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27 May 2010

Highlighting the Wounded Warrior Program: USCIS Celebrates Military Appreciation Month

As we celebrate May as National Military Appreciation Month, we would like to express our gratitude to our servicemen and women in all branches of the military.

USS Midway naturalization ceremony – May 13, 2010 in San Diego
Photo: USS Midway naturalization ceremony – May 13, 2010 in San Diego

Veterans have a special place at USCIS. In July 2008, we created the Wounded Warrior Program (WWP). This program allows us to identify, recruit, and hire severely wounded, injured or disabled veterans in collaboration with 16 Department of Defense and Veterans Administration Hospitals throughout the country. Since the start of the program, USCIS has hired 32 wounded veterans.

Wounded warriors appreciate the program because it encourages them to continue serving their country in a different capacity. The experience that these veterans bring to the USCIS workforce is also something we are proud of and from which we benefit.

In the Fall of 2009, USCIS hired wounded veteran Nicholas Nibikora. Mr. Nibikora grew up in the Republic of Burundi and immigrated to the U.S. to escape civil war. After the attacks of September 11th, he joined the U.S. Navy to protect his new homeland. Mr. Nibikora praised the program for giving him an opportunity and was delighted when he was offered a job at USCIS. “They offered me the job and welcomed me with open arms,” said Mr. Nibikora. “When I wake up in the morning to go to work I feel like “I love this job” because of my coworkers, we work together as a team with motivation, and I learn every day from them. I feel like I am with my family. And of course, they are my family.”

USCIS believes in the value of working together with those who have risked their lives to protect the country. To learn more about our Wounded Warrior program please call 202-233-2500.

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20 May 2010

Top Five Questions About Advance Parole

Since issuing a reminder on advance parole last month, we’ve received several comments and questions. Here are some of those questions followed by our answers:

1. Why are some Advance Parole (AP) documents issued for multiple entries and some for a single entry?

Most AP documents are issued for multiple entries; however, they may be issued for a single entry. Please also keep in mind that the granting of AP is a discretionary action and USCIS is not statutorily obligated to issue AP.

2. Which parts of the Form I-131 do I complete if I want to apply for AP?

Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, is used for three things:
  • Advance Parole
  • Reentry Permits
  • Refugee Travel Documents
Depending on what you are applying for, you would fill out different sections of the form. It is important to read all the instructions for the I-131 application, but to summarize the sections of the form:

Part 1: All applicants must complete this section.
Part 2: All applicants must complete this section.
Part 3: All applicants must complete this section.
Part 4: All applicants must complete this section.

Part 5: Only applicants for a reentry permit complete this section.
Part 6: Only applicants for a refugee travel document complete this section.
Part 7: Only applicants for advance parole complete this section.

Part 8: All applicants must complete this section.

3. I filed my I-131 application online, where do I send the supporting documentation?

Information about where to send your supporting documentation is provided when you submit your application electronically. You will be provided with a confirmation sheet when you submit your application online and you must place a copy of this confirmation sheet on top of your supporting documentation when you mail it to USCIS.

4. I have applied for a Green Card (Adjustment of Status) and have lived in the United States illegally, and recently received an AP document. Does this mean that it is okay for me to travel outside the U.S.?

Under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, individuals who depart the United States after being unlawfully present in the United States for certain periods can be barred from admission to lawful permanent resident status, even if they have obtained Advance Parole. Individuals who have been unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days, but less than one year, are inadmissible for three years; those who have been unlawfully present for one year or more are inadmissible for 10 years. Individuals who are unlawfully present, then depart the United States and subsequently reenter under a grant of parole, may still be ineligible to adjust their status (get a Green Card).

5. I have an emergency and need to travel, but don’t have AP, what should I do?

Applicants may submit Form I-131 and request expedited processing. Additionally, applicants may request an emergency AP document at their local USCIS field office, however, this should only been done in extremely urgent situations. To request emergency AP at your local office, please make an Infopass appointment and be sure to bring with you the completed I-131 application, two passport-style photos, the appropriate application fee, and supporting documentation verifying the emergency and the need to travel urgently. Please see our “Emergency Travel” page for more information.

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18 May 2010

The National Customer Service Center at USCIS

Many of you may wonder about the system USCIS uses to answer customer service phone calls. The National Customer Service Center (NCSC) is the operation that provides telephone customer support for USCIS.

The NCSC provides most callers with answers to frequently asked questions through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System. Callers can select messages that provide information about eligibility requirements, instructions for filing applications, and even some case-status information. USCIS also offers callers the option to speak to a customer service representative and Immigration Services Officers from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday in each of the four time zones in the United States, excluding Federal holidays. Service for calls from Puerto Rico, the American Virgin Islands, Alaska, Hawaii and Guam is slightly reduced due to the time zone differences. Those located outside the United States should check with the U.S. Department of State for contact information in their country of residence.

Over 1 Million Calls a Month

Currently, the NCSC receives an average of 1 million calls per month. Information provided on the toll-free line is consistent with information found on the USCIS website. To ensure the accuracy of information provided through USCIS call centers, USCIS uses various quality assurance tools and measurements such as call monitoring, call recording, and "mystery shopper" calls. We also engage our customers who use the telephone center service to determine their level of satisfaction with the services provided. Customer satisfaction ratings have consistently exceeded 82% in four of the past five fiscal years.

We welcome any comments from readers on your experience with the National Customer Service Center - what has worked well and what, if anything, you would like to see improved.

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11 May 2010

New Design: The Green Card Goes Green

The new $100 bill will now share the spotlight with another newly designed green cohort: The Green Card.

