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DHS

The Department of Homeland Security has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face. This requires the dedication of more than 230,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation and border security to emergency response, from cybersecurity analyst to chemical facility inspector. [Their] duties are wide-ranging, but [their] goal is clear: keeping America safe. (source: www.dhs.gov)

Perhaps you are working for the DHS or interested in working for the DHS. Here is a forum to share your experience with the DHS.

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LindaS  
#1 Posted : Tuesday, August 16, 2011 7:26:34 AM(UTC)

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There's been a lot of talk on here about the exam. Are there any current or former ISOs who can tell us a little about the actual job? How many federal jobs did you apply for before you were hired? Were you a government employee already or from the private sector? Are most federal employees at GS 5/7 vets or do nonvets get hired?

I have heard that there are service centers and field offices. How do jobs differ from one to the other? Is it true that at the field offices you spend the bulk of your day every day interviewing applicants? Do you have any time to review applications and do research? What's a "typical" day like?

thanks in advance for your response.


adjudie  
#2 Posted : Tuesday, August 16, 2011 10:52:36 PM(UTC)

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Hi Linda,
 
I can't speak for the Service Center experience, but I am entering my third year as an ISO2 at a field office. Your experience will differ depending on if you are an ISO1 or ISO2. ISO1s are mainly at the service counter, handing Infopass appointments -- fielding questions about case status, form filings, etc. I think they are supposed to do interviews for 25% of their time, we didn't do that at our office until recently and now we have ISO1s rotating and doing interviews for periods of time.
 
I think it varies a little from office to office, but as an ISO2 your mornings until lunch are back to back interviews doing either citizenship or adjustment of status interviews. Depending on the size of the office, you may do both types of interviews or actually work in a section devoted to either one. At our office we have ten interviews a day, one per half hour starting from seven thirty until two. After two you have time to work on continued cases, review, etc.
 
There are days where we don't have interviews, usually two or three per month where we can work on denials or schedule re-interviews. And depending on your schedule, we don't do interviews on Fridays so that day is free also. I do the four day ten hour schedule (yay) so I don't have the free time on Fridays. But I make up for it by having longer afternoons Mon-Thurs.
 
It's a great job in that you are interviewing different people with different situations every day, so there is variety. Also, it's not a high stress job so the end of the day is just that -- your day ends and you don't have to bring your work home with you.
 
My only complaint about the job is the micro-managing. It seems like every decision you make needs a sign-off from a supervisor, so there are times when it seems you are a glorified secretary running to your supervisor to make sure they approve of your decisions. The job was originally called adjudications officer, geared toward attorneys and there was a lot more independence. Over the years it has been watered down and all independence is gone. I guess the positive is any decision you make has been approved by a higher up so if there is any second guessing you have documented approval, but at the same time it does feel a little demeaning, especially if you're an educated professional used to calling your own shots. But that's a minor gripe...
 
It's not a bad job, especially in this day and age where jobs are hard to find! But eventually you may get a little bored with the repetition and lack of intellectual stimulation. Everyone says immigration law is "so complex" but in reality, 90% of what you adjudicate over and over are the same basic issues and it's definitely not brain surgery! BUt an added plus in this job is that it's a good starting point for other careers within USCIS. I've enjoyed doing it!
 
 
nicole1129  
#3 Posted : Tuesday, August 16, 2011 11:04:20 PM(UTC)

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adjudie,  Thanks alot for the information.  I have wondered alot as well about a typical day as an ISO. I realize every location/office will have differences but can you tell me a bit more about the office environment you work in?  Aside from the micro-management, are there any particular benefits or downsides to the envirnonment, etc.  Also,  it would seem that speaking a second language would be very beneficial if not required for this type of position.  How do they deal with those that do not speak english well?  Are interpreters available?
adjudie  
#4 Posted : Wednesday, August 17, 2011 3:00:54 AM(UTC)

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Hi Nicole -- the best benefits of the job are the benefits themselves (lol) and the pay. We get paid quite well for what we do. I work in a medium sized field office, so all the ISO2s have their own offices and that's nice for interviews. I've heard that at some offices ISOs are in cubicles or worse have to share a room. I could not imagine trying to do a marriage interview while amother interview was going on.
 
Some people might not like all the writing that is involved when issuing denials, but I don't think it's a major deal since we work from templates and a lot of it is just cut and paste. The most involved denials are the ones in marriage fraud since you are documenting the inconsistencies in testimony that applicants give you.
 
