Recently the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association asked USCIS about the lengthy adjudication times. Particularly they also asked about the fact that USCIS will list the processing times “as of” a particular date, which is usually 30 or more days previous to the update, making the processing timelines out of date as soon as they are published.
USCIS’ response, while not very helpful, does clarify a couple of points. First, here is their response verbatim:
RESPONSE: When a service center is meeting USCIS’s processing time goals for a particular product line, the processing time report will list the number of months or weeks it is taking to adjudicate cases in that product line. When a product line is backlogged beyond the processing time goals, the processing time report will list a date specific. Generally, this date represents the filing date of applications that are being adjudicated at the time the processing time report is produced. It is calculated using an algorithm that takes into account the current workload, though USCIS will sometimes substitute a different date if it appears the calculation doesn’t represent the processing times accurately. While some cases that were filed before the date listed on the processing time report may still be pending, these older cases are generally far outnumbered by those that were filed on or after the date listed.
USCIS has seen an increase in both the volume and complexity of cases, and is working to identify and address longer processing times. USCIS anticipates hiring new adjudicators across all service centers, though it will take time to train new employees. USCIS has a capacity planning working group that meets weekly. Overtime and workload transfers are expected to continue.
So what does the above mean? First and foremost, it means that the backlogs will not disappear any time soon. If USICS is just now starting the hiring process there will not be much relief within the next 6 months most likely. Hopefully after that things will start to get better.
Second, as the “as of” date has been 30-60 days behind the actual date of the updates (if not more), it appears that there is some systemic issue that is preventing USCIS from giving accurate timelines. It could be, as they say, that case are more complex and there is a higher volume, although I cannot believe that this is the only reason. I think there are systemic issues with officers, lack of oversight, and perhaps other issues that are causing this to happen. Realistically, if USCIS had just been getting more cases, the hiring of more officers would have occurred quite a while ago, not now. In terms of more”complex” cases, I think this is just a red herring. The cases that are being filed today are the same type of cases that are always filed. While there may be some new issues, specifically with the OPT STEM extension new rules, everything else is unchanged.
Time will tell if I am correct, or if it is just a matter of throwing more officers at the issue. We will certainly update you if there is any appreciable change in timelines.
If you have any questions leave a comment below or send me an email. Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.