INS lets people's fingers do the walking
Expanded automated phone service gives immigrants new way to have questions answered
The Immigration and Naturalization Service has expanded its toll-free telephone
service that allows immigrants to use phone keypads to ask a computer questions
about becoming a citizen.
The system, which relies on interactive voice response technology by Sprint,
previously had been available only in a few states — mainly along the East
Coast, said Nancy Radosta, program manager for INS' national Customer Service
Center. With nationwide service, INS hopes to increase immigrants' access
By using an automated call center system, INS wants to reduce the number
of queries involving live operators.
INS expanded the system late last year. Sprint officials, who announced
details on the system this month, said 30 percent of callers had their questions
answered without assistance from an operator with the updated system. Radosta
said only about 18 percent of callers under the old system had their questions
answered without an operator.
The percentage increased because the system is more widely available and
because it includes new information, she said.
The system works like this: After dialing a toll-free number — (800)
375-5283 — callers choose from an English or Spanish menu of six options.
The menu covers INS applications already filed; fingerprinting procedures,
INS locations and doctors authorized to give medical exams; forms and applications;
immigration benefits and services; changes in immigration programs and procedures;
and services offered by other agencies.
System managers expect it will handle about 15 million calls a year from
immigrants and callers seeking advice on bringing family members to the
United States or on getting green cards and work visas.
To support the service, Sprint has installed 10 T-1 interfaces at customer
service centers in Barbourville, Ky., and Woodlawn, Md. Radosta said the
budget for her program is roughly $31 million. A few years ago, the budget
was only $3 million, she said.
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