It's probably very office specific, I feel that my office is a very good place to work and everyone is professional and congenial. Management works very well with their employees. But within my same district we hear horror stories from other offices. So I guess it would all depened on where you get accepted!
 
A second language would be very helpful, especially Spanish. Applicants are supposed to bring in their own interpreters. Apparently there is an interpreters service based out of NYC that we can use, but I've never taken advantage of it. It involves coordinating with someone over the phone and I just see that as a time waster. We have thirty minutes to do an interview, ten of which is taken up by getting the people in the office, sworn in and all the preliminaries. I guess that is another downside -- the interview length. You cannot do a serious marriage interview in thirty minutes. At our office, the supervisors are very good at allowing us to schedule a follow up interview if we think the case is iffy, but you can't do that all the time. So a lot of the time you are pressed for time or running over the thirty minutes. You become very skilled in time management!
 
I wish you guys good luck and don't ever lose hope! When I first applied, I got a 100 on the exam and thought, well I'm a shoo in for an interview! Then I got a letter saying the cut off score for the office I wanted was 105. I said oh well and moved on. Months later, I get a call from the office to confirm if I was "coming in for the interview tomorrow!" Yes I was! The hiring process with the federal govt works in weird and wacky ways...
Imagine20  
#5 Posted : Wednesday, August 17, 2011 8:59:31 AM(UTC)

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Service centers are completely different from the field.  In the Service Centers adjudicators generally work in cubes with all the other adjudicators.  Service centers complete applications and petitions that don't require an interview.  If an interview is required, it's sent out to the field.

A typical day is coming in and just starting into cases.  You tend to do 1-2 types of forms and are pretty much on your own most of the time.  Some decisions need a supervisor's approval, but approvals do not.  Adjudicators have set numbers of cases they need to complete per hour (taken as an average) and they take random samples of your work to rate your quality.  Your break time and lunch time are flexible as far as when you take them.  If you have questions, you ask another adjudicator or your supervisor.  There are flexible work schedules, and telework is available for some people.

maritzabg  
#6 Posted : Saturday, August 27, 2011 2:19:48 PM(UTC)

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Does anybody know how long is the season for ISO? And what are the typical hours? I took the test in Cleveland for an announcement is USAjobs,but the posting didnt mention lenght of work or hours.

Vinny123  
#7 Posted : Sunday, September 4, 2011 9:41:07 AM(UTC)

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What is the interview like for this position?   What kind of questions do they ask?

Fed  
#8 Posted : Thursday, September 22, 2011 9:58:05 PM(UTC)
jazo82

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I have a Question...Currently I am a Federal Employee and applied 5 months ago for Immigration Service Officer position GS-9 maximum promotion potential. Completed the interview process and got a call that i have been selected. I am currently GS-11 step 5 with promotion potential GS-12 (coming up in June 2012). I received an offer letter from HR (USCIS). I was not EOD'd (enter on duty) yet as I am currently waiting for my clearance (imagine that) although they only need public trust for this position. Being a Fed and holding a Top Secret clearance you would imagine the process would be faster??!! I noticed yesterday that ISO GS-11/12 was posted and I applied for it as I rather would have that over the GS-9, and not take a paycut but i guess i would have to make the list-which i don't see in my mind that i wouldn't. I have prior experience working at State Department in Consular Affairs dealing with Immigration. My question to you is:
 
1) Would you take a GS-9 step 10 pay and lose promotion potential GS-12 to change different job series?
2) Decline the GS-9 step 10 and wait to see if referred for selection at GS 11/12?
3) Or Take GS-9 step 10 and EOD (enter on duty) and if selected for GS-11/12 i was told i could be bumped up if you make the cert. for referral?
 
Any input would be greatly appreciated! 
User24  
#9 Posted : Thursday, September 22, 2011 10:37:45 PM(UTC)

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Hi Jazo82,
 
To answer your questions:
 
1) I would only make the change if I was not satisfied at my current job, I am also not aware of the pay for your current position and locality and all that. If its a significant difference you could eventually compete for GS11/12 positions within USCIS if the move is for more job satisfaction.
2)I wouldn't decline the GS 9. You are banking on the fact you would be referred, interviewed and selected for the 11/12 position. I currently work at USCIS as a GS9 ISO and I can tell you through experience that it's very competitive to even land yourself a GS 9 coming from another department/agency. So honestly good job! You should be proud of that. I have been trying to move from my Service Center for the last year and I have had about 7 interviews and I was only selected for one position in Vegas which I declined. It just goes to show you how competitive it is.
3) Take the GS9 step 10 and if you are selected for the GS-11/12 you can go to that job. I am assuming they are different locations.
 
