The USCIS has released their Fiscal Year 2022 progress report to be transparent on the current state of immigration and the improvements that have been made over the year and challenges that are still being faced moving into Fiscal Year 2023. Let’s take a look at some of the key points mentioned in the report.
Immigration Backlog Progress
The USCIS acknowledges that they still have much work to do in FY 2023 when it comes to reducing the overall immigration backlog and processing times. They have implemented innovations that they believe have assisted in reducing the backlog and speeding up the overall immigration process in some capacity.
Record Naturalization Numbers
In FY 2022, the USCIS welcomed more than 1 million new United States citizens through naturalization. This represents a 62% reduction in the naturalization application backlog, and is the highest number of naturalized citizens in 15 years.
Double Pre-pandemic Employment-based Visas Issued
The USCIS also mentions how in accordance with the DOH, all available employment-based visas were issued – amounting to over 275,111 total used EB visas. This is double the pre-pandemic number of EB visas issued. They also report that towards the end of the FY 2022, the USCIS worked 7 days a week in order to address as many pending applications as possible. Overtime work was made possible through measures taken by congress to work on the visa application backlog.
Automatic EAD Renewal Extension
During the FY 2022, there was a large number of noncitizens who held valid EADs, or Employment Authorization Documents, who faced a gap in employment authorization while waiting for their renewal applications to be processed. The wait time had increased due to the pandemic as well as a sudden increase in EAD filings. In May 2022, a temporary final rule was published that extended the validity period of EADs for almost half a million noncitizens so that they could go back to work while waiting for their EAD renewals to be processed, even if their original EAD expired. The current pending caseload for EAD renewals has returned to a normal level.
Labor Shortages Updates
The USCIS suffered from labor shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and worked to bring their labor numbers back to pre-pandemic levels during FY 2022.
Additional H-2B Visas
With the assistance of the DHS and DOL, the USCIS was able to make 65,000 more H-2B visas available for FY 2023. They are also ensuring that US and foreign workers are more protected by enacting a H-2B Worker Protection Taskforce to address the integrity of the program and identify vulnerabilities of workers within this category.
New Services and Policies for Employers and Noncitizen Workers
Multiple new policies and services were put into place during FY 2022 to help with clarity and understanding for both US employers and noncitizen workers alike.
Some of these efforts include:
- Authorization of E and L visa holders to work immediately without having to apply and wait for an EAD
- Applying automatic extension of employment authorization for renewal EAD applications filed by these E and L spouses as well as certain H-4 spouses
- Major reforms made to the EB-5 program
- Establishing a process for healthcare and childcare workers to make an expedited request for processing of initial EAD applications that have been pending for more than 90 days, or renewal applications that would expire within 30 days or have already expired
- Initiating the expansion of premium processing
- Issuing double the typical number of employment-based immigrant visas
What’s to Come in FY 2023?
The USCIS is making the following commitments for Fiscal Year 2023:
- Implementing premium processing for all employer petitions for immigrant workers as well as certain EAD applications for students/exchange visitors
- Removing the requirement to submit biometrics for applications who are changing/extending their nonimmigrant status
- Simplifying multiple major forms including EAD applications, Adjustment of Status, and Naturalization forms
In addition to the immigration backlog reduction and processing time efforts, the USCIS also strived to implement new programs in an effort to meet a growing humanitarian need.
Some of these efforts included:
- Supporting vulnerable Afghans by swiftly addressing refugee applications and adjudicating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) requests.
- Confirmed the financial suitability of over 177,000 supporters for the Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) process, and over 82,000 Ukrainians and their immediate family members have been paroled into the United States under the U4U process.
- USCIS has implemented several new TPS designations, redesignations, and extensions, including for Afghanistan, Burma, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Yemen.
The USCIS has many plans for humanitarian efforts in the next year. For more information on the new humanitarian efforts that will take place in FY 2023, read the USCIS Fiscal Year 2022 Progress Report.
The USCIS reports that they are on target for cash reserves and are becoming stronger fiscally. They will continue to hire and recruit to assist with their operations and will also strive to achieve better efficiency and customer service in FY 2023.
Addressing Backlogs in FY 2023
From May 1, 2020, through March 21, 2021, the USCIS was on a hiring freeze, which resulted in a large reduction in the number of employees and support staff. The USCIS was also forced to close in-person work during the COVID-19 pandemic, which also contributed to the growing backlog.
At the beginning of 2022, the USCIS was able to stop the growth of the backlog by hiring and finding new ways to process cases efficiently. They are dedicated to continuing these efforts and hope to reduce the backlog significantly in FY 2023.
The USCIS Fiscal Year 2022 Progress Report is a great insight into their current efforts and the progress made over the year. The USCIS hopes to restore faith in the immigration system and make major forward movement in terms of backlog and processing times. We hope to see these improvements manifest in FY 2023.
To read the report in its entirety, view the report here.