Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

SSA Attorney-Advisor vs. USCIS immigration/asylum/refugee officer

With the all SSA threads out there, I wonder what people thi wolfenstein07/26/18
I started at USCIS at a service center. They were hiring lik karma07/27/18
Thanks for posting. I have heard/read service center job wolfenstein07/27/18
I transferred and went back into law, real law, for many rea karma07/27/18
Thanks. Yeah, I can see how a decade or more in the service wolfenstein07/29/18
Can you repost more coherently. isthisit07/26/18
I can try shorter, but coherence is another matter... I've e wolfenstein07/26/18
You'll fit right in at USCIS. isthisit07/26/18
LOL. wolfenstein07/27/18
I'm a former USCIS Asylum Officer. Peace Corps alumni have a porochi07/27/18
Thanks, that's really valuable. I knew there had to be someo wolfenstein07/27/18
Atty. position with the fed. You hear the same claims repea porochi07/28/18
Asylum is being adjudicating quicker now. Last in, first out isthisit07/29/18
Don't forget to add time for BIA, and appeals to the courts porochi07/31/18
Thanks, and congrats on getting a fed atty position. I alrea wolfenstein07/29/18
Your credit problems will prevent you from ever getting hire newyorkcity07/29/18
I know someone who had a bankruptcy who couldn’t pass the downwardslope07/29/18
Everyone knows someone who has a cousin who has a friend who newyorkcity07/29/18
Hmmm... thanks, I guess. If my credit stuff prevents me from wolfenstein07/29/18
"Federal regulations presume that someone with a poor credit wolfenstein07/29/18
wolfenstein (Jul 26, 2018 - 8:03 pm)

With the all SSA threads out there, I wonder what people think about the pros and cons of both jobs

It seems you need immigration experience or at least something like residence abroad or a foreign language to be competitive for USCIS jobs, and they hire far fewer people; SSA does mass hirings and pretty much takes anyone with a bar card... not that it's easy to land one of their jobs either.

On the other hand, you need to be an admitted attorney to write decisions for SSA, while USCIS doesn't care (many officers are not even JDs, but a JD helps in the process). You start at a higher rank at SSA (GS-11 I believe), while most USCIS positions start at 9 for JDs.

Both positions involve a lot of writing, production requirements, and deadlines, but you get to be an "attorney" at SSA, which I suppose is very important for some people. People burn out at both jobs because of the volume, or so I hear, but immigration seems to offer more promotion opportunities away from having production requirements, while SSA, I think, is better in terms of money. In the immigration service you interview, investigate and often serve as one of the (admittedly low-level) decision-makers, while SSA basically involves justifying the decision made by the ALJ.

I wonder what people think about all this. I imagine being a attorney-advisor is a well-travelled path while immigration officers and such are few and far between. I suppose if being called an "attorney" matters a lot to people (it doesn't to me), they should definitely go with SSA... but for those qualified, I think USCIS positions can be worthwhile. In terms of exit options, you are pretty pigeonholed in your field (unless you can make the jump from an SSA decision-writer to a "real" fed attorney job?), so I suppose it depends on whether you like immigration or disability law better?

I'd personally much rather do immigration work and maybe get to travel a bit than write up why someone doen't (or does) get to collect SSDI, but then I am fairly sure I made a mistake going to LS in the first place... so what I like may not be what other people like/prefer.

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karma (Jul 27, 2018 - 12:27 am)

I started at USCIS at a service center. They were hiring like 80 people at the time. (This was clearly not during the Trump Administration!) The hiring interview was a joke. They don't interview people seeking visas/immigration benefits at the service centers. I'd say it's an easier job, overall, at least at the service centers. I think USCIS has many more ISOs than SSA has attorneys. You don't get to travel in either job, though the asylum/refugee officers with USCIS can and do.

I'd say the promotion potential is about the same for both jobs, especially if you don't want to go into management. Though the Lucia decision (attacking the way ALJs have been hired in the past) might seriously change that.

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wolfenstein (Jul 27, 2018 - 4:02 pm)

Thanks for posting.

I have heard/read service center jobs were more chill but also more routine. I also heard almost everyone leaves service centers to go to USCIS field offices or another agencies, but you can get promoted pretty quick if you stay. I'm primarily intersted in AO/RO jobs, but have applied for ISO jobs as well (beggars can't be choosers haha).

If you don't mind my asking, you end up staying with USCIS or moving, perhaps elsewhere in the government?

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karma (Jul 27, 2018 - 10:53 pm)

I transferred and went back into law, real law, for many reasons, though it was a lateral transfer. Personal beliefs and extremely poor management were at the top of the list, though I also saw many people who had spent decades in the service center. I was somewhat scared of becoming one of them, doing the same thing day after day, year after year.

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wolfenstein (Jul 29, 2018 - 11:46 pm)

Thanks. Yeah, I can see how a decade or more in the service center would wear one down... congrats on making the the transfer!

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isthisit (Jul 26, 2018 - 8:15 pm)

Can you repost more coherently.

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wolfenstein (Jul 26, 2018 - 8:16 pm)

I can try shorter, but coherence is another matter... I've edited it down a bit though.