The redesign modernizes the Green Card - known officially as the "Permanent Resident Card" - with state-of-the-art technology. The new features make the card more secure for officials and card holders alike. Here is a preview:

The redesigned Green Card
The new enhancements to the Green Card include:
  • Embedded data and holographs to make the detection of fraudulent cards easier.
  • Cutting edge printing and forensic features for added security.
  • A return address on the back of each card for return of lost cards.
Beginning May 11, 2010, USCIS will issue all Green Cards in the new format. It will be the most modern and secure Green Card ever issued. In one respect, however, the new card will get back to its roots: It will once again be green!

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08 May 2010

A Mother’s Day Story: One Family’s Adoption Journey

Helping facilitate the intercountry adoption process is one of the most important missions we at USCIS carry out. Our agency is charged with determining the eligibility and suitability of prospective adoptive parents as well as the eligibility of children to immigrate to the United States.

Behind that process are remarkable individual stories of children in need of new families and homes. As Mother’s Day approaches, we wanted to highlight one family’s journey half-way around the world to adopt a brother and sister.

Ken and Heidi’s story stretches from California to Ethiopia and back again. They already had two children, but decided they wanted to help other children in need find a permanent family and a place they could call home. They began the adoption process in 2008, and have drawn on support from their community, church and other adoptive parents to help them fulfill their dream.

After months of waiting and searching and finally learning about the two children they would adopt, they embarked on a voyage across the globe, from Los Angeles to Chicago to Washington to Rome to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They had only seen pictures and videos of the brother and sister they were soon to meet, and they didn’t know what to expect. When they finally saw their new daughter Tensaye, 5 and son Millennium, 2, words could not describe their feelings.



Mother Heidi writes in her blog of that moment:

On this day (Monday, April 5th) we had the life-changing experience of meeting Tensaye and Millennium face-to-face! We originally thought we would be traveling to meet our kids birth mother this day, but for some reason communication got confused and it did not work out...we would have to meet her later in the week. The joy of seeing our Ethiopian beauties was truly incredible...it is impossible to really capture the experience in words. Through pictures, videos, and updates we had grown to love Tensaye and Millennium so much...it was almost overwhelming to see them in person.

Millennium, born on the first day of the new century on the Ethiopian calendar, had never worn a seat-belt or flown in a plane. The long, arduous journey home culminated at Los Angeles International Airport. Heidi describes the feeling of arriving home:

Walking through the front door of our house was SUCH a relief! We showed the kids their bedroom and the play room. Although they were tired, their smiles were amazing! Before we left for Ethiopia, we were trying to finish a remodel on our house. When we came into the house, we saw how hard my parents and aunt worked to finish the job and make the house nice for our return home! It was such a joy to show Tensaye and Millennium their home!!! All of the kids were in bed and asleep by 9:00pm! A great end to a long journey!  

It has been a month since that day, and Heidi tells us that Tensaye and Millennium are adjusting remarkably well and delighted to have a new brother and sister.


We want to wish Heidi a Happy Mother’s Day and thank both her and all of the other Moms like her that have opened their hearts and their homes to children in need around the world.

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06 May 2010

Public Service Recognition Week 2010 on the National Mall

USCIS is putting the final touches on our participation in Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW), an annual event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This year’s event will take place from May 6 to 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. PSRW is set aside to honor the men and women who serve our nation in the federal, state, county and local government. Other celebrations recognizing public servants are taking place throughout the country as well. This year’s theme is “Innovation and Opportunity,” highlighting exciting technology and recruiting the next generation of public servants.

To celebrate PSRW, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas administered the Oath of Allegiance to 25 candidates who became America’s newest citizens during a special naturalization ceremony on the National Mall.


Director Alejandro Mayorkas administers the Oath of Allegiance to 25 candidates who became America’s newest citizens during a special naturalization ceremony on the National Mall
Here are a few words he had to share:

“Our nation is a beacon of hope and opportunity for men and women from around the world who yearn to realize their potential and pursue their dreams. It is through the talents of all our citizens, from wherever they may come, that we as a nation remain at the forefront of innovation. We welcome today’s new citizens as they join and continue in this proud tradition.”

This year’s celebration recognizes innovation and opportunities in public service, and is open to the public. This naturalization ceremony is the highlight of activities USCIS has planned for PSRW to educate the public about citizenship and immigration and inspire them to choose the path of public service.

For more on events and programs, check the Public Service Recognition Week website.

03 May 2010

Suggestions from Beacon Readers

Over the past few weeks, readers have written in with a number of comments. We wanted to take a moment to address five of the most frequent suggestions.

1) Combine EAD and AP into one document and issue for 3 years.

USCIS is in the process of developing a combination work authorization (EAD) and Advance Parole (AP) card. An announcement regarding this combination card will be made later this year.

2) Allow people with approved immigrant petition to file an I-485.

The regulations at 8 C.F.R. 245.1(a) prohibit a beneficiary of an approved I-140 or I-130 petition from filing an I-485 until a visa number is available.

3) Do not count the dependents against visa numbers.

The requirement to count dependents against available visa numbers is statutory. This is not something that USCIS is able to change on its own; it would require new legislation to be enacted by Congress in order for this to happen.

4) Publish all the backlog data including that of district offices.

USCIS is currently developing an inventory spreadsheet, similar to the one for employment-based inventory, for family-based cases awaiting visa numbers. This spreadsheet would include information about the number of cases at field offices awaiting visa numbers.

5) Publish visa numbers that have been used to date in the current year.

Unfortunately, USCIS is not able to do this, because USCIS is not the only agency that uses visa numbers (the Department of State also uses visa numbers). Accordingly, publishing USCIS’s visa number usage would not be an accurate representation of the numbers used and the numbers remaining. To determine where you stand in the visa number queue, please review the Visa Bulletin.