The USCIS Processing Delay Crisis and Its Effect on Immigrant Workers

Millions of immigrants and businesses are waiting for USCIS to process and approve applications and petitions. Processing delays at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for work permits is wreaking havoc on the lives of immigrants who are losing jobs and are cut off from the job market even though there is a shortage of skilled workers. 

The consequences of these delays are hurting not just the immigrants and their families but also U.S. businesses. For instance, there were 1.5 million pending work permit applications or employment authorization applications at the end of December 2021. During the same time, there were 10.9 million U.S. job vacancies. 

In addition to the pandemic woes, a recent article by Bloomberg also cited the cumulative effect of years of dysfunction in the American immigration system. As visas and work permit applications at immigration offices are delayed beyond reasonable wait times, vulnerable populations are being pushed to the brink. 

How Long Is the Delay at USCIS?

USCIS is supported by field offices across the United States, and each applicant is assigned to one based on their ZIP code or a postal code. The delay in processing time depends on many factors, including the field office you have been assigned to. For example, populated areas like New York or San Francisco are likely to take longer than Lake Havasu. 

The best way to find out if you are waiting longer than usual, check the processing time on the USCIS website. USCIS publishes the processing wait times for each field office and updates the wait time every month. 

In the latest report, the USCIS has shown an increase in processing time for more than 37 types of immigration forms. USCIS processing time for common applications and petitions in 2022.

The USCIS Processing Delay Crisis and Its Effect on Immigrant Workers

How Can You Speed up the Processing Time for A US Visa Application? 

If you qualify under special conditions, complete the recommended process by USCIS to expedite your case. In the case of work visas like H1-B, it is recommended to go for premium processing to fasten your processing time. 

Here are some of the ways prescribed by the USCIS to speed up the processing time under special conditions:

  • If you are a healthcare worker and have a pending EAD or an EAD which expires within 30 days or has already expired, you can contact 800-375-5283 to request expedited processing of your EAD based on your circumstances.
  • In general, you can request expedited processing of a benefit request. But this requires additional documents which will be used to weigh the urgency. If you are granted an expedited request, it means that your benefit will be moved ahead of others who filed earlier. An appeal can also be filed with the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO).
  • It should have a cover letter marked clearly “EXPEDITE REQUEST,” and documents supporting the urgency of the request need to be included.

Why Is USCIS Taking So Long to Process Visas? 

A report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s office on December 28, 2021, said that the backlog is primarily due to USCIS office closure and various restrictions laid down to follow the COVID-19 protocol.

Due to the pandemic, immigration services and embassies were closed unless for emergencies depending on the country. As economies are slowly opening up, the processing time for visas and work permits have further skyrocketed as more cases kept piling on, in addition to the massive backlog of cases the immigration agency was struggling with on a normal year. 

Should I File a Lawsuit Against the USCIS for a Delayed Visa?

Suppose you have exhausted all options and are looking at legal action. In that case, the Administrative Procedures Act has a provision that says that if an immigration application has been pending for an unreasonable amount of time, then the applicant or the beneficiary of the application has a right to bring a legal action (“Writ of Mandamus”) against the USCIS through a Federal Court and request that the court order USCIS to decide on their case immediately.

Immigrants have very little recourse other than suing USCIS in federal court. Keep in mind that suing the USCIS will be an expensive and time-consuming process.

How Has The Crisis USCIS Processing Times Affected Immigrant Workers?

The long processing period has taken a toll on every immigrant whose work permit application is pending at USCIS. Some are struggling to pay rent or mortgages with uncertainty looming over their heads, while others have sought refuge with their family/relatives. 

As the immigrants wait for their visas, their health insurance statuses are unclear, and premium payments are being missed – exposing them to more vulnerability in a costly U.S. medical system.

The USCIS processing delay crisis will not be an easy one to solve. If you or your family members are applying or waiting for work or travel authorization, take the processing delays into account.