Backlogged Immigration Cases ‘Could Take Years’ to Process, USCIS Says; No Forward Movement of Cut-Off Dates
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) faces a large backlog of immigration cases because of fee changes that led to a rush in applications filed in advance of the increases, combined with confusion over the cut-off date for employment-based change or adjustment of status applications. The latter confusion, the Daily Labor Report noted, was caused by an announcement effective July 2 and rescinded two weeks later by the Department of State's Visa Office that employment-based visa numbers were no longer available for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Michael Aytes, USCIS's Associate Director for Domestic Operations, was quoted in the Report as noting that USCIS received over 2.5 million applications during July and August, including 300,000 employment-based adjustment applications. "It could take years to process all of the applications and issue all the visas," Mr. Aytes said. The Report noted that applicants have some protection in the form of more portability for their current visas, allowing them to change jobs more easily. Mr. Aytes said that USCIS is considering some streamlining measures to speed things up, including the possibility of handling specific industries within a single USCIS office that is familiar with the unique demands of that industry, similar to what has already been done for sports teams.
Mr. Aytes also said that USCIS doesn't want a repeat of last year's H-1B debacle, where the H-1B numerical limit for fiscal year 2008 was met the first day applications were received, resulting in a lot of wasted time on preparing and processing applications that went nowhere. "While there was a significant use of resources by USCIS, I am even more concerned about the time and effort used [by employers] in preparing the applications," he said. USCIS is considering a pre-registration option that would allow the filing of a more limited application, with the remaining portions to be filed if the applicant succeeds. Mr. Aytes added that he wants "to do everything I can to dissuade" employers from filing multiple petitions for one worker based on different criteria.
Meanwhile, the Visa Bulletin for November 2007 reports that there has been no forward movement of the employment cut-off dates. "The reason for this is that it is still too early to see what impact the movement of the cut-off dates toward the end of FY 2007 may have on demand," the Department noted. Depending on the rate of demand being received from USCIS offices for adjustment of status cases, some forward movement of dates may be possible for December. The Bulletin is available here.