Why Hasn’t Your Case Been Decided Yet? Nationwide, you and millions of families, businesses, and individuals applying for immigration benefits are waiting longer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process and approve applications and petitions.  It has been a difficult time for many and created undue stress.  Many people have had issues with their employers, and the constant shifting of standards has only created confusion.

Based on previously available USCIS data, in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, an average case took about five months to process. In FY2020, an average case took more than nine months. Those extra months of waiting halt business operations, keep families separated, and jeopardize lives.

Who Is Affected?

Anyone who files applications or petitions with USCIS is affected. You and other people applying for family-based benefits, employment-based benefits, naturalization, travel documents, and employment authorization are all experiencing delays. Between FY2017 and FY2019, USCIS’s processing times for all petitions and application form types rose more than 37%.

The dramatic increase in processing times occurred even though USCIS experienced a ten percent drop in cases received from the end of FY2017 to FY2019. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS processing times have continued to rise from FY2019-FY20212.

Processing times for common form types illustrate just how dire the situation is:

  • Processing times for all status extensions applications to change or extend status rose from about 2.8 months to 9.8 months: %250
  • Processing times for family-based adjustment of status applications rose from 7.9 months to 13.2 months: %67
  • Processing times for naturalization applications increased from 7.9 months to almost an entire year, 11.6 months, nearly %47
  • Asylum cases are not even moving in many parts of the country because there is no interviewing happening

Why Are Cases Taking Longer?

Many factors can slow down your case, including inefficient processing, understaffing, and changes in policy due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.  USCIS has had COVID related stoppages too.   Another reason is the last administration’s efforts to break the system.  During the last administration, USCIS implemented many new policies designed to restrict legal immigration and delay processing. For example, one policy required USCIS officers to conduct duplicate reviews of past decisions, adding unnecessary work to each case. Another example was the imposition of a fingerprinting requirement for certain applicants that never existed previously. While the current administration has made some helpful changes, including to the noted policies, the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to continued slowdowns.  It will take months, if not a few years, to restore a more predictable system.

For example, from March through July 2020, USCIS closed its offices for interviews and biometrics appointments, creating a backlog, especially for biometrics appointments. Many applications, like applications for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), cannot be adjudicated before biometrics are taken.  When there is just one fingerprint office serving an entire state, the backlog of printing will grow very quickly.

Things are improving, but it will take some time.  USCIS is now issuing two-year work permits to help people avoid issues with their employer.  The same is true for advance parole.  Interviewing has picked up in pace around the country too.  It is important not to make plans assuming that the system will meet your schedule or needs on time.  Plan ahead, file early, and eventually USCIS will tend to you.