We hear it and we see it every day.
Immigrants inside the United States and hopeful immigrants outside of it who have been waiting for years, sometimes decades, to be reunited here.
Currently there is a 15 year backlog on visas just for U.S. citizens to emigrate their siblings to the United States, and that is after the initial USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) case has been approved. When it comes to USCIS cases of people already within the U.S., the public expects cases to be processed in a timely manner, as they should, but that has not been the case for years. A simple naturalization process, which should be processed within a few months, is now commonly taking a year and a half. More complicated cases such as U visas are now taking an average of five years to be processed. You may remember a blog we posted last year about a lawsuit regarding employment authorization (EAD) cards taking over a year to process, when in actuality it takes 12 minutes to process an EAD application once it is on the right person's desk.
All in all there are over 9.5 million cases that are backlogged at USCIS. Agency data shows that there are thousands of job vacancies at USCIS.
This issue is not sudden. USCIS has been experiencing a backlog for years, which was only made worse by the pandemic and closed administrative offices. Cognizant of the issue, the Biden Administration recently made an announcement setting three steps it is taking to reduce the backlog of USCIS cases.
- Setting Backlog Reduction Goals
USCIS is setting new goals for its agents - called internal cycle time goals - essentially a new metric for how fast an officer will process a case they are assigned. USCIS anticipates that its processings times will improve once its internal cycle time goals are met. For example, under the proposal USCIS will adjudicate a work permit application in 3 months or an adjustment of status or naturalization application in 6 months.
- Expanding Premium Processing
A new form of premium processing, set to take place in about two months, will expand certain petitioners' options for premium processing - an expedited form of processing that in the past has only been available to those filing Form I-129 (for nonimmigrant workers), and certain categories of Form I-140 (for immigrant petitions of foreign workers). According to the new announcement, premium processing will now be available for those petitioning with Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status; Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; and additional classifications under Form I-140.
The expedited service comes with a hefty price tag ranging from $1500 up to $2,500 in extra fees depending on the type of application.
- Improving Employment Authorization Processing
One of the most hopeful decisions we have seen from this announcement is the plan to extend the validity of many EAD while their renewals are pending. EAD renewals often take longer than six months to process, and while some work permit holders are eligible for an automatic 180-day extension after filing a renewal, this is not the case for everyone. A new proposed rule will extend validity periods to other renewing petitioners, and expedite work authorization renewals for healthcare and childcare workers. The proposed rule has been submitted to the White House for review.
If you have questions about expediting your USCIS petition through premium processing please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.
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