Congress Addresses USCIS Delays

Earlier today, the Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee met to discuss policy changes and processing delays at US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Below are the main takeaways from the subcommittee members and expert witnesses.

Zoe Lofgren, US Representative for California’s 19th congressional district

  • USCIS net backlog as of April 2019 is over 2.4 million cases (344% increase from 2014).
  • The earliest you can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) is 90 days before the end of an educational program and the delays are extending past 5 months; as a result, some students are completely missing their internship opportunities.

Kenneth Buck, US Representative for Colorado’s 4th congressional district

  • In the fiscal year 2018, more than 8 million immigration benefits were requested from USCIS.
  • In the fiscal year 2018, USCIS was able to naturalize approximately 757,000 new US citizens (more than in any of the previous five years).

Jerry Nadler, US Representative for New York’s 10th congressional district

  • New USCIS policies claim they intend to fix things that weren’t broken to begin with. As an example, there are new harsh penalties on non-immigrant students who accidentally violate their status (this policy is on hold).

Donald Neufeld, Associate Director, Service Center Operations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

  • Current backlogs are a product of sustained demand of immigration benefits and staffing shortages.

Marketa Lindt, President, American Immigration Lawyers Association

  • Between fiscal year 2016 and 2018, USCIS average case processing times increased by 46% despite USCIS receiving less applications and having a higher budget.
  • USCIS’s own inefficient polices are driving backlogs and delays. See examples below.
    1. In person interviews are now mandatory for everyone applying for a green card through an employer even if an interview is not necessary.
    2. Officers are required to re-adjudicate every application for an extension of status even when the same employer is applying for the same employee for the same job and the same visa type and there has been no significant change.
    3. There has been a significant spike in Requests for Evidence (“RFE”) and they often request irrelevant and already provided information. 60% of H-1B’s are getting RFE’d.

We will continue to monitor Congressional activity regarding USCIS processing delays.