USCIS Processing Delays Have Now Hit Crisis Levels

Millions of applicants nationwide are waiting longer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process and approve applications and petitions for immigration benefits. All the categories in family-based benefits, employment-based benefits, naturalization, travel documents, and employment authorization are being affected.

Between FY2017 and FY2019, USCIS’s processing times for all petitions and application form types rose more than 37%. For common form types, processing times for all I-539 applications to change or extend status rose from about 2.8 months to 9.8 months (250%); processing times for family-based adjustment of status (I-485) applications rose from 7.9 months to 13.2 months (67%); processing times for naturalization applications (N-400) increased from 7.9 months to almost an entire year, 11.6 months (nearly 47%).

The delays are caused by many factors such as inefficient processing, understaffing, and changes in policy due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report examining these issues. The GAO noted that policy changes, longer forms, staffing issues, and delays from COVID-19 have all contributed to longer processing times. The GAO found that although USCIS has several plans to address the backlog, it has not implemented them and has not identified necessary resources to address its pending caseload. The GAO is making recommendations that the USCIS develop performance measures for monitoring the timeliness of its case processing for certain forms, develop a long-term workforce plan, and identify the resources necessary to address its pending caseload.

Applicants are encouraged to work with their attorneys to file applications and petitions as early as allowed under the law. Some tactics to address delays could include:
• File a petition or application to safeguard your status in the U.S.
• Ask USCIS to expedite your case if you qualify or if applicable, pay to premium process your case.
• Talk to your Congressman’s office for assistance.
• File a lawsuit to force USCIS to act on your case.

Related links:
GAO Report

For further assistance, please contact Shuyuan Michelle Tian, Esq. of Levene Gouldin & Thompson, LLP.

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