USCIS Ombudsman 2016 Annual Report Cites CFGI


​​​The Ombudsman's Citizenship and Immigration Services 2016 Annual Report makes a number of findings with regard to employment-based immigration, includin​​g references to CFGI's comments on same or similar occupational classifications and a CFGI survey on employer experience with adjudications after the Simeio Solutions decision.

  • Green Card Job Portability – The Ombudsman refers to stakeholder feedback on the USCIS policy memorandum titled Determining Whet​her a New Job is in 'the Same or a Similar Occupational Classification' for Purposes of Section 204 (j) Job Portability, including CFGI's comments noting overreliance on Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes. The report also notes the pending AC-21 rule which will affect job portability, ultimately recommending that USCIS reconsider its position on I-140 employee standing and issue additional guidance on same or similar occupational classifications that give the phrase an expansive reading.

  • Requests for Evidence (RFEs) – The report notes a slight decrease in the rate of H-1B RFEs between FY 2014 and FY 2015. For L-1As, there is now wide disparity between the service centers, with a 55 percent RFE rate at the California Service Center (CSC) and a 29 percent rate at the Vermont Service Center (VSC) in FY 2015. L-1B RFE rates have dropped slightly, to 44 percent at CSC and 33 percent at VSC.

    The report cites a CFGI question of the week on the 
    Simeio Solutions decision, noting that our members have reported receiving "RFEs requesting informatio​n unrelated to the reason for filing the amendment, which resulted in a re-evaluation of the job opportunity or the foreign national's qualifications."

  • Processing Times – Delays in processing times are reflected in the Ombudsman Office's case assistance workload. As of the first half of FY 2016, 63 percent of the office's case assistance requests were related to cases outside normal processing time, up 5 percent since FY 2014.

    The Ombudsman acknowledges that USCIS has adopted some recommendations aimed at reducing employment authorization ​document (EAD) processing time, but that the agency still needs to allocate significant resources to meet the 90-day processing time goal for EADs.

    In addition to ​​EADs, product lines with notable processing delays include H-1B extension of stay, change of status and adjustment of status. The Ombudsman also notes an increased use of premium processing for businesses to gain some level of certainty.

    The Ombudsman recommends that USCIS develop and implement a process to accurately reflect processing time from receipt to comple​tion, which would assist the agency in assessing more realistic processing time goals and address failure to meet those goals.

  • Background Checks and Clearances – The Ombudsman recommends that USCIS strengthen procedures for monitoring and following up on processing of background and security checks, including a unified agency monitoring process for all field offices and service centers. The Ombudsman also recommends that USCIS give applicants and petitioners notice to pursue alternative options when cases will remain on review for indefinite periods.

  • Delivery of Secure Documents – The Ombudsman notes that USCIS expects to launch a "Hold for Pickup" pilot program by the end of 2016, for replacement permanent residence cards which would allow individuals to pick them up at the post office. The Ombudsman also notes that USCIS needs to be more proactive in notifying customers when secure documents are returned.

  • ​Transformation – The Ombudsman refers to a report by the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG), in which the OIG said it was deeply troubled by the Transformation project and USCIS' resistance to independent oversight.  ​The Transformation project encompasses USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS) to move the agency from a paper-based application and adjudication process to an electronic one. The Ombudsman states that USCIS needs to increase responsiveness to user feedback and allow more external user involvement. The Ombudsman rec​ommends that USCIS consult other agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service that manage robust e-filing programs to make progress on Transformation.​