On March 29, USCIS along with the Department of Homeland Security announced three initiatives to streamline the immigration process and reduce overall burdens on the legal system. One action includes having the service for premium processing expanded to additional forms.
In the statement issued by the organization, USCIS cited the pandemic and resource constraints created by the prior administration for the increased number of backlogs and processing delays.
The three main initiatives outlined in the announcement include:
- Establishing new agency-wide backlog reduction goals
- Expanding premium process to additional forms
- Improving the availability and timely access to employment authorization documents
“USCIS remains committed to delivering timely and fair decisions to all we serve,” said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou. “Every application we adjudicate represents the hopes and dreams of immigrants and their families, as well as their critical immediate needs such as financial stability and humanitarian protection.”
New Internal Cycle Time Goals
The first measure to address the agency’s processing backlogs are new internal cycle times goals.
These goals are internal metrics that guide the backlog reduction efforts of the USCIS workforce and affect how long it takes the agency to process cases. As cycle times improve, processing times will follow, and applicants and petitioners will receive decisions on their cases more quickly.
What Are Cycle Times?
Internally, USCIS monitors the number of pending cases in the agency’s workload through a metric called “cycle times.” A cycle time measures how many months’ worth of pending cases for a particular form are awaiting a decision. As an internal management metric, cycle times are generally comparable to the agency’s publicly posted median processing times. Cycle times are what the operational divisions of USCIS use to gauge how much progress the agency is, or is not, making on reducing our backlog and overall case processing times.
New cycle time goals are outlined in the graph below. Cycle time goals for I-129 and I-140 premium processing are 2 weeks. Goals for I-129 (non-premium processing) are 2 months, while goals for I-765, I-131 Advance Parole, I-539 and I-824 are three months. Six-month time goals are listed below in the chart.
To achieve these goals by the end of the fiscal year 2023, USCIS has said they plan to add additional staffing where necessary, enhance current technology and increase capacity.
Premium Processing Expanded to Other Forms
Along with USCIS’ statement, the Department of Homeland Security announced a final rule that codifies premium processing fees and adjudication timeframes. Moreover, it expands the eligible categories for premium processing services to include Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and other classifications under Form I-140. Premium processing will be implemented for these forms in fiscal year 2022. The agency was also clear in their directives that the expansion of this service can not cause an increase in processing ties for regular immigration benefit requests.
*USCIS plans to begin this phased implementation process by expanding premium processing eligibility to Form I-140 filers requesting EB-1 immigrant classification as a multinational executive or manager, or EB-2 immigrant classification as a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver.
Streamlining Access to Employment Authorization Documents
USCIS is still working on a temporary rule titled, “Temporary Increase of the Automatic Extension Period of Employment Authorization and Documentation for Certain Renewal Applicants.” The rule is intended to optimize the process for how immigrants obtain employment authorization documents, extend the validity period of these authorizations, and make renewals more efficient so that people do not lose status while applications are pending.
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