When you have a question about your case, USCIS wants you to call their National Customer Service Center. USCIS is trending away from other sources of information for its customers, convincing itself that the NCSC is maturing into a fine, centralized source of customer service. Clients report to me all kinds of ridiculous information and advice [one hapless client, a Marine with three tours in Iraq, so conscientious about his case that, before he retained me, he called the NCSC monthly to make sure his case was on track – concerned that he thought he should have received a fingerprint appointment – and was assured his case was on track and not to worry, and then got a denial notice because he had “abandoned” his case], so I tried it for myself on two cases, both cases pending for what is obviously too long.
The first, a long-delayed I-212. This is actually the second time I called about it. I first called in December. I was told a report would be taken I would get some response in 45 days. I heard nothing. I called again last week. I asked if the case number from the first call would be helpful. The answer was that it was not. One wonders what the purpose of identifying the service call is if it is not relevant during a follow-up. I explained the situation – a long-delayed I-212. I was put on hold. The customer service representative came back on a few minutes later and told me there are no pending processing times for an I-212. (USCIS posts processing times for its different forms and insists that you wait until the case is thirty days “outside normal processing times,” or ONPT, before inquiring.) I pointed out that indeed there are processing times posted for Form I-212. I was put back on hold for a few more minutes. When the representative came back, she told me that I was correct, that she did not see it because they were having problems with the computer, and she would put in another service request. I would hear something in thirty days. The clock, she’s a tickin… I’ll keep you posted.
The other case was an N-565, requesting a replacement for a certificate of naturalization. The original was stolen and the client needs proof of citizenship. Without it, no passport, no drivers license, no social security card, no travel to Mexico or Canada, no protection from zealous immigration officers, no nothing. We have been waiting more than a year for USCIS to essentially look in the computer, see that the client was issued a naturalization certificate, print a new one, glue an already-provided photo on it, and send it to him – or invite him to an interview to hand it to him. Not rocket science, not science, not much of anything. I call. I explain the problem and am put on hold for about ten minutes. The customer service officer comes back and tells me that there is no processing time for this form and as a result I should write a letter to my local office. I am incredulous because the local USCIS office has not responded to a letter from me since 1994. In this world of InfoPass, letters are used for the USCIS bird cages. I explain that the case was filed at the Nebraska Service Center – is she sure I should not write there? She assures me that I should write to the local office. To make sure we are not miscommunicating – that she really does not mean the “local office” where I filed the thing, Nebraska, I ask her where to send it. She tells me I am fortunate to have two local offices – San Diego or Chula Vista. I do not tell her that the advice is worthless. Nonetheless, the San Diego USCIS district (or districts, San Diego and Chula Vista, ten miles apart seem to be splintering, but really splintering. It really makes no sense, but that for another day) has a procedure for attorneys to ask about cases. I ask about the case. The response – the case is at the Nebraska Service Center. We won’t meddle with them. Go ask them. Well, I then did, through another process to inquire outside of the NCSC reserved for certain attorneys. The clock, she’s a tickin’… I’ll keep you posted.
The NCSC was not completely useless. It provided some entertainment. First, I had the entertainment of about ten minutes of explanations about the service and how to go through a million menus by a man’s voice with a wonderful baso profundo. Then I had the entertainment of talking to talk with a woman for about thirty minutes, counting the lengthy periods of being on hold, who sounded as if she could be on the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” if the Blue Collar Comedy Tour included a woman and a refrain on the tour was not “git-r-done,” because the one distinguishing feature of the NCSC is that they do not git anything done. The final entertaining factor was receiving palpably false information and empty promises by a woman who seems sincerely to believe that she is helping. I got to play a bemused Andy Taylor to an unseen Aunt Bea. [Please don’t confuse the comments about the Southern accents with condescension. I am just observing, not judging, y’all.]