AILA Doc No. 98111140 | Dated November 11, 1998
NatzNews – November 1998, Volume 11 Page 1
Community Outreach Publication
Immigration Services Division
November 1998, Volume 11
Funding Approved to Boost Naturalization Efforts
The naturalization program was given a major boost on October 21, 1998, when Congress, as part of INS’ $3.95 billion budget for FY 1999, approved the full $171 million reprogramming request to support naturalization activities plus an additional $5 million for records initiatives. The funding includes existing INS and Department of Justice funds and, for the first time, $60 million in appropriated resources.
The funding, which is essential to bolster efforts underway to improve the naturalization process, includes $88 million to support ongoing activities — due to a shortfall caused by fewer applications received — and an additional $88 million needed to make further inroads into naturalization backlogs. These new resources will be key in helping the agency achieve its goal of completing a total 1.5 million naturalization applications in FY 1999, and reducing wait times to 10-12 months by the end of FY 1999.
The funding will provide the following enhancements:
Even with the support of this vital funding initiative, the agency’s Examination Fee Account, the sole source of funding for current application processing services, will still suffer a shortfall of more than $138 million due to a severe drop in the number of naturalization applications received (from a previous estimate of 1.6 million to a current expectation of only 700,000 applications this year). The shortfall will be covered by cost-cutting measures, targeted to minimally impact naturalization.
Citizenship Day Celebration at the Archives
Flanked by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, Commissioner Meissner welcomed 35 new citizens during a poignant Citizenship Day Program held at the National Archives Building on September 17, 1998. This special citizenship ceremony, which was coordinated by the Washington District Office, commemorated the day, 211 years ago, when the U.S. Constitution was ratified and the first immigrants to the New World became American citizens. It was one of 39 ceremonies held across the country in recognition of this momentous day. Standing in the Archive’s rotunda, which is adorned with grand murals depicting our forefathers signing the Constitution, Commissioner Meissner congratulated the new citizens, who came from 32 different countries, and reminded them that they hold a valued place in our democracy. “You now have a voice that needs to be heard... Your voice is just as important as everyone else’s.”
The Honorable Norma Holloway Johnson, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, presided over the ceremony and administered the Oath of Allegiance. The event included remarks by the Archivist of the United States, John W. Carlin, and INS District Director, Warren A. Lewis.
KMPG Audit Results
KPMG Peat Marwick, LLP (KPMG) has once again given the Immigration and Naturalization Service high marks for its strengthened naturalization program. On September 22, 1998, the report for the Naturalization Quality Procedures (NQP) compliance review conducted by KPMG was released. This is the third in a series of KPMG reviews designed to verify that the NQP guidelines, effective June 30, 1997, are being correctly implemented service wide. The field office visits for this review took place during the period from July 27 through August 14, 1998, and, at the request of the Department of Justice, were unannounced.
The NQP controls are a series of systematic checks and balances on all aspects of naturalization processing, from receiving applications to swearing in new citizens. The controls are designed to preclude the naturalization of ineligible applicants and ensure all information is available and accurate prior to granting citizenship. KPMG determined that four NQP control areas were critical: FBI fingerprint check results, A-file transfer requests, supervisory review, and reverification. KPMG's review affirmed the success of these checks and balances. KPMG reviewed a total of 2,549 case files and found only 15 errors in the four critical control areas. Further review verified that, of those 15 errors, not one resulted in improper naturalization.
KPMG observed that INS has: improved dissemination of NQP guidance service wide; continued to emphasize and execute critical naturalization control processes; demonstrated consistent training by qualified NQP instructors; and institutionalized understanding of NQP concepts at all managerial levels. KPMG concludes that through implementation of NQP controls, INS has continued to reduce the likelihood of naturalizing applicants with disqualifying conditions.
Fees Changed October 13, 1998
On August 14, 1998, the INS published a final rule in the Federal Register to adjust the filing fees for certain applications and petitions. (63 FR 43604). Any application or petition listed in the regulation, with the exception of the N-400, Application for Naturalization, received by INS on or after October 13, 1998, must include the new fee to be accepted.
The forms centers are now distributing all forms requested with an attachment advising applicants of the new fees. This same attachment is available with the forms for download on the INS website. (http://www.uscis.gov)
Frequently Asked Questions for Fee Changes
During the transition, several specific questions have been raised in relation to the change for certain applications and petitions. In an effort to assist those providing information, those questions and answers have been provided below.
Q. Do I still need to pay the supplemental fees for extension of stay, change of status, or consulate or port of entry notification for visa issuance fees with the new I-129 fee?
A. No. The I-129 filing fee of $110 is a flat fee. There are no supplemental or additional charges.
Q. Do I still need to pay the supplemental fee for each co-applicant filing on an I-539?
A. No. The I-539 fee of $120 is a flat fee. There is no supplemental fee for additional co-applicants.
Q. What is the fee for I-485?
A. Applicants under age 14 should now pay $160. Applicants 14 and over should pay $220.
Q. Is there still a family cap for I-817?
A. No. Each applicant must pay the fee of $120, regardless of the number of family members or total dollar amount paid by the family.
