What Processing Delays In Immigration Cases Mean

Jackson Lewis P.C.
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Long USCIS processing delays are now the norm for all types of immigration cases. Indeed, the delays have reached crisis levels. Processing times increased by 46% over the past two fiscal years and 91% since FY 2014.

In fact, even though applications declined by 17% in FY 2018, processing times continued to rise. In some cases, H-1B petitions can take up to a year for a decision. I-140 immigrant visa petitions that used to take about 3 months to process are now taking about 8 months. Naturalization cases used to process in 5 months, but now they are taking about 10 months.

These delays have important consequences. U.S. businesses are hurt when they cannot obtain work visas for necessary or key employees in a timely way. Foreign-national employees become disenchanted due to their inability to obtain LPR status and may leave the U.S. for better prospects. Families suffer economically when dependents cannot obtain work authorization. Vulnerable populations suffer when they cannot obtain protection under U.S. immigration laws.

Recent changes in immigration policies based upon the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order are contributing to the delays.

In a May 13, 2019, letter to the Director of USCIS questioning the delays, 36 members of Congress (representing both parties) pointed out that USCIS was created “to be a service-oriented, immigration service agency with the mission to adjudicate immigration matters to enable individuals to obtain work authorization, citizenship, humanitarian protection and other important services.” But the new mission statement issued by USCIS in early 2018 no longer emphasizes customer satisfaction but rather focuses on enforcement.

The May 13 letter is not the first time Congress has asked about the processing delays. The last letter on this subject sent to the Director earlier this year, however, came only from Democrats.

Along with Congress, the American Immigration Lawyers Association is working to hold USCIS accountable.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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