USCIS offices aka green card offices play an important role in helping individuals navigate immigration processes. It ultimately depends on the type of green card you are applying for to determine which specific USCIS office is responsible for processing your immigration-related application, although all USCIS offices do process green card applications.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, the USCIS temporarily shut down its field offices nationwide. However, as of March 2023, normal operations resumed with strict guidelines that are mostly health-related.
Here is everything you need to know.
What Can You Do in a USCIS Office?
By visiting a physical USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) office you can submit immigration applications and petitions, obtain immigration forms, get information about immigration laws, pay immigration fees, and check the status of immigration applications among other things. These offices also conduct appointment-based green card interviews and naturalization ceremonies.
The idea behind all different types of USCIS offices is to guarantee the integrity and security of the U.S. immigration system, and facilitate the timely processing of different immigration applications.
Where Can I Find a USCIS Immigration Office Near Me?
To locate a USCIS office near you, visit the USCIS website and use the Office Locator to search by zip code. Keep in mind that USCIS offices do not allow walk-ins; you must have an appointment, whether it is for a green card interview, naturalization ceremony, or anything in between.
You can also search USCIS offices for the exact services you need. Here is a breakdown of the different types of USCIS offices and the services they provide:
Field offices are located within the United States and handle scheduled interviews for non-asylum-related immigration applications. You can also submit immigration forms, obtain fingerprint services, attend oath ceremonies, and receive and get assistance related to immigration-related issues in a USCIS field office.
Remember that the USCIS field offices provide Permanent Resident Card applicants services by appointment. These appointments are meant to supplement the information provided on the USCIS website and by phone.
USCIS asylum Offices handle the processing of asylum applications from individuals who are seeking protection from persecution or fear of persecution in their home countries.
These offices are responsible for conducting asylum interviews, managing caseloads of asylum applications, adjudicating asylum applications (determining whether the applicant meets the criteria for asylum), and conducting credible fear and reasonable fear screenings.
USCIS asylum offices also provide support (i.e. resources for legal representation) and information on the asylum process in general. It’s also worth knowing that the USCIS asylum offices are separate from immigration courts.
These offices serve U.S. citizens and organizations, permanent residents of the U.S., and certain other individuals visiting or residing outside the United States.
USCIS international offices process visa applications (family-based, employment-based, diversity visas, etc.), conduct green card application interviews, support refugees and asylees who are applying for resettlement, liaise with local government to resolve immigration-related issues and offer general support and guidance on immigration-related issues.
Administrative Appeals Office (AAO)
These offices adjudicate appeals of certain denied or revoked USCIS benefits. The AAO reviews and adjudicates USCIS decisions, based on the specific grounds, related to employment and family-based petitions, waiver and naturalization applications, immigrant investor petitions, adjustment of status applications, asylee and refugee status-related petitions, etc.
Worth mentioning that the Administrative Appeals Office issues the final decisions on the appeals and the AAO’s decisions are binding on USCIS and the appellant. If the appellant doesn’t accept the AAO’s decision then the individual can take the case to the federal court.
The whole idea of the Administrative Appeals Office is to ensure that the USCIS decisions are consistent and fair. And, the individuals have the opportunity to appeal decisions that may have been made in error.
Application Support Centers (ASC)
These centers provide biometrics collection services for individuals required to submit biometric data as part of their immigration application. In addition to biometric data collection, the ASCs also conduct background checks and document (i.e. passports) reviews on individuals applying for immigration benefits.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Application Support Centers also provide general support to applicants and make sure that immigration-related applications are processed without errors.
National Records Center (NRC)
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services National Records Center stores and maintains immigration records for immigrants, refugees, and asylees who have applied for immigration benefits. In addition to immigration records storage and maintenance, the NRC also offers record retrieval and record destruction services.
The NRC center also receives and processes FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests related to immigration matters.
USCIS Service Centers (SC)
These service centers receive and process various immigration applications and petitions related to employment and family-based petitions and naturalization among other services. The USCIS Service Centers can also provide green card status check options for certain types of petitions and applications.
There are four USCIS Service Centers. The processing times of applications vary in SCs.
- California Service Center (CSC)
- Nebraska Service Center (NSC)
- Texas Service Center (TSC)
- Vermont Service Center (VSC)
National Benefits Center (NBC)
The USCIS NBCs are responsible for processing employment-based visa petitions that require labor certifications, immigrant petitions for family members of United States citizens and permanent residents, adjustment of status applications, and refugee and asylee petitions. National Benefit Centers typically process more complex immigration-related cases.
In addition, the NBCs can collect biometric data and conduct background checks for applicants.
Things to Know Before Visiting a USCIS Green Card Office
Besides ensuring you have an appointment with the USCIS before visiting any of their field offices, here are some additional things to keep in mind.
- The USCIS will not allow you to enter the facility more than 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment (or 30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies).
- In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, USCIS provides hand sanitizers at its entry points for visitors.
- In addition, the USCIS may provide a replacement mask if the office you are visiting requires masks and you do not have an accepted one. The government immigration agency does not allow neck gaiters, masks with exhaust values, or bandanas for masks.
- Social distancing and other guidelines are clearly displayed on signs and physical barriers within the facility.
- When you enter the facility, you will be required to answer health-screening questions.
- Finally, you are required to bring your own black or blue ink pens to your appointment.