It's no secret that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services' backlog of cases awaiting a decision has grown exponentially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resource constraint from the Trump administration. At the end of fiscal year 2021, the number of cases still awaiting adjudication beyond expected processing time reached eight million. In response, the USCIS is enacting a plan to reduce caseloads and improve processing times.
In order to improve processing times, the USCIS is instituting new internal cycle time goals. A cycle time is an internal management metric that shows how many month's worth of cases for a certain form are awaiting a decision. These are used by the USCIS to measure whether or not the agency is making progress on reducing the backlog and improving processing times. As cycle times improve, processing times will follow and applicants will receive their decisions faster. To accomplish this by the end of fiscal year 2023, the USCIS plans to improve capacity, technology, and staffing numbers.
The next piece of the plan to improve processing times is expansion of premium processing, an expedited service only available to petitioners filing a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and to certain petitioners filing a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. A final rule from the Department of Homeland Security codified premium processing fees and adjudication timeframes provided by Congress through the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act. The final rule allows premium processing to be used for Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status; Form I-765, Application for Employment authorization; and other EB-1C and EB-2 NIW cases under Form I-140. The final rule will be implemented over time and the expansion will not cause an increase in processing times for regular processing of immigration benefit petitions.
Finally, the USCIS is working towards a temporary final rule to improve access to employment authorization documents. In the past months, USCIS has been extending validity periods for certain EADs renewals and expediting work authorization renewals for healthcare and childcare workers. The temporary final rule intends to continue this progress and ensure individuals do not lose their work authorization while their applications are awaiting decisions.
Badmus & Associates will continue to monitor USCIS efforts to improve the processing speed of immigration applications.
This article is provided as an educational service and is not legal advice. Consult with an attorney for your specific circumstances. For a comprehensive evaluation of your immigration situation and options, you are invited to call us at 214-494-8033 or complete our contact form.