Applications for permanent residents and other immigration benefits are taking longer than ever to process. This is affecting thousands of people who have been waiting for years to receive permanent resident status—leaving them in the dark on how long this process may take. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the agency responsible for adjudicating these applications. Because this application backlog process has reached new heights, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed to investigate the problem for the first time in over a decade.
GAO sent a letter to members of Congress that stated they will begin studying the situation in five months. This investigation will shed light on important information and could correct a problem that hurts immigrants, families, and employers with long waits and uncertain futures.
The Problem With USCIS Backlogs
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has always had processing delay issues; however, this problem has increased under the Trump administration. The average processing time for all application types is up 46 percent since Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. These increasing delays continue to rise, even as fewer applications are being submitted. Although the USCIS processed 18 percent more naturalization applications in FY 2018 compared to FY 2014, more applications came in during that time and the backlog grew.
USCIS also significantly increased its fees to cover the costs of application processing. These higher fees should have increased the efficiency of the USCIS; however, the agency processed applications at the same rate as earlier years when less money was available. USCIS hasn’t addressed or taken responsibility for the backlog crisis, and there is evidence that the agency’s own policies have contributed to the backlog crisis. For example, USCIS stated that they have expanded in-person interview requirements, increasing delays overall.
The Government Accountability Office Investigations
The GAO decided to begin investigations thanks to forceful letters from two groups of elected officials: a bipartisan group of senators and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. They both reached out to GAO requesting an investigation, seeking “recommendations on how the agency can best meet its stationary mission of being a service-oriented agency that efficiently processes immigration-related applications and petitions.” Both elected officials shed light on the repercussions of these delays. For example, the delays in employment authorizations have disrupted businesses across the nation—may who depend on employees who require work authorization.
The GAO stated that they will begin investigating in five months. They will be able to examine and expose any connections between USCIS policies, lengthy processing times, and growing backlog applications. Although GAO won’t likely issue a report until the end of 2020, their investigations can positively impact USCIS’ policies and processes to help countless immigrants waiting to get their applications processed.
If you or a loved one are affected by the immigration backlog and you need legal assistance, contact a New Jersey immigration attorney at The Law Offices of Lloyd E. Bennett Esq., P.C.. Our firm has helped thousands of individuals and businesses successfully resolve their immigration issues. Contact us today at (800) 909-8129!