USCIS Takes Bold Action to Reduce Processing Backlogs, Expand Premium Processing, and Improve Access to Work Permits

Posted on Apr 18, 2022

On March 29, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced efforts to reduce processing backlogs, expand Premium Processing for certain applications and petitions, and to improve access to work permits through streamlined processing and extending validity periods. Overall, the goal of these actions is to increase efficiency and reduce burdens on the legal immigration system. According to USCIS, these actions are necessary in order to manage the significant number of pending cases and increased processing times that resulted from both the prior administration and the strains put on the system by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to reduce the high number of pending cases, USCIS has established new internal cycle time goals. These goals are internal metrics that will guide the USCIS workforce as it works to reduce the backlogs. The idea here is that as cycle times improve, processing times will also improve, and the result will be that applicants and petitioners will receive decisions on their cases more quickly. USCIS has stated that it will increase capacity, improve technology, and expand staffing in order to achieve these new goals by the end of fiscal year 2023.

As some readers know, USCIS publically posts processing times online which show the average amount of time it took USCIS to process a particular immigration form, starting from when USCIS received the application until a decision was made. USCIS internally keeps track of the number of pending cases through a metric called “cycle times,” which measure how many months’ worth of pending cases for a particular form are awaiting a decision. These cycle times are generally comparable to the publicly posted processing times and are used by USCIS to gauge how much progress the agency is, or is not, making on reducing our backlog and overall case processing times.

The NEW CYCLE TIME GOALS are:

2 Weeks:

  • I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Premium Processing)
  • I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Premium Processing)

2 Months:

  • I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Non-Premium Processing)

3 Months:

  • I-765 Application for Employment Authorization
  • I-131 Application for Travel Document (Advance Parole Only)
  • I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
  • I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition

6 Months:

  • N-400 Application for Naturalization
  • N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship
  • N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322
  • I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status
  • I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Non-Premium Processing)
  • I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (Immediate Relative Only)
  • I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e)
  • I-290B Notice of Appeal or Motion – USCIS
  • I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
  • I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document
  • I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
  • I-600A Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition
  • I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition
  • I-800 Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative
  • I-800A Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child
  • I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
  • I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Renewals Only)

As part of its cycle time reduction goals, USCIS also intends to allow for premium processing of Form I-539, Form I-765, and Form I-140, beginning in 2022. Premium processing is an expedited adjudication service now available only to petitioners filing a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and to certain employment-based immigrant visa petitioners filing a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. The expansion of the availability of premium processing is a huge benefit for non-immigrants who are seeking expedited consideration of the applications for extension or change of their nonimmigrant visa status and for all work permit applicants.

Finally, through this process, USCIS will also improve access to Work Permits for all filing categories. In recent months, USCIS has already begun streamlining the process of applying for a work permit by extending validity periods for certain categories and by providing expedited work authorization renewals for healthcare and child care workers. The new backlog reduction rule aims to build on this progress and to ensure that certain applicants do not lose their work authorization status while their other applications are pending with USCIS.

If you have questions about this blog post or you need assistance with your U.S. Immigration status, contact Attorney Sean D. Hummel to schedule a consultation.

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