How to Communicate with USCIS

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The process of immigrating to the United States and applying for citizenship can be long and full of paperwork. In this lesson, we'll cover some basic tips for communicating with USCIS and getting your immigration questions answered.

USCIS

So, you want to come to the United States or you want to become a citizen. That's great! Now, what should you do to achieve this? Frankly, you will have to do a lot of paperwork. Immigration and obtaining citizenship in the United States can be a substantial bureaucratic process, so it's helpful to know exactly whom you'll be dealing with. The federal agency in charge of lawful immigration and citizenship is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS for short.

The USCIS logo
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Throughout this process you'll probably need to contact them quite a few times, so some basic contact information will get you started:

  • Website: http://www.uscis.gov
  • Main Phone Number: 1-800-375-5283

If you don't feel ready to communicate with USCIS just yet, that's alright! There is plenty more information to give based on specific circumstances and activities, so read on.

How to Find USCIS Offices

You may need to locate a physical USCIS office, whether to visit personally or submit paperwork. The USCIS boasts over 200 offices worldwide, and there are many different kinds, but you are most likely to need either a field office or an international office.

A field office is a domestic center in the USA, and most states have one. This is where activities like interviews will occur. If you're applying from another country, you'll need to find an international office which provides services to US citizens and residents as well as some other people visiting or residing outside the US who need immigration help. You can find locations for both types of offices on the USCIS website in the ''Find a USCIS Office'' section.

If you are applying for a work permit using Form I-765 you may also need to find a specific field office because this form asks you to list an office associated with your case. On either your Employment Authorization Card or Notice of Action Form, there will be a long number with three letters in front of it. Those three letters are the codes for a specific office. For example, if the number on my card is CSC0000000000001, then the office working with me is the California Service Center (CSC).

Unfortunately, your field office will not be on Ellis Island!
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Request Accommodations

Many applicants go through this application process with either a physical or developmental disability, and as part of the United States government, USCIS is mandated by law to provide accommodations to help these individuals. If you will need accommodations, you can do this by calling the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283, or filing a request online (https://egov.uscis.gov/e-Request/Intro.do).

The request then goes to a field office (which you now know how to find!) and you can follow up with that field office directly if you need. It's important to remember that an accommodation is simply a modification to the application process, not an exception. You'll still be expected to fulfill the basic requirements of the process in some form or another.

Rescheduling an Interview

Imagine that your application interview is fast approaching, you're excited, and then you catch the flu. What do you do? Well, USCIS promises that if you reschedule due to health or family emergencies, your interview will be rescheduled quickly and without any penalties. This being said, you have to take care of this process correctly. Failure to properly reschedule in advance could result in your application being labeled as abandoned, which means you would have to start the entire process all over again!

If you are sick, all you need to do is follow the instructions on your appointment notice paperwork to reschedule your appointment. The process sometimes changes, so following what your official USCIS paperwork says is the most reliable way to take care of it. They may ask for some kind of proof, so be prepared for that.

Paying Application Fees

Sadly, most things are not free, so you have to pay for some of the services you get from USCIS. Some possible types of fees include application fees, filing fees, and immigrant fees, but there are many other options. Because USCIS fees change periodically, you should review the G-1055 Fee Schedule or call their service center at 1-800-375-5283 and ask for the fee information.

The exact instructions for most types of payment and who to contact should be listed on the paperwork you have from the USCIS. Let's look closer at the process to pay an Immigrant Fee.

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