The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on December 28, 2021, finding that continued reliance on manual processing slowed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ benefits delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OIG found that USCIS had limited capability to electronically process more than 80 types of benefits, which still required some manual workflows and paper files to complete cases. Recurring technology performance issues and equipment limitations further constrained USCIS employees’ productivity, OIG said, attributing the challenges to “funding cuts and lost fee revenue that limited spending during this time.” OIG noted that these challenges “further increased processing times and resulted in a backlog of 3.8 million cases as of May 2021.”

The report includes two recommendations aimed at improving USCIS’s electronic processing of benefits, with which USCIS concurred:

Recommendation 1: Update the USCIS pandemic plan to incorporate additional technology guidance and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. The estimated completion date is December 30, 2022. OIG considers this recommendation to be “open and resolved.” OIG said a formal closeout letter to be submitted should be accompanied by “evidence of completion of agreed-upon corrective actions and of the disposition of any monetary amounts.”

Recommendation 2: Develop an updated strategy for digitizing all benefits work and tracking the outcome of improving case processing times, including a detailed funding plan, in accordance with the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act. OIG considers this recommendation to be “resolved and closed.”

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