The Atlanta USCIS has been suffering since January. They lost their Field Office Director and a Branch Chief to promotions and a second Branch Chief was out for medical reasons. The folks left behind did their best to continue on, but it’s been difficult. It’s rough in any organization when you lose leaders and key people with a long institutional history.
In the first several months of 2017, the Atlanta Field Office slowed way down. Instead of Naturalization applications being called in for an interview five months after filing the wait time grew. Instead of adjustment of status applications were interviewed six months after filing, the wait time grew. For both types of cases, it’s now taking nine months to get an interview date. According to new leadership, they hope to bring that wait time down to seven months by October.
One reason for the slowdown (besides the gaps in leadership) was that the Atlanta Field Office took nearly a month off from interviewing cases. They worked through old cases that had been sitting on shelves for a year or longer. Unfortunately, these older cases were often complicated and USCIS frequently arrived at the wrong decision. After talking with other practitioners, we realized that the quality of adjudications suffered. The denials were based on misinterpretations of the law, they skipped over clients’ rights, and the denials didn’t always have the right facts. This has left clients deciding whether to appeal or refile. An appeal costs nearly $700 and refiling can cost just as much. These cases that USCIS thought they were done with are just going to come right back to them. They may be frustrated, but I’m frustrated, too. I expect better quality adjudications from USCIS.
There is a bright spot in all of this, though. Atlanta does have a new Field Office Director and he seems keen to learn and fix the problems that have come up recently. Of course, no problem that took months to create will be solved overnight, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get back on the right track sooner rather than later. Field Office Director Riddle certainly has his work cut out for him!