FBI name checks, used in addition to fingerprint checks to screen applicants for citizenship, have caused substantial processing delays for some applicants. Most name checks are resolved within a matter of weeks, and more than 99 percent are resolved within six months, said Marie Sebrechts, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, she said, the less than 1 percent that remain can take years to clear.

“The fact that an application is delayed in security check does not implicate the applicant,” she said. “When a check is pending it means that some kind of match has been found that must be resolved through a manual process that may involve physically reviewing files, which leads to delays.”

In June, a Citizenship and Immigration Services ombudsman’s report stated that “FBI name checks may be the single biggest obstacle to the timely and efficient delivery of immigration benefits.”

According to Darrell Foxworth, a spokesman for the FBI in San Diego, a backlog was created after Citizenship and Immigration Services resubmitted more than 2.7 million names in December 2002 “in an abundance of caution after 9/11.”

Last year, Citizenship and Immigration Services stopped scheduling citizenship interviews for those who had not yet cleared name checks, further frustrating those who are stuck waiting.

Foxworth said some Arabic and Chinese names can take longer than others to check due to common names and variations in spelling; however, applicants from several nations, even Canada, have complained about getting mired in the process.


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