updated 8:34 PM CET, Nov 20, 2019

USCIS closes Athens office; date for London office closure ‘not yet announced’

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is moving ahead with its plan to close down all but seven of what had been 23 overseas offices, although it has not said exactly when some, including the one in London, are scheduled to close. 

In late September, it anounced that its Athens, Greece outpost would permanently close on Nov. 15, but that it would no longer accept applications or petitions after Sept. 30.

After that, "individuals who were previously assisted by the USCIS Athens Field Office (which includes individuals residing in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Yemen)" would need to follow instructions detailed on the USCIS website, which would vary depending on what their specific USCIS needs were. 

Individuals residing in Greece would be able to obtain "certain limited services" from the U.S. Embassy in Greece, the USCIS said in its announcement on the matter, which was posted on Sept. 26.

The USCIS is the arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security responsible for administering the U.S.'s naturalization and immigration system.

As reported here in August, the USCIS said that it was closing 16 of its 23 overseas outposts in order to "allow more effective allocation of USCIS resources to support, in part, backlog reduction efforts." (Three of those original 23 offices have now closed.) 

In addition to Athens and London, the USCIS offices in Frankfurt, Rome and Bangkok are also earmarked for closure. As noted in August, an an earlier plan, announced in March, would have seen all 23 of the USCIS's overseas outposts closed.

In an article last month following the announcement that the Athens office was to effectively close to new business as of Sept. 30, a Greek news website, the PappasPost.com, quoted an unidentified State Department employee as saying that the USCIS closures represented "part of the Trump Administration's anti-immigrant stance" and were an effort "to make it next to impossible for new immigrant applicants to navigate the complex [immigration] process". 

Asked about the plans to close the London USCIS offices, which are located in the recently-built U.S. Embassy complex in the Nine Elms area of London, pictured above, a State Department spokesperson said a closure date had "not yet been announced". 

"When an office closure date is announced to the public, it will be posted on the website," the spokesperson added.

The USCIS's overseas offices have traditionally been housed in U.S. embassies around the world, and have assisted Americans looking to adopt children overseas; Americans seeking to obtain immigrant visas for their immediate relatives, such as spouses, children and parents; process various travel documents for permanent residents who may have lost their documents, and naturalization applications for members of the U.S. military stationed abroad, along with providing technical expertise as needed to other U.S. governmental agencies.

The closure of much of the USCIS network comes less than five years after the U.S. Internal Revenue Service closed all of its overseas taxpayer-assistance centers, citing budgetary constraints.

The last IRS outposts to close were those located in the London and Paris U.S. embassies, and the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, which were shuttered in 2015.

Ironically, the closure of these IRS outposts coincided almost perfectly with the introduction of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, a tax evasion law that has required non-U.S. financial institutions around the world to report to the U.S. on the accounts of all their American clients, and

It is not known how many people will lose their jobs in London, or in all 13 of the USCIS offices that are still open. 

'Military naturalization services'
to be offered at military bases

On Sept. 30 – in an apparent response to criticism that a new Trump administration policy could make it slightly more difficult for Americans serving abroad with the U.S. military to pass their U.S. citizenship on to their children if the children happened to be born overseas, due to the agency’s shifting international footprint and overseas office closures – the USCIS announced that it would begin providing "military naturalization services at four overseas military bases". 

The four “hubs” where Service members and eligible family members would now be able to complete their naturalization process will be located at Camp Humphreys, South Korea; Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan; the U.S. Army Garrison in Stuttgart, Germany; and a Naval Support Activity facility in Naples, Italy.