USCIS Facing Major Application Backlogs
In today’s blog, we will be taking a look at the delays being experienced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
According to the annual report issued by the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman earlier this month, the delays at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have spiralled out of control and have created a landslide of consequences for the agency, candidates, and applicants,
Every year, the Office of the CIS Ombudsman publishes a yearly report on the state of affairs at USCIS. It offers suggestions on readjustments the agency could make to optimise the identified problems. The 2022 report includes the calendar year 2021 and the first several months of 2022.
The Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2022 stated that 2021 marked the most challenging year for USCIS, as the agency tried to navigate through the pandemic but was met by the crisis of backlogs which is a cause for immense pressure.
Per the report, the agency’s longer processing times caused severe consequences, including many people losing jobs and the benefits attached to them, both temporary and permanent, losing social benefits such as driver’s licenses, losing safety net benefits, and similar losses along with anxiety, stress, and depression.
Moreover, these repercussions for applicants and candidates have a magnitude of implications for the agency. Each postponed application creates a need for workarounds to reduce the impact of the delay, resulting in these individuals seeking to expedite, applying for further benefits to close the gap created by the accumulations, and typically handling the effects of the lack of action.
This feedback loop adds more work for the agency, as they are pressured to answer more service requests from candidates and their attorneys. It also decelerates the USCIS Contact Center as they receive a high volume of calls about the delayed cases, increases requests for assistance to Congressional representatives, and causes a spike of 79% in requests for help from the Ombudsman in 2021.
The Ombudsman also stated a series of suggestions for USCIS to help lessen the harmful effects of backlogs and delayed processing delays. The recommendations of the Ombudsman include increasing flexibility for work and travel documents, accelerating the process more efficiently and consistently, trying new methods and procedures to handle the affirmative asylum backlog, continuing “robust” digitisation efforts, and learning from its success in reducing the backlog in areas such as the U visa determination process.
Although the yearly report does not bind USCIS, the CIS Ombudsman’s close relationship with and knowledge of USCIS and its methodology strengthens their observations and recommendations. The yearly report is submitted to Congress every year in mid-summer.
The CIS Ombudsman operates as an official public liaison between USCIS and its stakeholders: Petitioners, immigration attorneys, and other representatives and organizations that work with immigrants and USCIS. The duties of the Ombudsman’s office include investigating complaints and resolving problems in cases being processed by USCIS. The present CIS Ombudsman, Phyllis A. Coven, took over the office in March 2021.
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