Citizenship Backlogs at USCIS

Many of you may be wondering why it is taking so long to get your Citizenship approved.  Many people who filed a year ago, or more, were not naturalized prior to this year’s election, so were unable to vote.  What happened?  If you thought it was due to the Covid pandemic, you are only partially correct.

In 2016, when the current President came into office, a typical naturalization case took only about 5 months from the time it was filed to the time the person became a US Citizen.  That swelled to nine months or, in some areas, a year or more by 2019 (prior to the pandemic).  Not only did the timelines increase, but there was a backlog of approximately 300,000 cases prior to the pandemic.  While USCIS was able to reschedule most of the 100,000 or so cases that were unable to be interviewed due to the pandemic, that did little to alleviate the backlog of cases that were there previously or the new cases filed since the pandemic started.  That case backlog has steadily grown and continues to grow.

One of the main reasons for the increase in the backlog is the requirement that all cases be interviewed.  While naturalization cases always required an interview, the fact that a large number of new case types (I-485 cases based upon I-140s, etc.) now required an interview without any corresponding increase in officers conducting such interviews created an instant logjam.  In addition, USCIS is fully funded by user fees (the fees that immigrants pay for their applications) so there was also no corresponding increase in funding to help hire new officers to conduct more interviews.

While we are hopeful that the new, incoming President will eventually rescind this new interview requirement, there is no guarantee that this will happen, or that it will happen quickly.  Only time will tell.  However unless it is changed the backlog in Citizenship cases will, most likely, just continue to grow.

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. 

Author: Adam Frank, Esquire

I am an immigration attorney with over 20 years of experience. I was graduated from Brandeis University undergrad in 1990 and then spent a year traveling around Central America. In 1991 I began attending the University of Baltimore School of Law and was graduated in 1994. I began working in Immigration Law in 1998 when I joined a small law firm and, in 2000 opened my own firm with my law partner Ed Leavy. Sadly, Ed passed away in 2011. I am still a partner in my own firm with my current partner Brendan Delaney. Our firm is Frank & Delaney Immigration Law, LLC.