Processing backlogs have generated an “avalanche” of negative consequences for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) customers and stakeholders, according to the CIS Ombudsman’s recently released 2022 Annual Report to Congress.

The report attributes the backlogs to the “perfect storm” of decreased resources, increased filings and physical limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“USCIS has frequently had to confront the impacts of its backlogs, but neither the backlogs nor their impacts have been as severe as the ones the agency currently faces,” the Ombudsman said.

The report made specific recommendations on a number of fronts, including ways USCIS could:

  • Increase flexibility in the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) renewal process.
  • Reduce barriers to travel and better manage the process of providing advance parole.
  • Improve the access to and efficiency of the expedite request process.
  • Improve the quality and efficiency of asylum adjudications without compromising integrity or fairness.
  • Optimize the agency’s digital strategy.

Background: Each year, the Ombudsman’s office conducts a substantive analysis of problems encountered by individuals and employers when seeking immigration benefits and makes recommendations for improving USCIS processes. The office released this year’s report last week and will host a webinar to discuss it on July 19 at 1 p.m. ET. The office also made formal recommendations last month on how USCIS could address its funding challenges. Those recommendations can be found here.

BAL Analysis: The COVID-19 pandemic and related funding and staffing challenges have exacerbated USCIS processing delays, and agency officials have said reducing backlogs is a top priority. The agency has added additional staff, reallocated work among offices and tried to reduce requests for evidence, among other steps, to reduce backlogs. Additionally, a proposed rule that would increase USCIS filing fees is under White House review and is targeted to be published in September. BAL will continue to monitor delays at USCIS and will provide updates on important developments.

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

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