Tuesday, June 22, 2004

BCIS improvements

The BCIS (the former INS) is attempting to eliminate the massive backlog of immigration related applications it handles each year. Having been through the process, I can testify that the main annoyance are the long waits. I had applied in the summer of 2002 for a green card, and it took til October 03 to get an interview. During that time there were few, if any, ways to get updated statuses or check what was happening. It's a long time to be waiting to find out, in some cases, where you will have to live. The BCIS claims
During the next three years, USCIS will eliminate the 3.7 million backlogged cases by changing the culture through which immigration services and benefits are administered.
There are two problems I see with this approach. It's similar to most incoming - or wanting to be incoming - politicians, each of whom promise to eliminate waste and inefficiency in a bureaucratic culture. When they get into power though, things rarely seem to change. It's like trying to lose weight by "really wanting to lose weight". If they can find processes that can be eliminated or streamlined, that could help. But absent specific improvements, position papers claiming there will be a culture change seems a little hollow.

Another thing I noticed on my various trips to BCIS offices, was how lightly staffed they were, given the teeming masses in their waiting rooms. The service counter rarely had more than one window open, so it was a given you’d be waiting for hours even on a light day. When I finally got my green card interview, the interviewer's office showed she was practically buried in paperwork to review. I don't see how to process can work much faster if it's still dependent largely on paperwork, and seems, at least from a "customer" point of view, to have too few people. I am grateful someone is acknowledging the problem needs to be fixed...the details of the execution will be the key.

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