For a long time, processing times for applications filed at USCIS have been spiraling out of control and certain applications do not qualify for premium processing.
For example, the current processing time for EB-5 cases is 47-71 months! Imagine investing over half a million dollars, paying a $3,675 filing fee and then having to wait almost 6 years for a decision!
COVID has undoubtedly played a role in the agency’s ability to adjudicate cases, but after 2 years this is no longer a reasonable excuse. Even pre-COVID USCIS was experiencing a massive backlog and finally, the current administration has announced a plan to adjudicate cases faster. USCIS states it will increase its capacity, improve its technology, and expand staffing levels in order to achieve quicker processing times. USCIS is also working to issue work authorizations in a timelier manner.
New Cycle times
USCIS has established new internal cycle times, which it describes as follows:
“A cycle time measures how many months’ worth of pending cases for a particular form are awaiting a decision. As an internal management metric, cycle times are generally comparable to the agency’s publicly posted median processing times. Cycle times are what the operational divisions of USCIS use to gauge how much progress the agency is, or is not, making on reducing our backlog and overall case processing times.”
The new cycle times are as follows:
|I-765 & I-131
|N-600 & N-600K
|I-129 F (Fiancé)
|I-821D renewals (DACA)
Expansion of Premium Processing
Certain cases like H-1B are eligible for expedited processing by paying an additional fee of $2500, however not all cases can be filed in Premium Processing.
USCIS has announced a final rule which would expand premium processing to Form I-539, I-765 and additional categories under I-140. USCIS states it intends to expand premium through a phased approach starting with EB-1C (multinational executives and managers) and EB-2 National Interest Waivers.
Expanding premium processing to these additional categories will have a significant impact in certain areas. For example, someone who enters on a B1/B-2 and files a change of status to F-1 cannot study until the change of status application is approved. As these applications have been taking close to a year applicants have had to continually delay their studies. Having the option to file in Premium processing on the I-539 will enable want-to-be students to quickly change their status and start studying.
Faster issuance of EADs
USCIS also states it is closer to finalizing a rule which would ensure that applicants would not lose their work authorization while their extension is pending. USCIS has already applied the 180- day automatic extension of EAD to H-4 applicants who have valid H-4 status and file a timely I-765 application.
Finally, USCIS has put a plan in place to finally over the long delays experienced by applicants across the board. Although one of these changes will be immediate, we hope that they will eventually make some progress in addressing the long backlogs which have prevented many from obtaining work authorization.
For questions regarding the above please contact PLG Partner Chris Prescott at firstname.lastname@example.org.