Alien Applications:

Processing Differences Exist Among INS Field Units

GGD-97-47: Published: May 20, 1997. Publicly Released: May 20, 1997.

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GAO reviewed whether significant differences in production rates and processing times existed among Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) field units in alien application processing, focusing on what factors INS officials believe could have caused the differences. GAO did not attempt to do the more detailed analyses that would be necessary to determine actual causes.

GAO noted that: (1) its analyses of INS data for the 25-month period of June 1994 through June 1996 showed that statistically significant differences existed in the production rates for the five predominant types of applications processed by INS' district offices and the three predominant types of applications processed by its service centers; (2) large differences also existed in the projected processing times for the two types of applications for which these data were readily available; (3) the data showed that INS district offices' projected processing times ranged from 112 to 678 days to process naturalization applications and from 36 to 799 days to process adjustment-of-status applications; (4) GAO found no significant statistical relationship between production rates and projected processing times among the district offices; (5) while GAO did not determine directly what caused the differences, the wide range in rates and times suggests that opportunities may exist to improve the production and timeliness of some of the INS field units; (6) to that end, GAO asked INS officials what factors they believed could potentially have caused the differences in the production rates and processing times; (7) they suggested a number of potential factors, including the following: (a) differences in the way the field units reported the data GAO used to calculate the production rates and processing times; (b) assistance provided by community-based service organizations in some districts to aliens when filling out their applications; (c) the use of outside agencies for conducting naturalization testing by some district offices; (d) the authorization of increased overtime for some districts' employees; (e) the varying experience levels and degrees of specialization of district office and service center adjudications officers; and (f) differences in the staffing levels among some district offices; (8) GAO did not attempt to determine whether or to what degree the factors suggested by the officials may have affected the individual field units' production rates and processing times; (9) however, differences in processing times mean that aliens in different INS districts have had to wait disparate amounts of time for their applications to be processed; and (10) thus, the need to treat applicants fairly and use government resources efficiently makes both determining the causes of the production and timing differences and, if feasible, improving production and timeliness, important goals for INS.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS does workload and staffing analysis is applied to production rates to determine staffing needs.

    Recommendation: After ensuring that data are consistently reported, including using the same definitions, the Commissioner, INS, should determine whether and what changes could be made to make individual field units more productive and timely.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS policy defines and assures consistency of data.

    Recommendation: After ensuring that data are consistently reported, including using the same definitions, the Commissioner, INS, should identify factors that contribute to making the field units more or less productive and timely.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS policy defines and assures consistency of data report. Action Completed. Case closed.

    Recommendation: After ensuring that data are consistently reported, including using the same definitions, the Commissioner, INS, should analyze the production rates and processing times for each field unit by application type.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS agreed with the recommendation and is still in the process of implementing it.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, INS, should first ensure that the field units are consistently reporting the data used to calculate the rates and times.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS annually assesses production rates and monthly assesses processing time. Action Completed. Case Closed.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to periodically determine and assess the production rates and processing times in the INS field units.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS reviews it processing data and take appropriate action.

    Recommendation: After ensuring that data are consistently reported, including using the same definitions, the Commissioner, INS, should follow up with the field units to ensure that appropriate changes are implemented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service

 

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