U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced efforts to increase efficiency and reduce burdens to the overall legal immigration system. The agency will set new agency-wide backlog reduction goals, expand premium processing to additional form types and work to improve timely access to employment authorization documents (EADs).
Current Administration Actions
These measures are necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resource constraints resulting from the prior administration, which have led to an increase in pending cases and processing times at USCIS.
Through today’s actions by the Biden administration, USCIS is acting to reduce these caseloads and processing times while also ensuring that fair and efficient services are available to applicants and petitioners.
“USCIS remains committed to delivering timely and fair decisions to all we serve,” said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou. “Every application we adjudicate represents the hopes and dreams of immigrants and their families, as well as their critical immediate needs such as financial stability and humanitarian protection.”
Backlog Reduction Goals & Cycle Times
USCIS is establishing new internal cycle time goals this month. These goals are internal metrics that guide the backlog reduction efforts of the USCIS workforce and affect how long it takes the agency to process cases. As cycle times improve, processing times will follow, and applicants and petitioners will quickly receive decisions on their cases. To achieve these new goals, USCIS will increase capacity, improve technology, and expand staffing by FY 2023.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) publicly available processing times displays the typical duration it takes the agency to process a specific form from when it is received until a decision is rendered on the case. USCIS keeps track of the number of pending cases in its workload utilizing a statistic called “cycle times.” A cycle time reflects how many months’ worth of pending applications for a particular form is waiting for a decision. Cycle times are an internal management measurement comparable to the agency’s publicly published median processing times.
Since 2017, USCIS has used aggregate pending, and receipt counts to measure processing time. This method does not rely on individual case processing information but instead provides a snapshot of the entire workload at a given time. The problem with this is that it can be significantly affected by the types of cases filed at certain times, resulting in inaccurate measurements.
To address this issue and improve accuracy, USCIS began using actual case record information in 2018. This data allows us to measure how long it takes us to process each case from start to finish. In doing so, USCIS can more accurately assess its progress toward meeting agency-wide backlog reduction goals.
The agency is also expanding premium processing to additional form types. Premium Processing is a service that allows applicants and petitioners to pay an extra fee to have their case adjudicated more quickly. The cost for these fees is $2,500 if you are filing Form I-129 requesting E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-3, L (including blanket L-1), O, P, Q, or TN nonimmigrant classification. $1,500 if you are filing Form I-129 requesting H-2B or R nonimmigrant classification.
Since its inception in 2005, Premium Processing has been available for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. On March 29th 2022 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a final rule that aligns premium processing regulations with the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act. The rule codifies premium processing fees and adjudication timeframes provided by Congress.
The Premium Processing service is now available to petitioners filing a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, and to certain employment-based immigrant visa petitioners filing a Form I-140, USCIS anticipates that this change will reduce overall case processing times by allowing us to work more cases concurrently.
The final rule is also in response to congressional direction that the agency expand premium processing availability. The expansion of premium processing must not cause an increase in processing times for regular immigration benefit requests.
DHS will begin implementing, through a phased approach, premium processing availability of Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker and Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization in fiscal year 2022. This change is part of continued effort to improve efficiency and reduce the overall backlog.
USCIS plans to begin this phased implementation process by expanding premium processing eligibility to Form I-140 filers requesting EB-I immigrant classification as a multinational executive or manager, or EB-II immigrant classification as a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver. The expansion of premium processing will also be available to additional form types.
Employment Authorization Documents
(EADs) have been a hot topic in the United States lately. USCIS has been progressing in streamlining the process, and their latest move is a temporary final rule that will increase efficiency.
This new rule, named “Temporary Increase of the Automatic Extension Period of Employment Authorization and Documentation for Certain Renewal Applicants,” will extend the validity period for certain EADs. Additionally, it will provide expedited work authorization renewals for healthcare and childcare workers. This is excellent news, as it will help to ensure that these individuals do not lose their work authorization status while their applications are pending.
USCIS is hopeful that this new rule will help to improve efficiency within the agency. It’s important to note that this rule responds to a congressional requirement.
The temporary final rule aims to build on this progress and ensure specific individuals will not lose their work authorization status while their applications are pending. If you have any questions about this new rule or how it may impact you, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced efforts to increase efficiency and reduce burdens to the overall legal immigration system. The agency will set new agency-wide backlog reduction goals, expand premium processing to additional form types, and work to improve timely access to employment authorization documents (EADs).