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Review of the INS's National Customer Service Center
Telephone Information Service

Report No. I-2002-001
December 2001


We found that the INS's TIS usually provided timely, accurate, and professional service. The wait times to speak to a customer service representative were short, averaging 1 minute, 9 seconds. The customer service representatives provided answers to 80 percent of the questions asked. Of the questions answered, 94 percent of the answers were correct. We rated the customer service representatives as excellent or good 95 percent of the time. We found the customer service representatives courteous and professional. Many asked additional questions about our hypothetical case to ensure that we were getting the service we needed (that we were actually asking the correct questions for our needs) and provided additional helpful information.

Accuracy of Answers Provided

The INS provided correct answers to our queries the majority of the time. However, customer service representatives need additional training in several discrete areas.

Answer distribution outcomes pie chart split 3 ways.  Correct 80%, 200. Referral 15%, 38. Incorrect 5%, 12. In general, the customer service representatives provided correct answers to our questions. Of 250 questions asked, the customer service representatives answered 212 correctly. They were unable to answer 38 questions and in those cases generally referred us to an INS Information Officer. For the 212 questions that the customer service representatives answered, 200 were correct 12 were incorrect. See Appendix III for a summary of questions answered incorrectly or referred.

The majority of the incorrect or not available answers fell in two topic areas: I-9 related inquiries (regarding employment eligibility verification), and Employment Authorization (work permits). Of the 50 questions for which no answer was given or the answer was incorrect, 29 related to I-9 inquiries, and 13 related to Employment Authorization.

"May I accept a photocopy of a document presented by an employee?" (regarding proof of worker eligibility on the form I-9) was the question most frequently answered incorrectly. Breakout of 212 questions answered pie chart split 2 ways.  Correct 94%, 200. Incorrect 6%, 12.The correct answer is no, only original documents may be accepted. This question was answered incorrectly three times. The other question missed regarding form I-9 was, "Do U.S. citizens need to provide proof of employment eligibility when they take a job?" The correct answer is yes, anyone hired for a job, including U.S. citizens, must provide proof of employment eligibility. This question was answered incorrectly twice.

The employment authorization question most frequently missed was, "I have heard of something called an 'interim Employment Authorization Document (EAD).' What is this, and am I eligible to get one?" This question was answered incorrectly twice. The operators said that they were unaware of such a document and an applicant must wait for approval for their EAD. In fact, according to INS, an interim EAD can be requested when the INS fails to adjudicate an application for an EAD within 90 days.

50 incorrect and unanswered questions by topic pie chart split 4 ways.  Form I-9 58%, 29.  Work Permit 26%, 13.  Student 8%, 4. Other 8%, 4.


The INS should provide the customer service representatives additional information and training in the areas of employment eligibility verification and employment authorization.

Wait Times

The INS Customer Service Center directs inquiries to a customer service representative in a timely manner.

The average wait time from requesting an operator until a customer service representative answered our call was 1 minute 9 seconds. The median wait time was 40 seconds. The shortest time to connect was 3 seconds, and the longest was 6 minutes 23 seconds.

Courtesy and Professionalism

The INS customer service representatives were courteous, helpful, and professional. They frequently made inquiries and provided information above and beyond that requested.

customer service ratings pie chart split 3 ways. Excellent 63%, 159.  Good 32%, 79.  Fair 5%, 12.Out of 250 calls, some answered by the same customer service representative, we rated 159 customer service representatives excellent, 79 good, 12 fair, and none poor. Customer service representatives rated excellent often inquired about the status of our case and the dates and times that benefits had been applied for and had been received, in order to confirm that we were asking for the correct benefit and were eligible to apply. When they did not offer to send us the necessary forms, they referred us to the INS web site to obtain the forms. The customer service representatives usually double-checked to ensure that we had correct addresses for service centers and local district offices, and correct telephone numbers.