A recent report from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revealed that applications submitted before October 31, 2018 will experience significant delays. Was your petition or application among them?
Who does this affect?
The report covers a wide variety of petitions and applications. Since 2014, many applications have more than doubled their average processing time. The report does not, however, consider those petitions filed under Premium Processing. Those applicants pay a large fee to have their applications processed faster.
Almost all foreign nationals that wish to apply for a green card will experience longer delays than those who apply for a non-immigration visa petition. Affected petitions include the following:
- Petition for a nonimmigrant worker: average delay 3.4 months
- Immigrant petition for an alien worker: average delay 7.8 months
- Application to register permanent residence, employment-based: average delay 11 months
- Immigrant petition by an alien entrepreneur: average delay 22.1 months
- Application for employment authorization: average delay 4.1 months
If you would like to file a petition or application to work in the U.S. for yourself or someone else, you will need to plan well in advance. A person's non-immigrant status could expire before their application is renewed or accepted. You should plan for these delays and expect higher fees than in years before.
What is Congress doing to help?
The USCIS has cited in its annual report that the current fee structure cannot cover new security screening requirements. In February 2019, 86 members of Congress signed a joint letter to the USCIS director to voice their concerns about the historic processing delays. In it, they asked for greater transparency in the application filing process.
Hopefully, an increase in transparency will help the agency identify, reduce and prevent application delays in the future. However, political and cultural tensions can feed into delays related to immigration. In the meantime, foreign nationals could face unprecedented issues and concerns about their immigration status.