INS Criminal Record Verification:

Information on Process for Citizenship Applicants

GGD-97-118R: Published: Jun 4, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO responded to questions from Senator Spencer Abraham and Senator Kennedy regarding the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) responses to the recommendations GAO made in its 1994 report, and provided GAO's views on Senator Kennedy's proposals to INS to improve the naturalization program.

GAO noted that: (1) after providing INS with a copy of its draft report, GAO obtained their oral comments on November 9, 1994; (2) at the November 9, 1994 meeting, INS and Department of Justice officials agreed with GAO's findings, conclusions, and recommendations; (3) at the meeting, however, the INS officials did not provide details on the specific actions that would be taken to address GAO's recommendations or who would be responsible for their implementation; (4) a November 29, 1996, memorandum from the Office of the Commissioner on naturalization quality procedures, if fully implemented, should go a long way toward responding to GAO's recommendations; (5) the Commissioner's memorandum instructed INS' field units to not complete naturalization cases until a definitive response had been received by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; (6) in addition, INS established a process to be used to review field office operations (INSpect); (7) however, a Peat Marwick report showed that INS had not ensured that its field units were carrying out the Commissioner's November 1996 instructions; (8) it also highlighted the need for INS to do a better job of monitoring its field offices to ensure that they are properly and completely meeting the Commissioner's instructions; (9) Senator Kennedy's proposal included steps to improve the efficiency, accuracy, and oversight of the naturalization program and to encourage innovation and future progress; and (10) two items in the plan may need further consideration: (a) the establishment of an efficiency goal to complete the entire naturalization process of a qualified legal permanent resident in 6 months or less may not be consistent with the goal of having the fingerprint process as accurate as possible, given the level of resources; and (b) although the centralization of the naturalization process to facilitate effective oversight of the fingerprint procedures, including the Designated Fingerprint Services Program (DFS), naturalization testing centers, and final INS interviews, could improve the internal controls over naturalization, it may also present some obstacles.

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