At an outreach event earlier this week we were confronted by a questioner who asked us to detail the various delays and complications and headaches created by “the government bureaucracy.” While we acknowledge that some of our work involves classic bureaucracy — centralized hotlines for obtaining basic answers, redundant information on various forms, etc — we have to give credit where it is due and say that we appreciate the work USCIS does.
In recent years USCIS, and especially our local Reno Field Office, has appeared to make major strides in improving its efficiency, clearing case backlogs, and providing improved customer service. We are fortunate to have a very responsive local field office and that allows us to be the best possible advocates for our clients.
Additionally, we have recently been experiencing a more rapid response to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The increased centralization of USCIS records creates a double-edged sword when it comes to analyzing clients’ cases. On the one hand, all the information is in one place and once we obtain it we can feel confident that we understand most or all of a client’s immigration history. On the other hand, FOIA requests have historically taken many months, often in the range of 12-15 months.
Recently we have been experiencing more rapid responses and USCIS appears to have been devoting increased resources to clearing the backlog of FOIA requests to provide a better level of service. Even more importantly, FOIAs are now assigned tracking numbers so we can keep a pulse on the progress of our requests.
The relationship between USCIS and advocates like us will never be one of complete camaraderie, and government agencies are probably as often frustrated by our zealous advocacy for our clients as we are by perceived intransigence by USCIS. But overall we consider ourselves privileged to have a good and improving relationship with a government agency that provides a good and improving level of service and responsiveness.