USCIS Overseas Office Closures Will Hurt U.S. Citizens and Military Service Members Abroad

In his State of the Union address on February 5, 2019, President Trump proclaimed his strong support for legal immigration.  Yet the administration continues to take steps to restrict and make legal immigration increasingly difficult.

In its most recent action, on March 12, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it will close its overseas offices, reportedly to boost efforts reduce backlogs at its U.S. offices.

USCIS’s overseas offices mainly process visa petitions filed by U.S. citizens living and working abroad who are petitioning for the residency of their immediate family members prior to returning to the U.S.  They process citizenship applications by immigrants serving in the U.S. military, and by their spouses and children living abroad.  USCIS overseas offices also help U.S. citizens seeking to adopt children internationally.    Staff of USCIS offices abroad assist as well with refugee processing, including of immediate family members of refugees already resettled in the U.S.

Once those overseas offices close, U.S. citizens and military personnel living and working abroad are likely to have to mail their applications to USCIS offices in the U.S., where they will add to the backlog.   Significant delays and complications for U.S. citizens and service members planning to move back to the U.S. with their immigrant family members will result.

USCIS’s decision to close its overseas offices continues the administration’s trend against legal immigration, particularly targeting immediate family immigration, reflected in a  37% increase in denials of applications decided by USCIS in the first 9 months of FY 2018 , and a 39% increase in immigrant visa denials by the State Department in FY 2018 compared to the prior year.

With the country’s aging population, low birthrates, and low unemployment, the U.S. should be putting out the welcome mat, not shutting its doors.   The decision to close USCIS’s overseas offices is a step in the wrong direction.