According to an article published in Immigration Daily (HTTP://WWW.ILW.COM/IMMIGDAILY/DIGEST/2007,1130.SHTM) FBI name check delays will be ending soon.
When immigrants apply for benefits like Citizenship and Permanent Residency, their names are sent by CIS to the FBI. The FBI then feeds the names through a computer which has a list of all criminals. If the name does not match anything, it clears instantly. However if the name gets a hit, (ie, it has a combination of names similar to the one in their database) then the name gets stuck. An officer would have to physically go in, check and make sure that the beneficiary is not the same one that is on their database, listed as a criminal. Although most names are cleared; due to the sheer number of names and the scarcity of officers, the process takes years.
Until the names clear, the beneficiary cannot get the green card or the citizenship. In the best case scenario, the beneficiary (who in most cases are innocent) has to renew their work and travel permit every year, a costly process, which takes time and money. In the worst case scenario, if the beneficiary has illegal time, she cannot leave the country and is stuck here for years.
What is more dangerous however is that if there really was a criminal whose name got a hit, we would not know that for years, during which time they could plot and execute any number of crimes.
Moreover some individuals would sue, and the courts would force the FBI to work on those individuals’ cases. But lawsuits are costly, and those who could not sue, would be pushed further down the waiting list since the FBI had to follow the court order and adjudicate those who sued first.
What is frustrating is that the FBI (probably since the J Edgar Hoover time) is one Government institution which does not answer to the public. Their rotten image does not seem to hamper them a bit.
Hopefully this frightful scenario will end and FBI name checks be done fast.