USCIS Guidance on Customer Service15 Sep 2014
The manual outlining policies and procedures used by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in serving the public was updated in August 2014. The USCIS Policy Manual is intended to increase uniformity and transparency within the agency, as explained in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, USCIS Releases its First Ever Comprehensive Online Policy Manual (22.Jan.2013). This latest update provides guidance on a variety of topics related to customer service, including communications with those using USCIS services, providing disability accommodations, and reviewing expedite requests.
Guiding Principles of USCIS
The customer service section of the USCIS Policy Manual opens with an overview of guiding principles. These include general, yet important, goals, such as providing accurate, useful, and timely information to customers, and adjudicating cases in a consistent, objective, and competent fashion. The USCIS also pledges to ensure that all representatives treat stakeholders with respect and dignity.
Channels to Communicate with the USCIS
The USCIS provides in-person contact through InfoPass appointments at local offices, as well as at a variety of community outreach events. Telephonic options include the National Customer Service Center (NCSC), for general information and case inquiries, a premium-processing hotline, a military helpline, and a hotline for Hague adoptions. The USCIS also communicates via traditional mail, eMail, and fax, and has an e-Request system that can be used to make case inquiries or initiate service requests online.
National Customer Service Center
The NCSC provides a toll free number, 1.800.375.5283, for requesting case assistance and obtaining general, recorded information. When initially speaking to a USCIS representative regarding a pending case, a caller will be assisted by a Tier 1 customer service representative who is either a USCIS employee or contractor able to provide general, scripted responses. If the Tier 1 representative is unable to resolve the matter, the stakeholder may be transferred to a Tier 2 representative. These representatives are USCIS officers who are better positioned to provide case-specific information. Officers can also further escalate the matter to a Tier 2 supervisor, if necessary.
Service Requests Can Resolve Common Issues
The USCIS can initiate a service request when a customer calls the NCSC or uses the online portal. Service requests can be used to update an address, request expedited case processing, ask for disability accommodations, or report a pending case that is beyond the required or normal processing time.
Criteria for Expedite Requests
The USCIS has specific criteria for determining whether to grant a discretionary expedited case-processing request. (This should not be confused with premium processing, which is a fee-based expedite option available for certain types of cases; the USCIS will typically not entertain discretionary expedite requests for case types that are eligible for premium processing.) The USCIS has the discretion to expedite virtually any case type, other than those that are eligible for premium processing, if it meets at least one of the following criteria: severe financial loss to the company or person; emergency situation; humanitarian reasons; nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States; Department of Defense or national interest; USCIS error; or compelling interest of the USCIS. The USCIS tends to review expedite requests very closely and typically will grant such a request only if it is accompanied by strong evidence.
The addition of a customer service section to its policy manual is part of an ongoing effort to update and consolidate the policies of the USCIS. These efforts to become a more transparent, customer-friendly agency are appreciated by the Murthy Law Firm on behalf of our clients and all the foreign nationals who stand to benefit.
Copyright © 2014, MURTHY LAW FIRM. All Rights Reserved