According to reports, the Trump administration plans to close
international U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
offices by the end of 2019. USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna told
senior staff that the agency's International Operations
Division, which operates in more than 20 countries, will be closed
down. The duties of those offices will be transferred to U.S.
embassies and consulates and to domestic U.S. offices and the
Department of State (DOS), if DOS agrees. USCIS personnel staffing
those offices will return to the United States.
DOS said if it reaches such an interagency agreement, “we
anticipate a smooth transition and continued efficient processing
of USCIS-related work at all of our missions overseas.” DOS
has more than 200 posts worldwide.
Director Cissna said in an email to staff that the closures will
“better leverage our funds to address backlogs in the United
States while also leveraging existing [DOS] resources at
post.” He noted that change “can be difficult and can
cause consternation. I want to assure you we will work to make this
as smooth a transition as possible for each of our USCIS staff
while also ensuring that those utilizing our services may continue
to do so and our agency operations continue undisrupted.
In addition to helping people apply for immigration benefits,
these offices provide assistance in such tasks as helping U.S.
citizens and lawful permanent residents, including military
personnel abroad, bring family members to the United States or help
them apply for U.S. citizenship; international adoptions; refugee
resettlement; and immigration fraud investigations.
According to the International Operations (IO) Division's
website, the division's work includes reuniting families,
enabling adoptive children to come to join permanent families in
the United States, considering parole requests from individuals
outside the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or
significant public benefit, and providing information services and
travel documents to people around the world, including those with
unique needs and circumstances. “Operating in a dynamic global
environment with constantly changing political, cultural,
environmental, and socio-economic contexts, IO has approximately
240 employees located in the U.S. and in three international
districts composed of 24 field offices in 21 countries. Our
employees are highly diverse and include foreign nationals in
addition to U.S. citizens; foreign nationals make up more than half
of the IO staff working abroad and approximately one-third of all
Immigration advocates expressed concerns about further
discouraging immigrants and disengaging the United States from the
rest of the world. Barbara Strack, former chief of USCIS'
Refugee Affairs Division, said the closures would “throw [the
legal immigration system] into chaos around the world.” She
warned that the move would “smack all government employees
abroad, including folks in the military, who have a foreign spouse
or kids they are trying to bring to the U.S. legally.”
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.