U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency that reviews most immigration-related applications. While numerous foreign nationals work with attorneys during their immigration processes, there are many others who choose to file their own applications. Cognizant of this fact, USCIS is always striving to provide better customer service to attorneys, employers, and applicants alike. As part of this goal, USCIS recently implemented two customer service tools: Emma – a virtual assistant; and an online Spanish-language version of the Naturalization civics practice test.
What is Emma?
USCIS developed the virtual assistant Emma in order to address the growing need for and interest in self-help options on its website. The officials at USCIS feel that Emma will help the agency enhance its customer service offerings because the tool is programmed to answer questions in a simple and direct manner, and to direct the user to relevant web pages for more information. The agency reports that many people call the USCIS hotline for general information about green cards and other topics, but the sheer volume of calls has greatly lengthened wait times. USCIS hopes that as the public learns about Emma, more people will opt to use this virtual assistant and receive the information and assistance they require in a much faster timeframe.
The purpose of Emma is to facilitate the ability of USCIS customers and site visitors to find accurate and up to date information quickly and without the need for extensive Internet or computer knowledge. To use the Emma tool, users can simply click on the top right-hand corner of the USCIS website where there is a link that states “Ask a Question” alongside a picture of a woman (who represents Emma). As of December 2015, users can access Emma on either their desktops or their laptops. USCIS’s goal is to expand Emma into mobile device platforms and into the Spanish language in the next couple of months.
Interestingly, USCIS named their virtual assistant Emma after Emma Lazarus, whose poem is quoted at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty.
Spanish-Language Naturalization Practice Test
Most applicants for naturalization are required to take a civics exam as part of their application process. This exam tests the applicant’s knowledge of the U.S. government system and the country’s history. In order to assist applicants in studying for the exam, USCIS issued a practice exam earlier this year in English. Recently, in order to accommodate the large Spanish-speaking applicant demographic, the agency also published a Spanish-language version of the practice exam. The Spanish version contains questions in both English and Spanish in order to assist the applicants with learning the necessary facts about U.S. history and also to help reinforce their grasp on the English language.
USCIS continues to take steps to make immigration processes and information about immigrating to the U.S. more accessible to the general public – and their efforts in this regard should be applauded and encouraged. The agency has plans to implement further customer service tools in 2016, so be sure to check back with our blog to remain up to date on the newest immigration-related developments!
Additional Blog Posts:
The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Policy Memo, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012