USCIS Ombudsman Report for 2016

Government agencies have an Ombudsman who issues reports to Congress and liaises between consumers and the agency to resolve problems. The USCIS Ombudsman released its report for 2016 at the end of June. Important issues for attorneys, individuals, and employers have been visa RFEs and visa delays, Employment Authorization Document application delays, fee waivers, the EB-5 program, and processing times in general. The Ombudsman’s report is over 100 pages. Here are some highlights:

  • The Ombudsman noted the excessive number of Employment Authorization Document applications that are taking over 90 days to adjudicate, despite a regulation that states it must take place within 90 days. One seventh of the Ombudsman’s caseload related to delayed EAD applications. The Ombudsman writes:

“Thousands of EAD applicants and their employers continue to be negatively impacted by the agency’s failure to timely adjudicate Form I-765. The proposed regulatory changes will not improve processing times absent allocation of significant resources to meet processing times goals. The Ombudsman continues to highlight EAD issues as a systemic issue, and will monitor and engage the agency as long as this matter remains unresolved.”

  • USCIS has a proposal to eliminate the 90 day adjudication requirement and replace that with an automatic 180 day extension of the employment card’s validity upon a timely filing. That proposal has not been implemented. The Ombudsman repeated that it has made multiple efforts and recommendations to rectify EAD issues over the past 8 years.
  • H-1B, L-1A, and L-1B RFE rates have decreased from the previous year. This has been monitored for years because of high RFE rates. There are also discrepancies in RFE rates between the Vermont and California Service Centers. Those discrepancies persist.
  • O-1 and P-1 visa petitions are receiving high rates of RFEs (49% and 65%).
  • There is mixed data as to whether the Service Centers issue RFEs toward the end of the premium processing 15 day period as a delaying tactic.
  • Processing times for Naturalization applications are highly variable by USCIS Field Office. Times range from 4 months to 9 months.
  • Processing times for Permanent Residence applications are highly variable by USCIS Field Office. Times range from less than 4 months to over 10 months.



Resources for Immigrants

USCIS is celebrating the Fourth of July this year with 100 naturalization ceremonies throughout the country. The majority of naturalizations occur in the courtroom or at USCIS. A few naturalizations occur at special ceremonies such as the ones occurring throughout the country this weekend. The hashtag for the ceremonies is #newUScitizen.

Here are some of the largest naturalizations:

Largest All Military

5,000 at Fenway Park

Ellis Island

Citizenship Test

Americans and the Citizenship Test

Resources for Immigrants

One of the requirements to become a naturalized citizen of the United States is to pass a civics test. The knowledge contained within the civics test is supposed to be basic historical, social, and political information about the United States. There are many requirements to become a citizen – good moral character, physical presence, continuous residence – but the citizenship test is one that is symbolic of the process.

Ipsos Public Affairs gave the examination to 2,000 Americans. You can see how they performed here.

Naturalization Ceremonies

Happy Presidents’ Day 

Resources for Immigrants

USCIS likes to celebrate American holidays by naturalizing new citizens in large ceremonies. For Presidents’ Day, USCIS will be holding 180 different naturalization ceremonies. From February 12 – February 22, over 20,000 new American citizens are expected to be naturalized.

“Whatever their backgrounds and political views, our presidents have all recognized that we could not have succeeded as a nation were it not for the contributions of immigrants,” said USCIS Director León Rodríguez. “Through the contributions they make, and by choosing to naturalize, our newest citizens will strengthen the fabric of our nation and reinforce America’s unique heritage as a nation of immigrants.”

Director Leon Rodriguez will be naturalizing 50 people at Mount Vernon, which is George Washington’s home, on February 22, 2016.