Immigration Services Officers, or ISOs, play pivotal roles in Department of Homeland Security efforts to protect and safeguard against terrorist activity. They also enforce and administer immigration laws and review applications for immigrants wanting to enter the country. The INS, or Immigration Naturalization Service, is now known as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, which reports directly to the Department of Homeland Security.
As an ISO, you review, grant or deny complex and sensitive applications and petitions for immigration benefits, including an application to enter the country. You must know how to research, interpret, analyze and base decisions on relevant sections of the law, regulations, operating instructions, references and international treaties. You may conduct security checks, help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement identify potential threats to national and public security and interview applicants and petitioners as part of your determination process.
To become an ISO, you must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. National and meet relevant education and experience requirements. You must also pass a background check, drug test and financial disclosure. Male candidates born after Dec. 31, 1959 must also be registered with the Selective Service. You must have at least a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree to work as an ISO.
The USCIS also requires that ISOs have some relevant experience. For example, to qualify as a GS-11, you need to have at least one year of experience reviewing and making determinations about non-sensitive immigration benefits, determining applicant credibility, analyzing evidence and basing decisions on relevant statutory requirements, regulations and precedents. The USCIS will waive this experience requirement if you have a doctoral degree or at least three years of higher-level education and if you can demonstrate that you have the skills and knowledge to perform the job. To qualify as a GS-12, you must meet the same experience requirements as you do at the GS-11 level and also have experience making final determinations on complex immigration cases, such as determining eligibility for citizenship and other immigration benefits. You must also have experience writing final determinations that include the legal analysis on which you based your decision.
As a new ISO recruit, you must complete a six-week basic training program in Dallas and a one-week practicum at the National Benefits Center in Lees Summit, Missouri. You must complete a one-week practicum at a district office or service center. During this eight-week training program, you learn how to adjudicate applications and petitions and prepare for your career as an ISO.
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