Good luck to you!
 
Fed  
#10 Posted : Monday, September 26, 2011 12:46:30 AM(UTC)
jazo82

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Thanks a lot about your input! I really like your answer. Can you tell me how do you like the itself? Yes, the reason i am trying to switch over is for job satisfaction and hoping I could work with intelligent individuals! How is the job satisfaction and turnover in your agency?
Fed  
#11 Posted : Monday, September 26, 2011 12:47:57 AM(UTC)
jazo82

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Thanks a lot about your input!Wink  I really like your answer. Can you tell me how do you like the job itself? Yes, the reason i am trying to switch over is for job satisfaction and hoping I could work with intelligent individuals! How is the job satisfaction and turnover in your agency?
User24  
#12 Posted : Monday, September 26, 2011 3:05:28 AM(UTC)

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Jazo82,
The job satisfaction is good. I have been with USCIS for 2 years now. I work at the California Service Center and have been there for the 2 years. At the Service Center there are different divisions and you get placed at whichever one they want you in. The turnover is not high at all and if anyone leaves its mostly because they are moving to a field office or another location. I currently myself am trying to get in a field office so I have been applying to many field office openings. The Service centers and field offices are different. At the service center we do not interview or interface with people seeking benefits. We adjudicate different cases and classifications based on the division we are in. It can get stressful at times depending on what they have you working on but all jobs can be stressful. At the Service Center we can have the option of working an alternative work schedule. So you can choose to work 4 ten hour days which is very nice. You also can work a flex schedule which is basically you deciding when to come in with some parameters as long as you put in the 40 hours each week you need. The people I work with are great and professional. Overall its a great job and if you don't mind moving around and up the ranks you can experience a field office and a service center for yourself. If you have any other ?'s feel free to ask. 
Eric  
#13 Posted : Tuesday, September 27, 2011 11:22:05 PM(UTC)

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This job sounds like an ideal one for me after hearing your description of it User24. I hope I did well enough on the test to proceed to the next step in the hiring process!
Rene Hernandez  
#14 Posted : Wednesday, September 28, 2011 1:20:01 AM(UTC)
renegade812012

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User 24,

Can you tell me anything about the Immigration Service Clerk position? I recently applied and was referred to the Selecting Official for a Clerk position. I know that the position is set at the GS-5 level. My questions is: is this a position that will eventually lead to an ISO position, or is it a dead-end?
User24  
#15 Posted : Wednesday, September 28, 2011 2:39:04 AM(UTC)

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The clerical staff is charged with reviewing ISO'S work after a decision has been made (denial, approval, rfe). They look for any last minute things that either the ISO or the Supervisor missed (spelling, grammar and things of that nature). They update the case and send out whatever notice needs to be sent out to the beneficiary, attorney or applicant. Those are the duties that I am aware of them doing, they may do more then that. As far as movement into ISO positions, I really could only tell you my opinion. I believe the opportunity is there, however, I believe it is real competitive. Depending on where your at makes a difference as well. The Service Center I work at has at least 70-100 clerical personnel. So say there is an opening for ISO level 1 for 1 or more persons, you have that many people to compete against plus all others who are able to apply based on how the annoucement allows.

Rene Hernandez  
#16 Posted : Wednesday, September 28, 2011 3:58:45 AM(UTC)
renegade812012

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User24,

Thanks for the info!

Wow, it does not sound like an appealing job. The clerk position that I was referred for is actually at the CSC. It does not sound worth it, especially since I would be commuting over 100 miles roundtrip from L.A.! It would be nice to get my foot in the door at USCIS, but I think it would be best to hold out until some ISO positions open up there.
User24  
#17 Posted : Wednesday, September 28, 2011 4:33:23 AM(UTC)

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I work at the CSC. Yeah if I were you try to get in entry level as an ISO Level 1 (GS 5-9). Or join another agency like TSA as a TSO and move up from there. I worked at TSA before making the move to USCIS. From TSA you have options to move to even CBP/FAM/or even up the ranks in TSA. However, if you do decide to take the clerical position CSC offers plenty of vanpools so you could share that drive in a commuter van with many others. Good luck to you.

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