USCIS backlogs have become a nightmare for many during the last few years. But now the government is holding the agency accountable for its inadequacies. As part of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2022, USCIS was required to inform the government regarding how exactly it is planning to ramp up processing of applications in Fiscal Year 2022.
In the Continuing Appropriations Act, Congress has pledged to provide $250 million to USCIS to support application processing. Part of this money must be utilized by the agency to help reduce application processing backlogs at USCIS field offices and service centers nationwide.
For its part, USCIS informed the government that the total number of cases backlogged at the agency as of September 2021 was a whopping 4.4 million cases.
The agency has said that it hopes to focus on backlog reduction for the following types of forms that account for more than half (61%) of its total backlog. These include I-485 adjustment of status applications, I-765 applications for employment authorization, and N-400 applications for citizenship.
USCIS did not provide information regarding reduction of possible backlogs for I-539 change/extension of status applications, which is a big dilemma for those trying to extend their H-4, L-2, and E-2 Dependents visas. These individuals are a high-risk group experiencing employment interruptions as they await the renewal of their nonimmigrant status.
According to USCIS, $250 million will not be enough to drive down USCIS processing times. The agency asks for an additional $95 million from the government. This additional funding is said to be necessary for overtime hours and training to reduce the backlog. USCIS is also planning to use the additional money for IT investments to improve workflow and allow USCIS to redistribute work electronically (rather than transferring files from one service center to another).
USCIS also outlined the following areas where it plans to improve operations:
- IT investments to increase functionality of forms and expand self-service features in myUSCIS (translation: reduce live customer service availability even more)
- improvements with in-person interview scheduling to increase productivity and add capability for video/remote interviews
- overtime for the Tier 2 level of customer service
- additional scanning services needed due to the increased number of adjudications
- additional overtime for naturalization interviews, more support from the National Benefits Center to pre-process applications that require interviews, and increased travel expenses for efforts related to backlog reduction
- new positions, additional overtime, and new high-speed scanners at service centers to digitize paper cases so that they can be adjudicated electronically
Presently, USCIS indicates that there is a backlog of 182,450 employment-based I-485 applications and 740,569 total EAD applications. In addition, there is a backlog of 487,027 naturalization applications.
USCIS has not yet said whether it will expand premium processing services to other types of immigration applications. This would be a step in the right direction given that premium processing fees could be a source of much needed funding for the agency.
The Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick will continue to monitor these new developments and will report on any new updates right here on our blog.
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