USCIS has announced today various new actions to reduce the application backlog. The last few years of the pandemic has caused major delays in USCIS’ processing of applications. To combat this, USCIS is introducing the following changes:
Expansion of Premium Processing
The Department of Homeland Security has announced a final rules that will expand premium processing. Premium processing is a service USCIS offers for a selection of applications. For an extra fee (usually $2500), USCIS will process the application in 15 days. Without premium processing, the normal processing times can take up to months.
Currently, premium processing is only available for Form I-129 applications and some Form I-140 applications. USCIS is now expanding this service to the following types of applications:
- Form I-539, Application to extend/change nonimmigrant status
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- Additional classifications under Form I-140
USCIS intends to begin implementing, through a phased approach, premium processing availability of Form I-539, Form I-765 and Form I-140 in fiscal year 2022. The introduction of premium processing for Form I-539 is especially important as Form I-539 applications are submitted for dependents of Form I-129 applicants. Currently, expedited processing is only available for Form I-129 applications, which means that family members of I-129 applicants can wait months longer than the main applicant for their change of status. For more information on this, please click here. With premium processing, the mail applicant and their family members will now be able to change or extend their status at the same time.
New Internal Cycle Time Goals
USCIS has introduced an internal metrics that will guide backlog reduction efforts. Internally, USCIS monitors the number of pending cases in the agency’s workload through a metric called “cycle times.” 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. The internal time goals will ensure that applicants and petitioners will receive their decisions quicker. USCIS will be increase capacity, improve technology, and expand staffing to achieve these new goals by the end of FY 2023.
As these new changes are implemented, applicants and petitioners should hopefully see a decrease in processing times and lowered waiting times.
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