Immigration's Plan to Reduce Current Case Backlogs!
By Patricia Elizee, Esq.,
A visa or work permit process through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can be very frustrating. This is the case even where you have an attorney helping you with the process. It can be agonizingly slow and unpredictable. But starting in April of 2022, applicants can expect faster service for specific work-related visas.
According to the USCIS, the massive backlog in our current immigration system resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic and pending cases from the previous Trump administration.
There are three ways that the USCIS hopes to reduce backlogs and increase processing times moving forward.
1. New Cycle Times
The USCIS has developed internal metrics to determine better processing times for specific applications. While these are average times or estimates, immigration aims to achieve them by the end of 2023. These processing times are not currently guaranteed. These are:
Note that these cycle times estimate how long the USCIS takes from the moment they receive an application to the day that they make a final decision. Since immigration handles each application on a case-by-case basis, cycle times may be longer or shorter.
Also, remember that the goal here is to clear backlogs, so the new cycle times apply for pending or ongoing cases, not just new applications. For the best results, the USCIS plans to increase its staff and increase the number of files that are electronic by 2023.
2. Premium Processing Options
As you've seen in the table above, some Immigration applications have a premium option. At this time (April 2022), the officials can only expedite two applications through premium processing: Form 1-129 and Form I-140.
Premium processing means that for an additional fee, these applications get priority and are completed within a much shorter cycle time, ideally within 15 calendar days. Under the new rule from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) there will be more standardized premium processing fees and time frames, and more visa categories will also feature in premium processing.
Within this year, the USCIS will gradually phase in the following applications for premium processing:
· Form I-539: Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
· Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization
· Other subtypes of Form I-140: Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
· I-539: Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
· I-765: Application for Employment Authorization
However, the USCIS is mandated by Congress to process all immigration applications fairly, therefore, premium applicants must not add to non-premium cycle times.
3. EAD Streamlining
Employment Authorization and Documentation (EAD) applications are currently very slow to process by immigration, often taking more than ten months. Many people lose out on their permit status and job opportunities as they wait in limbo. According to USCIS, the Agency has extended the validity periods for certain EADs and provided expedited work authorization renewals for healthcare and childcare workers. This was with the aim to ensure certain individuals will not lose their work authorization status while their applications are pending.
These USCIS measures will hopefully bring changes across the immigration agency over the next two years. It will take time to see tangible results on your Immigration processing times, but know that the USCIS is taking action to reduce their backlogs and meet high demands. If you have a currently pending application, you may check with USCIS whether the Petition is outside of normal processing time. If it is outside of the processing time, we highly recommend that you contact USCIS online or by phone and file a case inquiry.