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27 June 2013

Ten Years Ago: USCIS Employees Launch Online Appointments

For those who remember, the immigration office had always been easy to find because of one thing: The Line.

Line outside of Miami District Office along NW 79th Street – circa 1988

Line outside of Miami District Office along NW 79th Street – circa 1988

But on the morning of June 18, 2003, that would change forever. USCIS employees in Miami, Florida started the Web server that began issuing appointments for information and customer services at the district office. Within moments, customers were booking the first online appointments.

The End of the Line

Before they could make online appointments, customers would line up at the district office at five in the evening, hoping to secure a place in the information room for the following day. Since the information room could only accommodate a limited number of people, those who arrived after three or four in the morning would face being turned away. Some desperate people would even camp out on a Friday afternoon to secure a place in the room for Monday morning.

Upon hearing this story, the USCIS district director for Miami contacted his information technology team and said, "Fix this. There's got to be a better way."

IT specialists and immigration services officers then began developing a scheduler that could be accessed by the public. The system had to be easy to use, easy to understand, hard to break and inexpensive to develop. Over several months, the team developed the program and website that would become the online system we know today as "InfoPass." 

Early on the morning of June 16, 2003, the team performed last-minute checks of the communications, dedicated Internet connections and server equipment. Any failure could doom future efforts and damage the new agency's reputation. There was no turning back considering that The Miami Herald had already released a front page article about the new system:

Miami Herald, June 16, 2003: front page article on InfoPass (Left Column)

Miami Herald, June 16, 2003: front page article on InfoPass (Left Column)

Fortunately, the system worked without a hitch, and within two weeks the lines at the district office that had stretched for city blocks disappeared.

One immediate concern was that all customers didn't have Internet access. While many public libraries and community groups provided access, some other means was necessary to assist customers. The Miami office wanted to set up kiosks, and with just a shoestring budget, staff visited the local hardware store for material to build four of them.

InfoPass team members build prototype InfoPass kiosks.
InfoPass team members Michael Kirkham, Julio Dominguez, Jeffrey Sapko and Gretchen Kirkham build prototype InfoPass kiosks.

InfoPass team members Michael Kirkham, Julio Dominguez, Jeffrey Sapko and Gretchen Kirkham build prototype InfoPass kiosks.

By the end of 2003, nearly 40% of the appointments scheduled were being made at the basic yet functional staff-built boxes. The team continued to monitor and improve the system. During its first six months in operation, the system never crashed.

A second generation kiosk was introduced in September 2003:

Sandra Echeverri programs second generation InfoPass kiosk (2004)

Sandra Echeverri programs second generation InfoPass kiosk (2004)

The system’s success led to new kiosks opening in Los Angeles and then nationwide. InfoPass represented something special: a system built by and for the people. Online scheduling revolutionized the way USCIS does business and ended the misery of long appointment lines.

As one member of the team said, "I waited in that line myself - it was personal to me to try to fix it."

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24 June 2013

E-Verify: Advice for Grads Hitting the Job Market

It's graduation season; Congratulations are in order!

As you venture into the job market, it’s important to know that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has tools you can access that help keep the employment eligibility verification process a smooth one.

These tools include:

Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9: The law requires all employers to use Form I-9 to verify the identity and employment eligibility of everyone they hire. When you get your new job, you will be asked to complete Section 1 of this form.

Visit I-9 Central to get familiar with the new version of the form and its instructions.

E-Verify Self Check: Take advantage of Self-Check, a free Web-based service everyone over the age of 16 can use to confirm their employment eligibility.

Since it accesses the same databases E-Verify checks, you can find out if there is a mismatch, and learn how to fix it if necessary before you start your new job.

Employee Rights Toolkit: We created our Employee Rights Toolkit to provide you with great information—in multimedia and text formats—about your rights in the E-Verify process.

The toolkit has lots of other useful information, including overviews on Self Check and our multilingual engagements.

E-Verify Employers Search Tool: More than 450,000 employers are enrolled to use E-Verify. Find out if your potential employer is one of them through our E-Verify Employers Search Tool.

This tool can benefit all job seekers, especially foreign students participating in Optional Practical Training (OPT) in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM), as they MUST be hired by employers that use E-Verify.

USCIS wishes successful job hunting to the Class of 2013!

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Consejos para los graduados que entran al mercado laboral

¡Es época de graduaciones! ¡Felicidades!

