USCIS’s Monumental Case Completions Decrease Backlog and Bring Promise for Future Visa Processing

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has marked a historic accomplishment by successfully completing 10 million immigration cases in Fiscal Year 2023, thereby significantly reducing the longstanding backlog that has persisted for over a decade. This achievement reflects the agency’s commitment to addressing various immigration needs, enhancing customer experience, and strengthening different facets of the immigration process.

Reducing Backlogs

In FY 2023, USCIS set unprecedented records by receiving 10.9 million filings and completing over 10 million pending cases. This resulted in a notable 15% reduction in overall backlogs, showcasing the agency’s dedication to expediting immigration processes. The administration of the Oath of Allegiance to more than 878,500 new U.S. citizens, including military personnel, played a pivotal role in eliminating the backlog of naturalization applications. The achievement of reducing the median processing time for naturalization applicants from 10.5 months to 6.1 months underscores USCIS’s commitment to enhancing efficiency and decreasing waiting times.

Improving Customer Experience

USCIS introduced several technological solutions aimed at enhancing customer experience. Notably, a self-service tool facilitated the online rescheduling of over 33,000 biometrics appointments. Additionally, the implementation of enterprise change of address capabilities allowed more than 430,000 address changes to be submitted online. These initiatives not only streamline processes but also contribute to reducing USCIS Contact Center inquiries by up to 31%. The incorporation of field office appointment requests and a new text-ahead capability for callers further underscores the agency’s commitment to a more user-friendly immigration system.

Strengthening Immigration for Workers and Employers: Meeting Industry Needs

In FY 2023, USCIS and the Department of State collaboratively addressed U.S. employers’ needs by issuing over 192,000 employment-based immigrant visas, exceeding pre-pandemic numbers. The agency’s support for U.S. employers and noncitizen workers extended to increasing the maximum validity period of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) to five years for adjustment of status applicants. USCIS also clarified eligibility criteria for various immigration services, such as the International Entrepreneur Rule and the EB-1 immigrant visa, while proposing a new rule to enhance worker protections in the H-2 temporary worker program.

Fulfilling Humanitarian Mission: Addressing Global Needs

USCIS continues to play a pivotal role in addressing humanitarian needs globally. The agency interviewed over 100,000 refugee applicants, resulting in the admission and resettlement of over 60,000 refugees. Notably, USCIS completed a record-breaking 146,000 credible fear and reasonable fear screenings, providing protection to individuals expressing fear of return. Efforts to establish lawful pathways, such as the Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) process and enhancements to the Central American Minors Program, demonstrate USCIS’s commitment to supporting vulnerable populations worldwide.

Looking Ahead: Future Initiatives and Online Filing Tools

In FY 2024, USCIS aims to build on its achievements while addressing remaining processing delays. 

These initiatives have already begun to reflect in the results of the recent Visa Bulletin announcements. As noted in the recent March 2024 Visa Bulletin Results & Analysis article, the USCIS has been making significant, positive changes in priority dates to increase its processing capacity and efficiency. As we anticipate the April 2024 Visa Bulletin announcement, it would not be unreasonable to have hope that it too will bring news of the USCIS increasing their processing capabilities. 

The agency will focus on maintaining processing times for certain EAD applications and propose new rules for the H-1B program. Additionally, USCIS calls on Congress to pass the Administration’s supplemental funding request to cover projected shortfalls and enhance operational capabilities.

To enhance accessibility, USCIS plans to expand its international footprint, continue Operation Enduring Welcome for Afghan allies, and introduce new online filing tools. These tools will include organizational accounts, online filing of H-1B petitions, and an additional electronic intake channel for forms and evidence in PDF format, ensuring a more streamlined and customer-friendly immigration process.