The United States Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ombudsman issued a press release informing the public about the status of FBI name checks and the projected processing times for applicants filing for Naturalization . The Ombudsman is an independent office of DHS which reports directly to the DHS Deputy Secretary. The Ombudsman is responsible for assisting individuals and employers in resolving problems with the USCIS and identifying areas in which individuals and employers have problems in dealing with the USCIS.
FBI name checks are just one of several security screening tools used by the USCIS for individuals seeking immigration benefits in the U.S. The USCIS Ombudsman had identified FBI name check delays at one of the major hurdles to improved customer service at USCIS in his 2008 and 2007 Annual Reports to Congress. Fortunately, Congress responded and provided the necessary funding for USCIS and the FBI to complete a larger percentage of FBI name checks in a timely manner. USCIS met its April 2, 2008 goal by processing all name checks pending more than two years by July 2008. As of August 12, 2008, there were 95,449 FBI name checks pending, compared to 269,943 name checks pending as of May 6, 2008. Additionally, there were 61,817 name checks pending more than six months, compared to 185,162 pending for more than six months as of May 6, 2008. Although there is a sufficient backlog still to be processed, the USCIS is significantly making progress in an effort to improve service for those seeking U.S. immigration benefits.
According to the USCIS, naturalization application processing will take an average of 10-12 months nationally by the end of this month. Previously, USCIS estimated processing times of 16-18 months, then 14-16, then later to 13-15 months. The delay in processing is due to the enormous amount of applications that were submitted during the summer of 2007. Three million naturalization applicants were submitted to the USCIS compared to the 1.8 million submitted the previous year. Overall, the USCIS seems to be making considerable progress compared to past years.