Prior to March 2003, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was
responsible for administering programs that provide qualified
applicants with immigration benefits. These benefits include
citizenship, lawful permanent residency, family- and employment-
related immigration, employment authorization, inter-country
adoptions, asylum and refugee status, replacement immigration
documents, and foreign student authorization.
The annual number of immigration applications received increased from
4,138,000 in 1994 to 6,059,000 by 2000. The Immigration and
Naturalization Service was unable to handle the increased workload due
to technology and staffing issues, which resulted in a backlog of more
than 2 million immigration benefit applications by 2001. In 2002, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service launched a Backlog Elimination
Plan in an effort to better manage the processing workload.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) inherited the
backlog when the benefit processing functions of the Immigration and
Naturalization Service were transferred to the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) in 2003. In December 2003, USCIS faced a backlog of
approximately 3.7 million applications.
USCIS reviewed and updated the Backlog Elimination Plan in an effort
to reduce processing times to a 6-month cycle time for all
applications. USCIS also stated that it would increase its focus on
information technology to ensure that backlog reduction is sustained,
customer service is improved, new fee-for-service business models are
enabled, and an improved technology environment is deployed.
Our September 2005 review of USCIS=92 information technology environment
showed that USCIS had not adopted a focused approach to updating its
legacy systems and manual workflow practices. Rather, information
technology planning and implementation were conducted in a reactive
and decentralized manner across the organization.
Additionally, USCIS relied on personnel rather than technology to
meet its backlog reduction goals. Our report recommended that USCIS
develop a modernization strategy, including short- and long-term
goals, funding plans, and performance measures to guide USCIS entities
in better accomplishing their citizenship and immigration services