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Highlights

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for granting or denying applications or petitions of foreign nationals seeking to become citizens of the United States or to study, work, or live in this country. In order to process the millions of applications and petitions that USCIS receives each year, USCIS uses contractors to perform various support services including SI International, Inc. and Stanley Associates for mail operations, fee collection, data collection, and file operations at its four service centers, in California, Nebraska, Vermont, and Texas. The contracts with these two firms are expiring, and USCIS has the option to extend the contracts for one year beginning in December 2008. We understand that USCIS may be planning to propose possible contract changes for the option year. Based on our ongoing work on USCIS user fees, we believe that improvements could be made to these contracts before the options to extend the contracts are exercised. The purpose of this report is to summarize our initial observations on performance standards and financial deductions to assist USCIS in obtaining the most value and highest level of performance from its contracts and contractors. In our forthcoming report we will address contract management issues.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services The Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services should revise the threshold at which the timeliness performance requirement does not apply to better reflect known workload patterns, especially on Mondays and the days after holidays.
Closed - Implemented
In November 2008, USCIS revised the threshold at which service center contractors are held to the timeliness performance standards. In the contracts, which with contractor agreement will go into effect in December 2008, on Mondays and the days after holidays the contractors shall maintain the capability to accommodate surges in volume of up to 50 percent above the daily average receipt volume for the previous 20 business days. In the event the receipt volume exceeds 150 percent of the rolling daily average, the contractor is only responsible for meeting the timeliness performance requirements for 150 percent of the rolling daily average. By requiring the contractor to meet the 24-hour deposit standard on these high-volume days, more fee collections will be processed and deposited into the Treasury, allowing the U.S. government to earn more interest off these collections.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services The Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services should consider developing and implementing a system of graduated deductions in order to better encourage improved performance.
Closed - Implemented
In November 2008, USCIS developed and implemented a system of graduated financial deductions in its service center contracts for mail operations, date entry, file room management activities. The contracts, which with contractor agreement will go into effect in December 2008, improve USCIS's tools for encouraging high performance by allowing the agency to impose financial penalties that are commensurate with contractor performance.

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