USCIS Closes Foreign Field Offices

Credit: deepblue4you

(Español) United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced it is planning on closing all its foreign field offices around the world in an attempt to save money. In a move the administration has pitched as an attempt to cut down on millions in spending, this would shutter the 23 field offices located in 20 countries around the world. While neither the administration nor USCIS has cited a specific amount that would be saved by this change, representatives have said this would not impact processing times or services offered abroad. The idea is to shift the responsibilities of the USCIS offices, which includes assisting with refugee applications, family reunification visas, and foreign adoptions, to members of the state department or to USCIS personnel in the United States.

Representatives have contended that this change would not impact the wait times or the backlog of certain applications, such as refugee applications, immigration advocates have warned that this could cause negative effects in the processing of future applications. There is already a backlog of applications pending in field offices abroad. The Trump administration has history of cutting refugee numbers in the recent years, lowering the number of allowable refugees from 45,000 to 30,000 between 2018 and 2019. Given the recent actions, immigrant activists worry this change would exacerbate the existing backlog and be used by the administration as justification to further cut refugee numbers in the future. Despite this fear, USCIS says this would not affect the wait or processing of refugee numbers as those are handled by officers based in the US who travel to handle the applications and interviews.

Outside of the processing of applications abroad, the USCIS offices also managed in assisting local state department offices, US nationals, and others with legal matters  in the scope of US immigration law. While these offices are mostly staffed by foreign nationals, it is yet to be determined how these roles would shift to anyone at the state department or even US based officers.