Changes in Access to USCIS Field Offices and Service Centers
USCIS is changing the way in which representatives and customers access case status information and escalate case issues at its field offices and service centers. We need your feedback on these changes and how they are affecting your clients and practice.
Find information about the changes and report your experiences below.
Access to Field Offices
USCIS is expanding its program ending self-scheduled InfoPass appointments with the goal of extending it nationwide by August 2019. USCIS’s stated intention for the program is to make InfoPass appointments more accessible by routing all requests through the USCIS Contact Center (1-800 number or e-request). Here’s what we currently know about the Information Services Modernization Program (“ISMP”):
How it works:
- Applicants and representatives in the affected field offices who attempt to access USCIS’ online InfoPass system will reach a landing page that advises them that the field office is not accepting walk-in requests or scheduling InfoPass appointments.
- The page indicates those who need help with document services (such as passport stamps and advance parole) or have an emergency may call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283.
- Callers who request an in-person appointment should be directed to a Tier 2 officer, who will determine if an in-person appointment is appropriate and, if so, will schedule the appointment.
- If a request cannot be addressed immediately, USCIS may request to call you back at a later time.
- In-person appointment requests may also be made online at the following link: https://my.uscis.gov/help/schedule/79925 (note that the field office location at the top of this link defaults to El Paso, but may be changed).
- The landing page also provides links to common resources including the case status system, case processing times, the form for reporting a case outside of processing time as well as general immigration information
Where it is happening:
- USCIS started piloting the ISMP in February 2018 at five local USCIS field offices: Hartford, CT; El Paso, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Sacramento, CA; and San Francisco, CA.
- The pilot program was then introduced in Detroit and Los Angeles in November 2018.
- The pilot extended to Newark, Great Lakes, and San Francisco in early 2019.
- USCIS plans to roll out the program throughout the rest of the country by August 2019; some areas not named above may already be using the new procedures.
We will keep you updated if there are any further announcements of the regions where the program will be rolled out next.
Access to Service Centers
As of Jan. 21, USCIS has terminated the use of service center email addresses for case inquires. USCIS’ stated intention for this change is to streamline requests for case assistance and to focus its resources on its online, self-help tools. This change follows the termination of the Service Center Operations email address in early 2018. USCIS’s webpage announcing the change directs representatives to existing resources for case inquiries, which were a required prerequisite to using the former email addresses, but does not address how to escalate cases that are not resolved through these mechanisms.
Important note: As of this writing, USCIS has not terminated the email addresses for lockbox inquiries or cases involving vulnerable populations such as victims of crime/violence.
CLINIC has significant concerns about how USCIS’ modernization efforts may disproportionately affect vulnerable and disabled immigrants, individuals with low English proficiency or literacy, pro se applicants, and people facing urgent humanitarian situations. We also acknowledge these changes will likely have an impact on your practice.
Specific concerns about the ISMP include whether Contact Center personnel have sufficient training to discern when an InfoPass appointment is necessary, whether the Contact Center has sufficient access to information from files that are located at Field Offices for interview, and the general trend of applicants and attorneys having less access to USCIS personnel and data to address any problems in case processing.
We need your feedback to better understand how these changes are being implemented to and to identify areas for improvement.
Call for Examples
In order to identify and address any potential problems with the new modernization initiatives as they arise, CLINIC is issuing a call for examples. Please fill out this short survey to let us know if ISMP is increasing availability of InfoPass appointments as the USCIS intends, if the program is having a negative effect on your ability to seek assistance with pending cases, and your thoughts about USCIS’s public communication and education about this program. Please participate! We rely on our network to inform us of the situation on the ground. The information you provide enables us to seek better solutions from USCIS on your behalf.