Al aventurarse en el mercado laboral, es importante que conozca que el Servicio de Ciudadanía e Inmigración de Estados Unidos le brinda herramientas para que pueda tener proceso de verificación de elegibilidad de empleo más fácil.

Estas herramientas incluyen:

Formulario I-9 para Verificación de Elegibilidad de Empleo

La ley requiere que todos los empleadores utilicen el Formulario I-9 para verificar la identidad y la elegibilidad de empleo de todo el personal que contraten.  Cuando usted sea seleccionado para su nuevo empleo le pedirán que llene la Sección 1 de dicho formulario.

Visite la Central I-9 para familiarizarse con la nueva versión del formulario y sus instrucciones.

El sistema de verificación Self-Check de E-Verify

Aprovéchese del sistema de verificación Self-Check, un servicio gratis basado en la Web, que todos los individuos mayores de 16 años de edad pueden utilizar para confirmar su elegibilidad de empleo.

Ya que este programa accede las mismas bases de datos que E-Verify, usted puede verificar si existe alguna discrepancia en la información y aprender cómo arreglarla, si es necesario, antes de que comience en su nuevo empleo.

Caja de herramientas para derechos de empleados

Hemos creado nuestra Caja de Herramientas de Derechos del Empleados, la cual provee información importante en formatos multimedios y texto, sobre sus derechos en el proceso de E-Verify.

Esta caja de herramientas posee información útil adicional, tales como un resumen sobre Self-Check y nuestros enlaces en varios idiomas.

Herramienta de búsqueda para empleadores que utilizan E-Verify

Más de 450,000 empleadores están inscritos en E-Verify. Conozca si su potencial empleador es uno de ellos a través de nuestro Sistema de Búsqueda de Empleadores E-Verify.

Este programa beneficia a todos los que buscan empleo, especialmente a los estudiantes extranjeros participando de Adiestramiento Práctico Opcional (OPT, por sus siglas en inglés) en Ciencia, Tecnología, Ingeniería, Matemáticas (STEM), ya que TIENEN que ser contratados por empleadores que utilicen E-Verify.

¡USCIS le desea una exitosa búsqueda de empleos a la Clase de 2013! 

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20 June 2013

Helping Others: USCIS Refugee Officer Fiona Lassiter

June 20 is World Refugee Day where we recognize the courage, strength, and contributions of the millions of people around the globe who have been forced from their homes by conflict, persecution, or a fear of future harm. USCIS refugee officers play an important role in assisting those in genuine need of refugee protection.

USCIS’s Fiona Lassiter is a refugee officer whose interest in working with refugees began during her third year in college. Fiona’s father, also a refugee officer, encouraged her to take a job conducting interviews with refugees fleeing the Kosovo conflict during the 1990s. Interacting with people from another part of the world was both interesting and enriching. “It gave me a sense of responsibility and discipline. At first it was overwhelming, but I discovered I was a natural at interviewing people.”

During her final semester as an undergrad, Fiona worked with a family from Togo. “I was responsible for helping them with things like learning to speak English, opening a bank account, going to the grocery store and generally living in America.” Working with the family and watching them progress convinced her that she wanted to pursue a career working with refugees.

When she joined USCIS, Fiona began working around the world interviewing refugees. “The most challenging part of my job is listening to all the sad stories. There is a lot of violence in certain regions, and some of the claims are quite detailed and gruesome.” Having to hear about the cruelty people have been subjected to is challenging for all officers.

A memorable experience was a visit to Nepal in 2009. “Typically, refugee officers do not get to visit the camps where refugees live. Our only interaction with them is from behind a desk and they are nervously sitting in front of us. On my first circuit ride as a refugee officer in 2009, we visited a camp in Nepal and were greeted by one or two refugees.


Officer Lassiter in Kathmandu, Nepal, on her way to Damak, Nepal where she and her team interviewed Bhutanese refugees in 2009.

Officer Lassiter in Kathmandu, Nepal, on her way to Damak, Nepal where she and her team interviewed Bhutanese refugees in 2009.

Word quickly spread that guests were at the camp and all the refugees started coming out of their small homes. Along the tour, a 16-year-old boy befriended me. He wanted to practice his English and said he was happy because he was going to America. He was the youngest of three kids and his father had mental disabilities. We talked about the weather, sports and food. At the end of our tour, I told him he was going to be a superstar and make his parents proud.”

