USCIS Data Shows General Increase in Processing Times20 Sep 2018
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a table of the national average processing times by fiscal year for various types of forms, through the first half of FY18. The U.S. government fiscal year runs from October 1st through September 30th. The data shows that processing times for many of the forms have increased noticeably over the past 18 months.
Data Based on Form, Not Case Type
Note that the data provided primarily shows average processing times based on the type of form filed. With a few exceptions, it does not further break down the information based on case type. For instance, a petition for a nonimmigrant worker (form I-129) is used to petition for many different nonimmigrant categories, including H1B, L-1, O-1, and P-1. The average processing time for each of these categories may differ; the data provided in this table released by the USCIS, however, only looks at the processing time of the form for all case-types.
Increase in Processing Times for Immigrant Filings
For forms related to immigrant visa categories (i.e. applying to become a lawful permanent resident or “green card holder”), both family- and employment-based cases have seen a significant increase in processing times. For example, the average processing time for an immigrant petition for alien worker (form I-140) has increased from 5.7 months in FY16 to 8.1 months for the first half of FY18. A petition for alien relative (form I-130) processing time has increased from an average of 6 months in FY16 to an average of 9.6 months for FY18. Similarly, an immigrant petition by alien entrepreneur (form I-526), which is solely for immigrant investors applying under the employment-based, fifth preference (EB5) category, has shot up to an average processing time of 22.5 months.
Processing Times for I-129 and I-539 Forms
In the forms used for nonimmigrants, one bright spot is the average processing time for form I-129. Average processing times were reduced from 5.5 months in FY16, to an average processing time of 3.3 months for the first half of FY18. Other form types did not fare so well, however. For example, processing time for an application to extend / change nonimmigrant status (form I-539) increased by one month from FY16 to an average processing time of 4.5 months in FY18.
Processing Times for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)
The USCIS table breaks down the average processing time of an application for employment authorization (form I-765) into two categories – those filed for beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and those filed for all other categories. Processing times for DACA applicants have actually improved to an average processing time of 2.4 months in FY18. For everyone else, however, processing times have increased from 2.6 months in FY16 to 4.1 months in FY18.
Increase in Processing Time for Naturalization Applications
Over the past 18 months, average processing times for an application for naturalization (form N-400) have increased dramatically. In FY16, these cases were adjudicated, on average, in 5.6 months. For FY18, that number has jumped to 10.2 months per year.
This table released by the USCIS does not delve into reasons for the general increase in processing times. It is hard not to suspect, however, that this is related to the USCIS diverting attention and resources away from serving its stakeholders and toward erecting added barriers to the immigration process.
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