The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it plans to close its offices outside the United States. This would mean the closure of 23 local offices of USCIS, in 20 countries.
On March 12, 2019, the agency said that roughly 70 USCIS employees work in the offices abroad. If the plans to close these offices are finalized, the employees will return to the United States.
Local offices of USCIS handle family petitions for US citizens currently living in those countries, military citizenship applications, and helping people flee persecution in their countries.
Another "important function" of USCIS' international offices is "to provide technical expertise on immigration-related matters to U.S. government agencies abroad, including other Department of Homeland Security components, the Department of State and the Department of Defense," the agency explains on its website.
As reported by NPR, USCIS spokeswoman Jessica Collins announced on Tuesday the agency is in "preliminary discussions" to delegate its international responsibilities to the State Department, or to its own personnel in the U.S. In some cases, the workload would be absorbed by U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
In a cost analysis conducted last year, USCIS officials estimated phasing out its international offices would save millions of dollars each year. "The goal of any such shift would be to maximize USCIS resources that could then be reallocated, in part, to backlog reduction" at the agency, Collins told NPR in an emailed statement.
In the statement, Collins downplayed the potential impact of shutting all 23 field offices across 20 countries. She provided assurances that the transition would be coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the State Department, "to ensure no interruption in the provision of immigration services to affected applicants and petitioners."
For more information, please contact Elaine Martin, US immigration lawyer.
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.