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27 October 2010

New Certificate of Naturalization Debuts in Baltimore

This past Monday, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas attended a naturalization ceremony at our Baltimore Field Office to announce the launch of a redesigned Certificate of Naturalization. Following the administration of the Oath of Allegiance to the new citizens, Director Mayorkas presented Erick Lopez, a native of Cuba, the first new certificate.

Erick Lopez, right, receives the first new Certificate of Naturalization from Director Mayorkas in Baltimore


Erick Lopez, right, receives the first new Certificate of Naturalization from Director Mayorkas in Baltimore

The enhanced certificates include new security features, such as:
  • Embedded digitized photo and signature
  • Background featuring color-shifting ink
  • Certificates printed utilizing tamper-resistant technology
  • A standardized size of 8 ½ by 11 inches
Director Mayorkas also announced that USCIS will fully transition to an automated production process for the new certificates by the end of the calendar year. Automation will increase consistency and reduce the time it takes to prepare certificates, and we expect over 600,000 new citizens will receive the enhanced certificate over the next year. 

USCIS offices in Atlanta, Denver and Baltimore will be the first to implement the transition to an automated process this week – and all other offices will transition to the automated process during the next 60 days. For those who are already naturalized, no need to worry - older certificates remain valid and do not need to be replaced or updated.

For more on the new certificate, please visit our website.

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08 October 2010

Customer Service Week: USCIS Making Progress and Looking to do More

The International Customer Association launched Customer Service Week in 1988 to recognize the importance of customer service and to honor people who provide the best examples of great service. In 1992 Congress proclaimed Customer Service Week a nationally recognized event.

During Customer Service Week, we at USCIS celebrate the achievements of customer service staff and thank them for the work that makes a difference to our customers as they encounter the complex world of immigration benefits.

Looking back, our predecessor, The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was one of the first to initiate a prototype centralized telephone center in 1985. The prototype proved successful and evolved into today’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) National Customer Service Center (NCSC), which now receives nearly 16 million calls a year and handles telephone inquiries from throughout the United States.

Since then, USCIS has continually sought ways to improve the customer experience, which has admittedly had its ups-and-downs through the years.

Last year, we launched a redesigned website as well as a completely new Spanish-language version of the site. USCIS.gov and USCIS.gov español both provide case status online and have consistently scored above the government website average in online user surveys. In fact, the Spanish-language website recently tied for first place with NASA’s home page.

We have also contracted with an independent agency to monitor customer performance at our field offices and the NCSC. They conduct monthly telephone surveys, in-person interviews, and online surveys once every three months. In addition, USCIS conducts focus groups four times a year to gather in-depth customer feedback and suggestions for service improvement.

Through these four survey methods, we have been able to improve the information provided by the NCSC’s Interactive Voice Response System and on our website. Overall, statistics shows that our customer satisfaction rating has steadily improved from 63% in 2000 to 83.3% in 2010.

We hope to continue this positive trend and we welcome your comments and suggestions as to how we can best improve our customer service to meet your needs.

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05 October 2010

88 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines Naturalized in Kandahar, Afghanistan

The air is heavy with dust in Kandahar. A thick layer coats everything in sight and casts an eerie haze over both the sun by day and street lights by night. When the day's heat mixes with that dust, it makes for an oppressive, dusk-like combination. Yet here, for the best part of the last week, a team of USCIS employees from the Bangkok District have lived among the troops in order to conduct naturalization interviews, fulfilling the citizenship dreams of dozens of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

On Friday, October 1, 2010, during an early morning naturalization ceremony at Kandahar Air Field, 88 men and women from 37 countries - each with a unique, inspiring story - became America's newest citizens.

Three newly naturalized soldiers

Those stories include three soldiers born in Vietnam. Lifelong friends, they grew up together in Orange County, Calif., joined the Army, deployed to Iraq and independently filed for citizenship. Neither of the three knew their friends would naturalize in Kandahar until they found each other’s name on the ceremony list.

A group of soldiers takes the Oath of Allegiance

For another soldier, his citizenship journey ended in Afghanistan five days after his wife - also a solider - became a citizen during a Fort Bliss, Texas naturalization ceremony. From Afghanistan to Iraq and Korea to Honduras, USCIS employees volunteer to naturalize eligible members of the military where they serve. In a rare twist, the Kandahar ceremony included new citizens from all four branches of the military - each serving their adopted country in Afghanistan. To a person, the three member USCIS team in Kandahar was happy to "rough it" in the field for a few days in order to naturalize American service members serving in harm's way, defending rights and freedoms they had yet to secure for themselves and their families.

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04 October 2010

Two Citizenship Day Highlights

This past Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, USCIS made two important announcements that will positively impact prospective citizens.

USCIS Announces Grant Recipients

On September 17, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced nearly $8 million in grants for immigrant-serving organizations, a significant increase in funding over the previous year.

Director Mayorkas announces the grants at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on Citizenship Day
Director Mayorkas announces the grants at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on Citizenship Day

One of the recipients was the YWCA Tulsa, which has been assisting immigrants for over 25 years and received a grant for its “Project Citizenship”. The YWCA has already helped hundreds of permanent residents in Oklahoma successfully prepare to become U.S. citizens, and will use the grant to expand its efforts.

A second recipient was Montgomery College, a community college system in Montgomery County, Maryland which has programs to assist immigrants as they prepare to become U.S. citizens. Montgomery College will use its grant to expand citizenship education services and increase civic engagement and naturalization rates.

The recipients mentioned above are just two of the seventy-five organizations from 27 states and the District of Columbia who will receive a total of $7.8 million in federal grant funding to promote citizenship education and immigrant integration in communities across the country. Taken together, these grants will boost efforts nationwide to help aspiring citizens reach their goal and become vested, participating members of American society.

The New USCIS Citizenship Resource Center Online

In addition to the grant program announcement, USCIS officially launched the Citizenship Resource Center - an online center offering citizenship resources for learners, teachers, and organizations.

Rebecca S. Carson, Chief, USCIS Office of Citizenship, announces the launch of the online Citizenship Resource Center.
Rebecca S. Carson, (Chief, USCIS Office of Citizenship) announces the launch of the online Citizenship Resource Center.

This new website is designed to help users better understand the naturalization process and gain the necessary skills to be successful during the naturalization interview and test.

The Citizenship Resource Center will include podcasts and interactive learning activities for applicants, links to an expanded America’s Literacy Directory with a new online citizenship class zip code-based search function, and lesson plans and teaching tools for citizenship instructors.

Our Efforts Continue

USCIS efforts to support those wishing to naturalize will continue to expand over the coming year. In that regard, we welcome any suggestions or ideas on how we can better serve immigrants on the path to U.S. citizenship in the comments section.

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