Atlanta, GA – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently submitted this year’s annual report to Congress and the numbers are staggering: the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ visa applications backlog now stands at 5.2 million cases, while 8.5 million cases are pending.
That’s very bad news for the immigrants waiting to obtain legal status. Many of them have been waiting for years now and there’s no telling when they will receive an answer from the USCIS.
The current backlog is almost double as compared with 2019 when the USCIS had some 2.7 million applications waiting to be processed.
Blame it on Covid
According to the DHS, they’ve done everything in their power to continue processing applications at a nearly-normal rate during the Covid-19 pandemic. During all those months when social distancing measures were in place, DHS staff used video interviews and biometrics to continue working. They also found funding to cover overtime for adjudicators. Apparently, that was not enough.
Asylum-seekers, worst hit by the visa applications backlog
All categories of applicants have to suffer because of the agency’s backlog, but asylum-seekers face the longest waiting times, according to USCIS Ombudsman Phyllis Coven.
There are two ways of obtaining asylum in the US.
- The affirmative asylum process is for foreign nationals arriving in the US who are not in removal proceedings
- The defensive asylum process is for undocumented immigrants who are in removal proceedings.
If you want to apply for either type of asylum, you need to talk to an experienced immigration attorney. There are certain conditions you must meet to seek asylum and you must make sure there isn’t the slightest mistake on the forms you submit. Keep in mind that it takes a long time for your application to be processed and if it is rejected on a technicality, you may have to start all over again.
“We’re hyper-focused on all backlogs, but there are some impacts beyond just the time loss. That’s of great concern to us. We’re examining things like how customers can request, expedite and advance parole, which snowball because of the backlogs,” Coven said.
The hiring freezes of 2019 and 2020 were lifted long ago, but the agency is still struggling to onboard new personnel.
According to the latest report, USCIS plans to hire some 4,000 employees by the end of this year and set more aggressive processing goals for 2023. However, even if the agency manages to find the required personnel, onboarding new adjudicators takes a lot of time, 3-4 months.
Expedited processing for certain categories
If there’s one good thing that came out of the pandemic, it’s the new appreciation for people in the health and child care industries, and there are many immigrants working in these fields. Applicants working in these industries will benefit from expedited processing. According to Doug Rand, senior advisor to the USCIS director, “individuals in the health care and child care industries who are renewing their work authorizations can request an expedited review and completion of their employment authorization document renewals”.
If you want to apply for asylum or a Green Card in Georgia, schedule an appointment with a trustworthy lawyer at Kuck | Baxter Immigration LLC in Atlanta or their South Georgia office.
365 Northridge Road
Atlanta, GA 30350
Tel : (404) 816-8611
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