USCIS National Customer Service Center to Streamline Wait Times

telephone-1224064-m.jpgThe USCIS just announced last week that it is streamlining its telephone customer service system to improve tier 1 and tier 2 efficiency. The USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC) will make changes to its call center that will take effect on August 16, 2013. USCIS announced that it believes these changes will reduce the wait times for attorneys or accredited representatives to talk to a USCIS customer service representative. Contacting the NCSC is a good way to get same-day results if you have questions about case status or need to resolve a particular issue, whether your case is an employment-based work visa petition, a family-based immigrant green card application, or any other immigration matter.

Our firm’s experience with NCSC

To date, our experience has been that attorneys and staff in our firm have experienced wait times ranging from about 1 to 2 hours before reaching a USCIS customer service representative. Yet, the USCIS staff is generally friendly and helpful. This is much improved over the customer service provided by legacy INS, which had even longer wait times, less friendly staff, and frustrating because calls were frequently disconnected during a long waiting time requiring us to call back and start all over at the beginning of the waiting line.

Purpose of NCSC

There are several reasons why a foreign national or his/her attorney would contact the NCSC including case status updates or questions regarding a particular matter. The USCIS provides information and assistance on immigration benefits in cases through the NCSC telephone service. This service provides automated as well as live assistance. There is automated information available via a menu of options, which is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Live assistance is available Monday through Friday during business hours to obtain pending application status updates, emergency rescheduling of an appointment, or other assistance not available through the automated system. Service is available in English and Spanish. One example where we have found this useful is that the USCIS has become somewhat backlogged due to the recent volume of H-1B petitions that were filed in April, and some of our clients’ cases took longer than usual to process. We were able to contact NCSC and confirm that their I-129 petitions did not fall through the cracks, and were given an estimate of when those cases would be adjudicated.

Tier 1 representatives

The NCSC operates on a two-tier system. Calls are first answered by tier 1 personnel who are customer service representatives. These representatives may provide general information about immigration services, answer questions about immigration forms, and transfer calls to tier 2 operators when appropriate. Tier 1 personnel cannot give answers to specific questions about a particular case unless that information is also available at the USCIS case status online, they cannot transfer calls to other USCIS offices currently handling pending cases, and they cannot give legal advice.

Tier 2 representatives

Calls may be transferred from tier 1 to tier 2 personnel if appropriate, who are immigration service officers. Services provided by tier 2 personnel include providing information on pending and adjudicated cases, reviewing USCIS systems on a particular case, reissuing notices, providing information otherwise available from an Infopass appointment, and providing specialized assistance to US armed forces personnel. Tier 2 personnel cannot review Requests for Evidence (RFEs) that have been already issued, directly issue duplicate USCIS notices and RFEs, or give legal advice.

What are the changes?

USCIS announced that it will eliminate the lengthy waiting times required to speak to tier 2 officers, by allowing attorneys or accredited representatives to request services at tier 1. If the tier 1 officer is not able to handle the request, the call will be referred to a tier 2 officer who can handle more complex issues. We hope that these changes will be successful in significantly reducing NCSC wait times.