Sudden reveal of Customer Identification Verification leads immediately to public confusion

With little prior notice — at least none that our program was aware of — USCIS announced Monday a new program to bolster security and combat fraud at key immigration appointments. The initiative, called Customer Identification Verification or CIV, seems at first glance to be a sensible, appropriate step to ensure the integrity of immigration processes. But the way the news has gotten out suggests missteps in the unveiling of CIV.

The first mention our Immigration Assistance Program heard about CIV was from a panicked call from a potential client on Tuesday morning. She had been watching the noticias on Spanish-language broadcaster Univision and she came away with the impression that, effective immediately, all visits to USCIS offices would require visitors to submit to biometrics capture including fingerprinting and photo.

The reality is more benign — and most likely it is a good development. Beginning on May 6, 2013 USCIS will begin requiring fingerprint and photo processing for individuals present for an immigration interview or in order to receive evidence of an immigration benefit. What this means is that individuals who arrive for a naturalization exam or a marriage-based immigration interview will have their identity verified to ensure that someone is not testing/interviewing in someone else’s place.

Similarly, when someone goes to receive an I-551 stamp (e.g. temporary proof of Permanent Residency while a Permanent Resident Card replacement is pending) or another form of immigration documentation verification will be done to make sure that some other individual is not standing in to have his or her passport stamped or I-94 issued.

To the extent that the new CIV process can be implemented without adding undue delay or complexity to existing protocols, this seems like a reasonable development and a good way for USCIS to preserve the integrity of its procedures. Time will tell if this new layer of security will impose delays and costs that are appropriately in line with the security risks posed by brazen fraud such as is described above.

Whatever the merits of the new CIV initiative, it is worth noting that this seems to have been dropped on the public with little advance notice even to service providers. We remain hopeful that this development helps rather than hinders USCIS functions, but we are worried that the way in which news about CIV is spreading that it may reignite sentiments of fear surrounding USCIS operations, InfoPass appointments, and other key elements of the relationship between USCIS and the community of immigrants it serves.

You can see USCIS’s announcement of CIV here. A stakeholder engagement is scheduled for Tuesday, April 16 and registration goes through this portal.

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