Update on COVID-Related Delays at USCIS31 Dec 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly exacerbated delays and backlogs at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These delays have been especially pronounced with regard to the scheduling of biometrics appointments at application support centers (ASCs) and in the issuance of receipt notices.
Update on Biometrics Appointments
The USCIS recently released a stakeholder message, providing an update on the scheduling of new biometrics appointments, and the rescheduling of those that were previously canceled. The USCIS estimates that some 280,000 appointments were canceled, primarily between March and June, due to the temporary closure of ASCs.
From July to September, ASCs were able to handle less than 50 percent of their normal, pre-COVID capacity. Since late-October, that number has risen to about 65 percent of normal levels. The USCIS is currently scheduling more than 10,000 biometrics appointments per day. While this may sound like a significant number, there still are more than one million foreign nationals waiting for their respective biometrics appointments to be scheduled.
Prioritizing ASC Appointments
In scheduling biometrics appointments, the USCIS is “prioritiz[ing] benefit types, considering adjudication capacity and processing times.” However, no further specifics were provided. Within each benefit type, the appointments typically are scheduled on a first-in, first-out basis.
While it is understandable that COVID-19 has created delays at the USCIS, it is unfortunate that the USCIS has not taken more aggressive action to deal with these tremendous backlogs. One simple solution would be to waive the biometrics requirements for many application types, such as H-4 and L-2 extensions.
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