The decision was based on the area's accessibility by public transportation and its location in the most diverse county in the nation, speakers said at a grand opening in the new building at 27-35 Jackson Avenue last Friday.
In addition to its diversity, according to the mayor's office, if Queens was its own city it would be the fourth largest in the nation, and nearly half of its population was born in another country.
“We are an agency that serves the immigrant community,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas, who came from Washington, D.C. to attend the opening.
“Those who are eligible to receive benefits should have a smooth and easy path to realize the dreams that brought them here,” he said. “I come from a family that had those dreams realized in the United States.”
The new Queens Field Office will offer services from fingerprinting to information, to Green Card applications and naturalization. It will serve residents in Queens and Brooklyn.
With more than 100 employees coming over from its prior Kew Gardens location, it has the capacity to serve 500 customers a day.
“We will offer a full range of immigration services,” USCIS New York District Director Andrea Quarantillo said. “Relocating our office is our continued effort to provide services to people in convenient places, and of course Queens is an absolutely natural choice.”
The new facility offers a spacious waiting area, private offices and a naturalization ceremony room. It also has an Application Support Center, so customers will no longer have to travel to another office for fingerprinting.
The grand opening was packed with attendees, including elected officials who represent the area, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Fatima Shama, and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.
A presentation of the colors during a live drum ensemble was led by the Aviation High School Honor Guard before speakers took the podium.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said USCIS received 4,400,000 applications in 2010. “That's a lot of work,” she said.
Maloney discussed some other projects happening in and around Queens, including the science and engineering school to be built on Roosevelt Island and the new $54 million Queens Plaza Park, which she referred to as “a beautiful area to rest after you go through the immigration process.”
She thanked the federal government for recognizing a need for an immigration center in Queens, which is teeming with immigrants.
“And if you don't believe me, just go out and walk up and down the streets and count the different languages that you're hearing,” Maloney said. “On different feast days, you could really close your eyes and imagine that you are in all these different countries.”
Business hours at the new center are from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except federal holidays.
To make an appointment with an immigration services officer, visit the USCIS website.