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What to Do if You Have Beef with USCIS

During last year’s NAFSA International Education Summit, one of the keynote speakers was from the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security specifically responsible for overseeing the USCIS. At the conference, this speaker introduced this "mysterious organization" that oversees USCIS. If you feel you are treated unfairly by the USCIS, you may file a to CIS Ombudsman.

In this article, we will talk about:

·      Who is CIS Ombudsman & Their Mission

·      What can they do for you?

·      CIS Ombudsman’s limitations

·      Step-to-step guide on how to get help from the CIS Ombudsman

CIS Ombudsman

CIS Ombudsman & Their Mission

CIS Ombudsman, aka “The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman”, is an independent office in the Department of Homeland Security and is not part of USCIS. It acts as a liaison between individuals and the USCIS.

Created by Congress in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) has approximately 40 federal employees.

Their mission is to:

  • Assist individuals and employers in resolving problems experienced when seeking immigration benefits from USCIS;

  • Identify trends and areas in which individuals and employers have problems dealing with USCIS; and

  • Recommend changes in USCIS’ administrative practices to mitigate problems and enhance processes.

What can they do for international students?

CIS Ombudsman can help if your case was ignored or delayed by USCIS for a prolonged period. For example, if you have graduated and applied for OPT, but have not received an answer within a reasonable time frame, you can reach out to CIS Ombudsman for help.

Or, if you feel the USCIS officer mistreated your case or made mistakes during an RFE, with sufficient evidence provided, CIS Ombudsman will see the issue through and help with the reinforcement on proceeding with your case equitably.

In addition, if USCIS mailed your documents and your mail went missing, you can also reach out to CIS Ombudsman for help.

List of things CIS Ombudsman CAN DO:

  • Non-receipt of USCIS notices or decisions, such as requests for evidence, appointment notices, or decisions even if USCIS systems indicate that it issued one, or instances where the U.S. Postal Service returned a card to USCIS as non-deliverable.

  • Cases where the beneficiary may “age-out” of eligibility for the requested immigration benefit. See USCIS’ Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) webpage for additional information.

  • Certain cases involving U.S. military personnel and their families.

  • Applications and petitions that were improperly rejected by USCIS due to clear errors of fact or obvious misapplication of the relevant law by USCIS.

  • Typographic errors in immigration documents.

  • Cases where someone is in removal proceedings before the immigration court with a hearing scheduled within six months and has an application/petition pending before USCIS that could impact the outcome of removal proceedings.

  • Lost files and/or file transfer problems between USCIS offices.

  • Certain cases involving an emergency or a hardship that fall under USCIS expedited criteria.

  • Priority-2 Direct Access Program.

  • Systemic issues that should be given higher-level review.

CIS Ombudsman's Limitations

Although it is the overseer of USCIS, CIS Ombudsman has its own limitations.

First, it cannot provide legal consultation. You still need to hire a lawyer by yourself if your case requires one.

Second, in extreme cases, such as receiving an eviction notice, you need to reach out to higher-level authorities. CIS Ombudsman can only provide suggestions to USCIS but holds no power over their final decisions. As mentioned before, it runs in parallel to USCIS, which means neither of them is the other’s boss.

Third, although CIS Ombudsman can help with delayed cases, your case must have a clear due date and your appeal must be within 30 days after the due date.

CIS Ombudsman was set to solve systematic problems, not occasional cases. If your case happens to touch upon a greater issue that involves more people, it will have a higher priority. If your case does not have a further implication but merely an individual situation, it may not get solved as quickly as you wish.

Require Assistance with Immigration Cases, you can reach out to CIS Ombudsman

Step-by-Step Guide for Submitting Request

1.     Before you request assistance from CIS Ombudsman, seek help from USCIS first. 

2.    There are 3 ways to submit a request to CIS Ombudsman:

  • Online: We recommend that you submit DHS Form 7001, Request for Case Assistance online. If you are an applicant for T, U, VAWA, or refugee status or were previously granted the status, you will need to provide your actual (“wet”) signature. You can do so by signing the consent part of the Form 7001, scanning it, and uploading it as a supporting document with your online submission.
  • Email: You can download the DHS Form 7001 with Instructions and email the completed form to If you are an applicant for T, U, VAWA, or refugee status or were previously granted the status, you may also email your completed form to us with your actual signature. If you are outside the United States and unable to access our online case assistance portal, you can email the completed form to us.
  • Mail: You may also mail your DHS Form 7001 and supporting documents to:

Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman
Department of Homeland Security
ATTN: Case Assistance
Mail Stop 0180
Washington, D.C. 20528


! Please be mindful that filing a request for case assistance with the CIS Ombudsman does not protect your appeal and motion rights or extend any USCIS deadlines you may face.

3. Supporting Documents:

  • A summary of your issue
  • Your A-Number & USCIS receipt number
  • G-28 Form (only applicable if you have a legal representative)
  • Your & your employer’s (if applicable) Signature
  • All notices you’ve received from USCIS, digital version

If you apply online, you’ll receive a confirmation email instantly. This indicates they received your case but does not mean they will choose to handle it. Usually, within 2 business days, you will receive another email to confirm whether certain assistants will be deployed to your case.

If they decide to provide aid to you, you’ll receive another email approximately 90 days after your request to inform you what you need to do next.

You can also reach out to them via email: to check on the progress of your case.

Learn more about CIS Ombudsman: CIS Ombudsman

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