Fiona summarizes her work this way: “My experiences taught me that refugees are simply people, and none of them woke up one morning wishing to become a refugee.” She believes that the most important part of her job is helping others whose lives have been torn apart by forces beyond their control. “We as an agency, we as Americans, can help so many people turn things around and begin a new life.”


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La vida como un Oficial de Programas Humanitarios (Fiona Lassiter, Oficial de Programas Humanitarios)

El 20 de junio se conmemora el Día Mundial del Refugiado, en el que reconocemos el coraje, la fuerza y las aportaciones de millones de personas alrededor del mundo que han sido obligadas a salir de sus hogares a causa de conflictos bélicos, persecución o el temor a peligros futuros. Los Oficiales de Programas Humanitarios del Servicio de Ciudadanía e Inmigración de Estados Unidos (USCIS, por sus siglas en inglés) juegan un rol importante ayudando a aquellos con necesidades genuinas de protección como refugiados.

Fiona Lassiter, Oficial de Programas Humanitarios de USCIS se interesó en trabajar con los refugiados desde su tercer año de universidad. El padre de Fiona, también Oficial de Programas Humanitarios, la alentó a trabajar realizando entrevistas a refugiados que huían durante el conflicto de Kosovo en la década de 1990. Interactuar con personas de otra parte del mundo fue interesante y enriquecedor. “Me proveyó sentido de responsabilidad y disciplina. Al principio fue abrumador, pero descubrí que tenía una habilidad natural para entrevistar personas”, dijo.

Durante su último semestre de su carrera universitaria, Fiona trabajó con una familia de Togo. “Era la responsable para ayudarle con cosas como aprender a hablar inglés, abrir una cuenta bancaria, ir al colmado y en general, cómo vivir en Estados Unidos”. “Oír sobre la crueldad de la que estas personas habían sido objeto representa un reto para todos los oficiales”. Trabajar con la familia y verlos progresar le convencieron de querer hacer su carrera profesional trabajando con refugiados.
Cuando se unió a USCIS, Fiona comenzó a trabajar entrevistando refugiados alrededor del mundo. “La parte más retadora de mi trabajo es escuchar todas las historias tristes. Existe mucha violencia en ciertas regiones y algunos de los relatos son bien detallados y espantosos.

Visitar Nepal en 2009 fue una experiencia memorable para Fiona. “Típicamente, los oficiales de programas humanitarios no visitan los lugares donde viven los refugiados. Nuestra única interacción con ellos es desde un escritorio, mientras ellos están sentados nerviosamente frente a nosotros. En 2009, durante mi primera ronda de servicios como Oficial de Programas Humanitarios, visitamos un campamento en Nepal y fuimos recibidos por uno o dos refugiados. Rápidamente se corrió la voz de que había visitantes en el campamento y los refugiados comenzaron a salir de sus pequeños hogares. Durante el recorrido, un niño de dieciséis años entabló amistad conmigo. Él necesitaba practicar su inglés y dijo que estaba feliz porque viajaría a América. Era el más joven de tres hijos y su padre tenía discapacidad mental. Hablamos sobre el clima, los deportes y las comidas. Al final de nuestro recorrido, le dije que él sería una súper estrella y que haría a sus padres sentirse orgullosos”.

Fiona resume su trabajo de esta forma: “mis experiencias me enseñaron que los refugiados son simplemente personas, y que ninguno de ellos despertaron una mañana deseando convertirse en refugiados”. Ella cree que la parte más importante de su trabajo es ayudar a otros, quienes sus vidas han sido destrozadas por situaciones fuera de su control. “Nosotros, como agencia y como americanos, podemos ayudar a muchas personas cambiar las cosas y comenzar una nueva vida”.

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06 June 2013

The Blue Campaign: Combating Human Trafficking

DHS recently launched the redesigned Blue Campaign, the Department’s unified voice for combating human trafficking.

Working together with law enforcement, government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector, the Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and bring those who exploit human lives to justice.

The Blue Campaign is offering new, comprehensive resources for recognizing the indicators of human trafficking and knowing how to report suspected instances of human trafficking to law enforcement, as well as resources for potential victims.

Visit www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign to learn more, take the training, print the posters, and share the PSA to educate yourself and your community about human trafficking.