On May 15, 2009, the USCIS Ombudsman issued recommendations to improve the filing and review process for motions to reopen or reconsider. These motions provide USCIS customers with the opportunity to obtain review or reexamination of an initial decision. A motion to reopen requires a showing of new facts supported by affidavits and other evidence. In contrast, a motion to reconsider requires a showing that the initial decision involved an erroneous application of law or policy. For either motion, a customer must submit Form I-290B and a $585 filing fee or fee waiver within 30 days of the initial decision. Once properly submitted, a USCIS officer determines whether to reopen or reconsider the decision, and, if so, renders a new decision. Unless the motion is granted, a motion to reopen or reconsider generally does not affect or postpone the initial decision.
A recent Ombudsman analysis uncovered various customer service disparities and inadequate publicly available information regarding these motions. First, some USCIS field offices require customers seeking to correct a clear Service error, such as mistaken age or marital status, to file a formal motion and pay the associated fee, while others accept written requests or even informal notifications of such errors. Second, only a few offices issue receipts and provide customers with the ability to track the progress of their motions. Third, although several offices have instituted completion goals, the length of time required to adjudicate a motion varies greatly, from 30 days to over a year. Finally, because USCIS officers are not required to provide information about these motions in their written denials, unrepresented customers frequently lack information about them.
In response to these shortcomings, the Ombudsman recommended several changes.
To improve procedural uniformity, the Ombudsman recommends that USCIS enact more uniform filing and review procedures for motions to reopen and reconsider by:
- Standardizing and publishing the procedures by which a customer may bring a clear Service error to the attention of USCIS without filing a motion to reopen and paying a filing fee;
- Instituting a uniform tracking system for these motions; and
- Establishing and enforcing internal, agency-wide completion goals for the adjudication of these motions.
To improve publicly available information about motions to reopen and reconsider, the Ombudsman recommends that USCIS better communicate the process to customers by:
- Incorporating standard language regarding these motions into written denials;
- Revising the information on these motions provided by the USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC); and
- Adding specific information about the filing and review process for these motions to the USCIS Web site.