U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has found a way to make life more difficult for immigrants – make them wait longer. As a result of longer USCIS processing times, employers and high-skilled foreign nationals are less likely to view America as a great place for careers and innovation, while other foreign-born individuals wonder why treating people poorly has become official government policy.
New research from Jason Boyd, a policy counsel at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), finds U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is “adjudicating cases at an unacceptably and increasingly slow pace.”
Boyd found the average time for USCIS to process a case increased by 46% the past two fiscal years: “Case processing times increased substantially in FY 2018 even as case receipt volume appeared to markedly decrease. . . . Viewed as a whole, USCIS’s national average processing time data reveals a legal immigration system in a tailspin.”
Specific policy choices in the first two years of the Trump administration have contributed to the long delays. “In 2017, USCIS implemented a sweeping new in-person interview requirement for employment-based green card applications,” notes the report. “Increased delays in the adjudication of employment-based benefits have undermined the ability of U.S. companies to hire and retain essential workers and fill critical workforce gaps.”
H-1B professionals and prospective new employers can now wait more than a year for USCIS to make a decision on an H-1B application. (See here, Form I-129, California Service Center.) In FY 2018, the USCIS processing time for an I-140 form (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) was approximately 8 months, compared to 3 months in FY 2014. (Processing times do not include green card waits of 10 years or more for Indian professionals caused by the per-country limit and the low annual quota on employment-based immigrant visas.)