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USCIS Wait Times on the Rise

June 7, 2019

“The waiting is the hardest part.” These lyrics from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers reflect a sentiment felt by all of those who file immigration cases with USCIS. This includes the thousands of successful clients our law office has helped throughout the immigration process. They ultimately get approved, but the time it takes to go through the process is a strain on the client, the beneficiaries and the relationships between family and loved ones. The same goes for our business visa clients, who look forward to the opportunities to contribute to the American economy.

Year after year, processing times would increase and increase with no end in sight as USCIS received record number of immigration filings without oversight or consequence. It seemed like there was nothing we could do, except inform our clients to hold on a little longer as USCIS delayed their approvals due to an unprecedented backlog.

On May 31, 2019, USCIS released its 2018 Statistical Annual Report1, which provides the statistical information on the most popular and widely-used benefits and programs administered by the agency. It is interesting to note that this is the first annual report published by USCIS in nearly a decade, which was initiated by an employee suggestion at an internal agency town hall. That admission by USCIS makes one question why they haven’t released a report throughout the entire Obama administration? The answer may lie in the fact that once data is produced, questions are asked and oversight comes into play.

Now that the data has been released, it finally seems that the government is getting involved by questioning USCIS about the current backlog of cases managed by the agency. On May 23, 2019, USCIS responded to a bipartisan letter sent by 38 senators (19 Republicans and 19 Democrats), who voiced concerns over the lengthy case processing delays.2 Then, on May 31, 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) responded to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and agreed to review several issues regarding the current backlog of immigration cases managed by USCIS.3

A perfect example of this backlog comes from the EB-5 Visa. In May, USCIS updated the adjudication times for the I-529 petition from 21-29 months to 29-45.5 months. In processing the cases, USCIS estimates the time range from the date they received the petition and updates the processing page each month.4 As thousands of people may know from calling USCIS, they don’t provide any specific case information unless the case falls “outside normal processing time.” Now, many EB-5 filers may have to wait up to 45 months just for the opportunity to inquire about their case, let alone get approved.

We can only hope that the current congressional inquiries will produce the much needed and long overdue accountability assessment to dramatically reduce the current USCIS backlog and implement procedures to streamline the red tape that has accumulated after a decade of neglect. It’s a step in the right direction, but until we get the results, the only thing we can do it wait.

1 https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-releases-2018-statistical-annual-report
2 https://www.aila.org/advo-media/whats-happening-in-congress/congressional-updates/uscis-responds-to-bipartisan-senate-letter
3 https://congressionalhispaniccaucus-castro.house.gov/sites/congressionalhispaniccaucus.house.gov/files/Acceptance%20Letter%20--%20U.S.%20Citizenship%20and%20Immigration%20Services.pdf
4 https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/

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