The Trump administration is set to shut all but seven of the country’s citizenship and immigration offices around the world by August 2020, with offices from across Mexico to Seoul in South Korea expected to close within the next 12 months.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) announced in a statement on Friday that it was set to “adjust” its “international footprint” to just seven locations in the coming year.
Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli has sought to reassure Central American countries that despite the widespread closures, the agency’s offices in Guatemala City, Mexico City and San Salvador, El Salvador will continue to remain open as “part of a whole-of-government approach to address the crisis at the southern border,” USCIS said in its statement.
In addition to those three locations, USCIS will continue to operate international field offices in Beijing and Guangzhou, China; Nairobi, Kenya; and New Delhi, India.
Among those expected to close are field offices in Monterrey, Mexico and Seoul, South Korea, with those locations expected to shut down by the end of September.
Already, USCIS has shut down offices in Moscow, Russia, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and Manila in the Philippines.
All other remaining USCIS offices will be expected to close between now and August 2020.
The citizenship and immigration agency has said that the closures will help cut costs and help clear the agency’s backlog.
“This cost-effective and high value international footprint allows USCIS to efficiently adjudicate complex immigration petitions that require in-person interviews, to enhance integrity through fraud detection and national security activities, and to liaise with U.S. and foreign government entities to improve migration management capacity,” Cuccinelli said in a statement published online.
“In the months ahead, USCIS will close its other international offices on a staggered schedule, ensuring a smooth transition of workloads to USCIS domestic offices and State Department consular sections, while mitigating impacts on USCIS staff who will rotate back to domestic positions,” he said.
Many of the services currently provided at the offices expected to face closures will be “handled domestically” or by USCIS domestic staff on “temporary assignments abroad,” USCIS said.
As part of the shift, it said, the Department of State (DOS) will be assuming responsibility for some of the “in-person services” that USCIS currently provides, though it is not clear which ones, aside from issuing visas to foreign nationals who are abroad, which the DOS already does in places where USCIS does not have an office.
In an analysis of the ongoing closures, legal firm Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP said in a statement that the changes come as the agency has “already started to wind down its services abroad.”
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