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isthisit (Jul 26, 2018 - 9:11 pm)

You'll fit right in at USCIS.

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wolfenstein (Jul 27, 2018 - 4:13 pm)

LOL.

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porochi (Jul 27, 2018 - 12:33 am)

I'm a former USCIS Asylum Officer. Peace Corps alumni have an in. The asylum legal analysis is complex and having a JD is favored, in fact, some offices, LA, won't hire non-attys as AO's. The work is a grind, though, long days interviewing then finding the time to write the assessments is a struggle. Credible fear asylum cases are easier, but you have to do more in a day than affirmative asylum so CF is a grind too. Burn out is high. Few AO's last more than 2-3 years before moving on. But, I think I'd slit my wrists if at SSA. Asylum at least is interesting. Hearing tales of how people evaded Boko Haram when they shot up their village beats writing up another back injury disability claim any day.

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wolfenstein (Jul 27, 2018 - 4:07 pm)

Thanks, that's really valuable. I knew there had to be someone who was a former AO... AO/RO jobs are what I am primarily interested in as well, they seem to match up well with what one actually learns in LS (unlike many law jobs haha). I obviously feel the same way re: interesting work but was beginning to wonder if I was alone...

Do you mind saying, w/out outing yourself or whatnot, if you went elsewhere in USCIS/elsewhere government or did something else?

I don't really know where I want to go if I got+took an AO job, but was thinking of trying to get into the FDNS part of USCIS afterwards, assuming I liked the service (and of course lasted long enough, I've heard about people getting canned for not meeting production)... that seems like it'd be right up my alley, but they seem to only hire from within the feds or military.

Yeah, everyone keeps saying AO jobs are no picnic, but what jobs are?

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porochi (Jul 28, 2018 - 8:51 pm)

Atty. position with the fed. You hear the same claims repeatedly, so it does got monotonous and you get jaded and cynical. It's well known that if you get picked up by CPB claim asylum, you can't be deported until your claim is adjudicated, which could take years, and in the meantime you get a work authorization permit and can stay here. I'm convinced most asylum claims are bogus, so it's good that I left. An asylum applicant would not want me as their AO. And my view is common among AO alumni. It changes you, perhaps in ways you never imagined possible.

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isthisit (Jul 29, 2018 - 12:02 pm)

Asylum is being adjudicating quicker now. Last in, first out.

I met a PC who had his interview at the Asylum office and a month later he gets referred and given a court date for a month after. I'm sure after at the first MCH he'll get another master 6 months plus but still it's much quicker than just a year ago.

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porochi (Jul 31, 2018 - 1:04 am)

Don't forget to add time for BIA, and appeals to the courts of appeals. IC is just the first stop.

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wolfenstein (Jul 29, 2018 - 11:48 pm)

Thanks, and congrats on getting a fed atty position. I already believe most asylum claims are bogus, which I suppose can be either a bad or a good thing, depending on one's perspective:-) I suppose I'll need to weigh the pros and the cons of sucha job carefully (if I even get it).

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newyorkcity (Jul 29, 2018 - 10:22 pm)

Your credit problems will prevent you from ever getting hired by the federal government, as an USCIS officer or anything else. Your may get interviewed, but you will never get past the background check. You can't work for the federal government and be a deadbeat, unless you are the President. Move on to Plan E.

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downwardslope (Jul 29, 2018 - 10:33 pm)

I know someone who had a bankruptcy who couldn’t pass the bar but got a secret clearance after some time passed. The bar was stricter than the feds, apparently. However, federal student loan default may be another issue entirely as that often disqualifies you from more than a plain BK does.

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newyorkcity (Jul 29, 2018 - 10:47 pm)

Everyone knows someone who has a cousin who has a friend who has a boyfriend who did amazing things. Fact is, you can't get security clearance with poor credit, period. Jared Kushner is a billionaire, but he can't get security clearance because he owes too much money.

Federal regulations presume that someone with a poor credit history is susceptible to bribery or blackmail. I think this thinking is bulls***, but I don't write the law.

The OP needs to move on to something attainable to him and continue to blame his problems on immigrants.

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wolfenstein (Jul 29, 2018 - 11:52 pm)

Hmmm... thanks, I guess. If my credit stuff prevents me from getting a clearance, so be it. I prefer to give it a shot and see what happens... especially since I don't owe anything on fed loans (thanks for noting the difference, downward) or have other fed debt (only private loans).

Strangely, I think I'd resent being denied a clearance by the fed bureaucracy less than I'd resent being denied a licence by a bunch of sociopaths whose daddies paid for law school (i.e. the bar).

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wolfenstein (Jul 29, 2018 - 11:55 pm)

"Federal regulations presume that someone with a poor credit history is susceptible to bribery or blackmail. I think this thinking is bulls***, but I don't write the law."

Well, at least we agree on something, as in this thinking being BS. I'm poor as a church rat and have bad debts, along with a host of other issues... and if someone offered me a bribe or tried to blackmail me to do something against the interests of the US, I wouldn't just decline to do it, I'd probably bash his brains in on the spot.

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