USCIS Releases Plans to Reduce Backlogs and Expand Premium Processing

Practice Areas

By: Ujwala Bagal

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new efforts to help reduce backlogs and burdens to the immigration system. The new measure will include an expansion of the premium process program and goals to further reduce backlogs.

background

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump-era immigration policy, USCIS faces an application backlog, delays in issuing employment authorization, an increased number of pending applications, and significantly reduced resources and staff.

processing backlogs

To combat processing backlogs, USCIS will implement new internal cycle time goals. Cycle times are an internal metric USCIS uses to check how long an application takes to process from the moment it is received to the time a decision is made. Once the cycle times improve, USCIS will likely see a reduction in backlogs and processing times for applications. The agency aims to increase capacity, staffing, and technology to help achieve these goals.

premium processing

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a final rule to align premium processing regulations with the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act. The rule also codifies premium processing fees and adjudication timeframes.

Currently premium processing is only available for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and some applicants filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. The new final rule expands the program to more classifications for Form I-140, and adds Forms I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status and I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

USCIS will begin phasing in premium processing for the new forms later this fiscal year 2022, beginning with Form I-140 requests for EB-1 immigrant classification as a multinational executive or manager, or EB-2 immigrant classification for professions with advanced degrees or those with exceptional ability receiving a national interest wavier. USCIS will ensure that the expansion of premium processing does not delay processing times for regular applications.

employment authorization documents

USCIS has recently improved the process for certain employment authorization documents (EADs). This includes increasing validity periods for some EADs and accelerating renewals for healthcare and childcare workers. The proposed temporary final rule would ensure certain applicants do not lose work authorization status while their applications are pending.[1]

Conclusion

The Chugh, LLP immigration team is closely monitoring all USCIS policy and process changes. For questions regarding new processing times, or for assistance applying for premium processing or extending employment authorization documents, contact your immigration professional.

[1] “Temporary Increase of the Automatic Extension Period of Employment Authorization and Documentation for Certain Renewal Applicants.”

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