The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate and the Office of Policy and Strategy’s Research and Evaluation Division recently conducted a customer satisfaction survey for its asylum offices. Nearly 1,000 customers from eight asylum offices completed a satisfaction survey about their asylum interviews and office visits during the past fiscal year (2011-2012).

Key survey findings include:

• Front desk staff received an overall satisfaction rating of 94 out of 100.

• The satisfaction rating for asylum officers was 89 out of 100, which impacted overall customer satisfaction more than any other survey component.

• The overall Customer Satisfaction Index for USCIS Asylum Offices was 87 out of 100 – about 20 points higher than the latest federal government average for customer satisfaction.

• 45% of respondents had visited the USCIS website seeking asylum information; the satisfaction rating for the website was 85.

• Overall, 83% of respondents felt that the asylum officer was neutral during their interview. Among those who felt that the officer was argumentative or biased (17% of respondents), the overall satisfaction rating was approximately 20 points lower.

• The most common complaint across the eight asylum offices related to customer wait time for the start of the asylum interview. Despite this fact, satisfaction with the interview start time was relatively high at 82.

A total of eight office locations participated in the survey and they include: Arlington Asylum Office (VA), Chicago Asylum Office (IL), Houston Asylum Office (TX), Los Angeles Asylum Office (CA), Miami Asylum Office (FL), New York Asylum Office (NY), Newark Asylum Office (NY) and San Francisco Asylum Office (CA). Customers are highly satisfied with the services they receive from USCIS’s Asylum Offices; their overall satisfaction index is 87 on a scale of 0 to 100. At the office-level, customers who were serviced by the Miami Asylum Office, Chicago Asylum Office and the Houston Asylum Office were the most satisfied with indices of 94, 94, and 93, respectively. Conversely, satisfaction was the lowest for those serviced by the New York Asylum Office with a satisfaction index of 70. Arlington Asylum Office received a satisfaction index of 88.

The Asylum Officer was found to be the primary driver of satisfaction for customers. Officers appeared to do well in providing needed information to customers. They were rated highly knowledgeable and polite. Across seven of eight offices, Asylum Officers score in the high 80s or 90s; these scores indicate a high level of performance. The New York Office is the one exception with scores considerably lower for Asylum Officer performance. However, the issue at New York is not so much the politeness of the Officer as it is knowledge and providing needed information to customers. Additionally, while 17% of all respondents felt that the Officer was either argumentative or biased, at New York 29% of respondents felt they were. So in addition to being more likely to not receive the information they sought, New York customers are more likely to feel the Officer is biased or argumentative compared to customers at other offices.

The Front Desk and Wait Times appeared to have a moderate impact on satisfaction. Front Desk staff are very polite with a rating of 94 on a 100-point scale. With respect to wait time, the time between the filing date and the interview was rated as being satisfactory with a score of 87. The wait time for the start of the interview once at the office scored a bit lower at 82. The Chicago Asylum Office, the Houston Asylum Office, and the Miami Asylum Office were the offices that performed best with Wait Times and Front Desk as all these three locations were rated in the 93 to 95 range.

The report makes certain recommendations, including:

• The Asylum Officer is the key driver of customer satisfaction. At the New York office, providing needed information and Officer knowledge are areas to target for improvement. Although Asylum Officers are performing at a high level at the Los Angeles Asylum Office, there may be an opportunity to improve upon the information being provided at this location. Additionally, reducing the feelings that the Officer is biased or argumentative will improve satisfaction. Customers who did not feel that the Officer was biased or argumentative had a satisfaction score of 90. However, if customers felt the Officer was argumentative or biased, satisfaction falls to 72. The New York Asylum Office and the Los Angeles Asylum Office had the highest percentages of customers feeling the officer was biased or argumentative. At New York, 29% of respondents found the officer to be argumentative and at Los Angeles 23% did.

• As a secondary priority, some locations, Los Angeles in particular as well as Newark, New York and San Francisco should address wait time for the start of the interview. Given that there may be staffing constraints at offices, managing expectations about waiting times may be as important as efforts to actually reduce the waiting time for customers.

summary of the findings and full survey report are available online.

Professionals at I.S. Law Firm have helped many people from different countries to obtain asylum in the United States. If you think you may qualify for asylum, or to explore other immigration options, please contact us by phone at (703) 527-1779 or via e-mail: law@islawfirm.com.