U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services FOIA Compliance Assessment Report Now Available

Earlier this week we published our FOIA compliance assessment report of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). OGIS has now published assessments of seven (7) component agencies of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – including the three FOIA programs responsible for processing the majority of DHS’s annual share of FOIA requests – USCIS, CBP and ICE.

OGIS’s agency assessments are based on direct observation and review of an agency’s FOIA case files, analysis of applicable data and documents, and interviews with agency employees and officials. Our reports are intended to provide sufficient detail about the FOIA program’s processes to understand its operations, and provide actionable recommendations to strengthen the FOIA program. These recommendations are based on our observations and knowledge of FOIA practices across the Federal government.

As we document in the report, USCIS regularly receives and processes the largest volume of FOIA requests government-wide – in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 USCIS received an average of 640 requests daily, and responded to an average of 560 requests each workday. In our report, we note that USCIS implements strong management practices to ensure that routine requests for immigration-related records, which make up a vast majority of USCIS’s caseload, are handled as efficiently as possible and complex requests are given extra attention. We also note that USCIS’s communication with requesters encourages an efficient process by clearly articulating how to narrow a request to qualify for a track with a faster average processing time. Finally, we find that planned improvements to USCIS’s FOIA tracking and processing technology can further improve the program’s efficiency and customer service.

To learn more about the USCIS FOIA program and our recommendations, please download the report. We will follow up with the USCIS in 120 days to learn what steps they have taken in response to our recommendations.

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