant impact upon processing of the US Marriage Visa and the US fiance visa. That said, the recent fee increase for Consular Processing of the K1 visa (fiance visa) and the administrative closure of K3 Visa applications by the National Visa Center were promulgated by the Department of State (DOS) as there has been little recent change in the fee structure and administration of USCIS’s adjudication of family based visa petitions.

This author is of the opinion that this unprecedented policy review should be welcomed as it may herald further improvements to the American Immigration system and provide immigrants and Americans with better overall service. One must applaud USCIS for taking the initiative and promoting positive change.

For related information from the perspective of Southeast Asia please see: K1 Visa Thailand.


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One Response to “USCIS Lists FAQs In Connection With First Ever Top-to-Bottom Policy Review”

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