Q. When does the N-400, Application for Naturalization fee go into effect?
A. January 15, 1999.
Naturalization Backlog Reduction
The Team also implemented several national scale measures, including: formalizing the Backlog Reduction Plan (BRP) process so that every office submitted signed and approved BRP plans by the end of FY 1998; evaluating, monitoring and distributing all of the FY 1998 dollars set aside for backlog reduction; enhancing personnel resources in various offices via detailees and/or contract personnel; facilitating space and equipment requests; developing monthly reporting formats and reporting requirements for all INS offices; and overseeing a program established to encourage and guide the use of city, county, or other local government or organizational workers.
To kick-off FY 1999, the Team held a national Backlog Reduction Conference in Dallas, TX on September 29th. This was a planning session to determine how INS will develop national backlog reduction strategies and plans while still ensuring quality in our processes. The attendees discussed and determined how INS will set our FY 1999 national quarterly goals; the future roles of sites managers and other detailees; how to best direct resources targeted for FY 1999 naturalization backlog reduction efforts; and how to develop standard, reliable, and credible methods for tracking, monitoring, and reporting progress.
CLAIMS 4 in Five Districts and all Service Centers
It’s been a busy year. Now that we have reached the end of FY 1998, we are happy to report that CLAIMS 4, the Computer-Linked Application Information Management System, is in full operation at the four Service Centers and five District Offices: Chicago, Miami, New York City, Newark and Houston. San Francisco and its sub-offices came on line in October, followed by three sub-offices: Charlotte, Indianapolis and Milwaukee. Next January the deployment resumes, with a goal of completing the remaining 70 sites by fiscal year’s end.
Big thanks are due to the early installations – Nebraska, Chicago and Miami – for they endured more than their fair share of systems problems and helped tremendously in getting these issues identified and resolved. These lessons learned have been applied and as a result, the subsequent installations are going much more smoothly.
CLAIMS 4 brings about a more interdependent relationship between the Service Centers and District Offices. Each is beginning to understand how systems activities by one affect the other, such as the scheduling of interviews and oath ceremonies. Service Centers are responsible for all notice production in support of these and other activities. These notices must be dealt with quickly and Districts must be cognizant of the lead time needed by Service Centers to ensure adequate advance notice for the applicant. In just a short period of time the Centers and Districts Offices have grasped an understanding their individual yet intertwined roles and are carrying them out commendably.
Disability Waiver Pilot with PHS
INS and the Public Health Service (PHS) announced in July 1998 that a three-month pilot program had begun that will help INS adjudicators in Miami, Los Angeles and New York more efficiently adjudicate the naturalization cases of persons with medical disabilities. Three PHS officers will work with adjudicators and other staff to review medical disability waiver forms (Form N-648), provide other forms of technical assistance and training, and assess the forms. This influx of resources and expertise will help the three cities reduce their backlog of naturalization applications, which includes cases involving medical disabilities. Applicants with certain disabilities are exempted from the English and U.S. government and history requirements for naturalization when they submit a Form N-648 that sufficiently describes their disability and need for the exception.
On March 19, 1997, INS published a final rule providing for an exception to the English and United States government and history requirements for persons with disabilities. As part of the regulation, INS created a new form, N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, which a person may submit with his or her Application for Naturalization to seek an exception to the English and/or civics requirements because of a disability. Disability for purposes of this regulation complements the disability terminology used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and is defined as a "medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments."
The INS offices throughout the country have been very involved with local governmental agencies, community based organizations, the medical community, local bar associations, and relevant organizations in publishing the availability of this exception to Section 312 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The offices have continued to conduct off-site interviews for persons with disabilities and have increased their off-site processing to include nursing homes, other care facilities and local facilities of community based organizations.
The INS has made further efforts to ensure all adjudicators are trained in the processing of the disabilities exceptions. Additional training is planned to help ensure that N-648s are adjudicated fairly and that INS is in compliance with the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The Immigration Services Division is pleased to report the operation of the 127 Application Support Centers (ASC) nationwide. The ASCs provide fingerprinting services to INS customers. Of the 127 ASCs, 59 are in permanent facilities, 14 are in temporary locations, and 54 are collocated in District or Sub Offices. The construction of 10 permanent facilities is scheduled for completion by the end of this calendar year. An additional five planned sites remain in lease negotiations that are expected to conclude very soon.
Permanent ASCs are leased by the contractor, DynCorp, and paid for by the INS. Each is constructed or renovated to meet ISD specifications, so all have the same look and feel. They are generally located in commercial/retail space, such as a “strip mall,” and are easily accessible by major transportation routes and public transportation. Collocated ASCs are housed in existing INS space nationwide.
Next CBO Meeting
The next INS/community based organization meetings is scheduled for December 9, 1998, at 2:00 p.m. in the 6th Floor Conference Room, 425 “I” Street, NW, Washington, DC (main INS building). Organizations who would like to send representatives to the monthly meetings should fax their request to Patricia Stivala, Immigration Services Division, at (202) 514-8853.
If you would like to suggest a particular topic for an article, please fax “NatzNews,” Immigration Services Division, at (202) 514- 8853.
Cite as AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 98111140.