US Agency Wants to Shrink Huge Backlog of Immigration Cases

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) main immigration agency. It has a backlog of 5.2 million cases and 8.5 million more pending. In July 2019, the backlog was only 2.7 million.

It takes the USCIS between 97 and 118 days to train a new employee. And even after hiring freezes in 2019 and 2020 ended, the USCIS has struggled to hire enough workers. However, they plan to hire 4,000+ employees this year and set bigger goals for 2023.

Fortunately, some time-saving efforts have been made.

Certain people can now apply for “expedited reviews”, such as health care and childcare workers. Work permits for select people also increased from 1 to 2 years.

USCIS also expanded “premium processing services”, which let people pay an additional fee to speed up their application process.

USCIS made 2 recommendations to Congress.

First, change its fee-for-service funding model. Fees have not adjusted for inflation and the review process takes too long. USCIS wants a way to access more funds faster when necessary. However, being fee-funded keeps it free from congressional oversight.

Second, improve the notification process for nonimmigrant workers. Currently, employers fill out Form I-129 to extend or change their status. USCIS then notifies employers, but not workers. This can lead to abuse and other problems. Suggested solutions include notifying workers by mail or online, letting them check their status online, or using their passport to do so.

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