USCIS demos open-source code system

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Are you an agency FOIA professional interested in developing an automated processing system? U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) invites you to a two-hour demonstration of its FOIA processing system at 1:30 p.m. EST Wednesday February 12th. The demonstration will take place at the USCIS Washington, DC office at 111 Massachusetts Avenue, NW as well as via webinar.

USCIS built the system using open source code that it will share with other Federal agencies interested in developing their own automated systems. The system, known as FOIA Immigration Records System, or FIRST, allows FOIA requesters to submit online requests to USCIS.

Interested in attending in person or virtually? Email Christina Anderson by close of business Friday February 7th. If you plan to attend via webinar, please provide an email address to send the call-in information.

An OGIS assessment of the USCIS FOIA program, published in February 2018, noted that several features and functions of the FIRST system could further improve efficiency and customer service. The agency launched FIRST in 2019 to allow FOIA requesters to submit online requests for their own records. The vast majority of requests that USCIS receives are for Alien Files (A-Files), the official government records for all immigration and naturalization records created or consolidated since April 1, 1944. End-to-end processing of A-File records is mostly complete and USCIS continues to add new features to its system.

USCIS receives and processes the largest number of FOIA requests government-wide; it processed more than 225,000 requests, according to its FOIA Report on Fiscal Year (FY) 2019.

Tammy Meckley, Associate Director of USCIS’s Immigration Records and Identity Service Directorate, testified to the House Subcommittee on Oversight, Management and Accountability in October 2019 that FIRST is reducing USCIS processing times by 22.5 minutes per request and helped shrink the backlog by 64 percent in FY 2019.

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