Why Infopass Does Not Work - Part I
This guide will discuss why Infopass appointments are a waste of your time and a waste of government resources. Infopass is a system whereby an individual seeking information about a pending case can make an appointment to sit with an Immigration Services Officer (“ISO") and ask questions over a wide array of subjects. This can include a request for forms, instructions on what forms to complete and how to complete the forms, questions about the status of a pending case or advice about the steps to be followed to obtain immigration benefits.
The system itself is relatively easy. Anyone seeking the obtain an Infopass appointment can go to Infopass.USCIS.gov and can schedule an appointment through a relatively straight forward process of answering a number of prompts offered in over a dozen languages. If done correctly, the applicant for an appointment will be offered the times and dates which are available and once an appointment is chosen the applicant is given an appointment letter which is then used to obtain admission into the local CIS Field Office.
When the applicant arrives at the appointment, the applicant passes through a security check and is then welcomed into the building with an initial check-in procedure that leads to a ticket being issued with a number. When the applicant’s number is called an ISO welcomes the individual and the appointment begins.
The Infopass appointment is an opportunity where we actually have face-to-face contact with an ISO who we hope can answer the questions that we have about our case. The problem is that the officers who handle the Infopass appointments are generally not the officers who actually adjudicate the cases for which an inquiry is made. If the system were one where we were provided an opportunity to speak directly with the officer with whom our case is pending, the concept of providing access to an officer would be more likely to result in some type of pathway forward for the case.
Instead, we are generally provided access to an officer that either has no experience adjudicating the cases that we are trying to resolve or has much less experience adjudicating such cases. ISO’s are split into three classifications : ISO I, ISO II & ISO III. The officers who handle most Infopass appointments are ISO I’s. While many ISO I’s are cross-trained in handling the adjudication of I-485’s, I-751’s and N-400’s, the majority of these cases are adjudicated by ISO II’s. ISO III’s are relatively few and far between and these are journeyman or journeywoman ISO’s who are designated as senior officers as a result of their experience and expertise.
Often times, an Infopass appointment becomes necessary because there is some problem with the case that requires follow-up. And while the intent of the Infopass appointment is to resolve the problem, we are met with a less senior officer who does not know about the case for which the inquiry is made. Rather, the ISO who handles the Infopass appointment may have access to general databases indicating where a file is physically located or whether a decision has been made on a particular application. With due respect to the system, we generally know the answer to both of these questions before scheduling the Infopass appointment.
So more often than not, the Infopass appointment ends with some type of inquiry being taken by one ISO to be given to a different ISO who has responsibility for the case in question. The same result could be had by way of writing a letter or making an inquiry through fax or through email. And once the inquiry is made, the next question is how do we follow-up with the inquiry that has been made attempting to follow-up on the case that has somehow gone astray? The ISO handling the Infopass appointment may tell us to wait for 30 or 60 or 90 days and if we do not hear anything we can make another Infopass appointment to start the process over again.
The ISO who attends to the inquiry does not take any independent responsibility with regards to the inquiry. We are not provided a contact name or a contact number to speak directly with the ISO with whom we speak during the Infopass appointment. Instead, we have now brought someone else into the process who listens to our inquiry, passes messages along and then disappears from the resolution of the matter.
If my experience as an attorney is such that I find little benefit in making an Infopass appointment to resolve a difficult or long pending case, imagine what an unrepresented individual faces when she appears for that same appointment. The idea of resolving problematic cases by scheduling an appointment to discuss the case with an officer during a face-to-face meeting is a great concept. But if there is no access provided to the officer who is handling the problematic case and if the system of passing messages along does not result in the resolution of anything, then why have the system at all? The answer is that this system is a meager attempt to provide the public with the idea that problems are being resolved and that the government is providing service to its customers where the truth is that the process is too often nothing more than lip service.
In so stating, I do not intend on blaming the hard working ISO’s who have to listen to the complaints at the Infopass appointments and who try their best to direct customers to the right places to resolve their problems. And I will tell you that I believe that this is the hardest job at CIS, one that every ISO should be required to do. If the ISO’s learn the frustration which their customers endure and listen to that frustration day in and day out, perhaps the system can change from within to provide a better means of resolving problematic cases. But this is not what the agency doing.
Instead, the agency fails at training its ISO’s handling these appointments with the finer points of resolving complicated problems. As someone who worked for the government I saw how the division of the agency’s work into units works both to train employees to become specialists and at the same time train those same officers to work with blinders - having no concept of what goes on outside of their particular unit.