U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing delays have reached a “crisis” level, hurting the ability of U.S. companies to recruit and retain foreign workers, according to a recent analysis of USCIS data.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) analyzed USCIS data for each of the past five fiscal years, finding that processing times have significantly increased. In a report released Jan. 30, AILA found:

  • Average case processing times increased by 46 percent in the past two fiscal years and 91 percent since FY 2014.
  • Processing delays impacted almost all of USCIS’s immigration work, with 94 percent of form types seeing longer processing times in FY 2018 than in FY 2014.
  • USCIS’s “net backlog” topped 2.3 million at the end of the 2017 fiscal year, amounting to an increase of more than 100 percent since the conclusion of FY 2016 despite only a 4 percent increase in the number of cases.
  • Case processing continued to increase in the 2018 fiscal year, even as the number of cases decreased.

AILA said adjudication delays have “undermined the ability of U.S. companies to hire and retain essential workers and fill critical workforce gaps.” A set of new Trump administration policies “act as bricks in the Trump administration’s ‘invisible wall’ curbing legal immigration in the United States,” AILA said. The organization recommended greater Congressional oversight of USCIS, increased transparency and urged the administration to reverse policies that are helping cause the delays, including USCIS’s rescission in 2017 of a policy of giving deference to prior determinations and a move in 2017 to a new in-person interview requirement for employment-based green card applications.

BAL Analysis: USCIS processing times grew significantly longer in the first two years of the Trump administration. BAL has also seen an increase in petition denials and requests for evidence. BAL continues to lobby on behalf of its clients for business-friendly immigration policies and is available to provide counsel on how best to plan for the possibility of processing delays and other challenges associated with new administration policies and procedures.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

Copyright © 2019 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.