The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may have finally implemented some policy changes which will bring a smile to many immigrants wondering why their immigration case is taking so long.
The USCIS announced earlier this month “major plans” to speed up visa processing times, or the USCIS Application Process to ease the struggles of all U.S. work permit visa holders, applicants, and petitioners by expanding premium processing to additional form types and through improving timely access to employment authorization documents.
This is welcome news for many immigrants, employers and attorneys who have often found themselves in a holding pattern waiting for their visa application outcome. Application processing delays have largely been brought on by the Coronavirus Pandemic and a transition from one presidential regime to another – both taking place in 2020, although the USCIS remains understaffed.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association compared processing times between 2017 and 2021 in a recent report. The AILA article identified the following:
- Processing times for all I-539 applications to change of extend status rose from about 2.8 months to 9.8 months – an increase of 250 percent
- Processing times for family-based adjustment of status I-485 applications increased from 7.9 months to 13.2 months – an increase of 67 percent
- Processing times for naturalization (N-400) applications jumped from 7.9 months to 11.6 months – an increase of 47 percent
The USCIS is aware of the mounting frustrations largely brough on by the processing delays. USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou acknowledged in a statement, “Every application we adjudicate represents the hopes and dreams of immigrants and their families, as well as their critical immediate needs such as financial stability and humanitarian protection.”
CBS News reported that the USCIS “plans to expand the number of applicants who can pay extra fees to have their immigration petitions adjudicated more quickly, propose a rule that would provide relief to immigrants waiting for work permit renewals and set processing time goals, the official said, requesting anonymity to detail the measures before a formal announcement.”
The agency determines application requests for green cards, U.S. citizenship and naturalization, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and work permits among other immigration benefits.
How will the USCIS Accelerate the Application Process?
The USCIS highlighted that it will utilize a “new benchmarking system with internal cycle time goals” which will not only better assess internal metrics but also help guide the USCIS on the backlog reduction efforts and visa decision-making processes. These include:
- The new cycle time goals of USCIS include:
- Two months for I-129 forms (Petitions for Nonimmigrant Workers)
- Three months for forms I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)
- I-131 (Advance Parole)
- I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status)
- Six months for forms I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
- I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker)
Rivas & Associates attorney Elissa Stiles says the efficiency improvements the USCIS is seeking to implement for visa applicants is welcome news.
“It is great news,” Elissa Stiles said. “I know a lot of applicants – our clients included – have been frustrated by the delays. While I don’t think the backlogs are all due to the USCIS, I do think the agency could operate more efficiently, and this would be a much-needed step in the right direction.”