The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently posted data which shows crisis-level delays in the agency’s processing of applications and petitions for immigration benefits. These delays have caused significant harm to vulnerable populations across the country.
In 2003, the USCIS created by Congress with the goal of efficiently processing immigration-related applications and petitions. The agency enables individuals to obtain work authorization, citizenship, humanitarian protection and other crucial benefits. However, the recent data released by the agency shows the goal of the agency is far from being met.
Distressingly, the USCIS processed 94 percent of its form types more slowly in fiscal year 2018 than in fiscal year 2014. These form types include green cards for family members, visas for human trafficking victims, and petitions for immigrant workers. The data also revealed that the times for processing of these applications was significantly slower than in past years. In total, the average case processing time increased by approximately 46 percent over the past two fiscal years. The slow down cannot be blamed on an increase in applications, as the data also revealed that case receipt volume markedly decreased over this time.
Because of the slowdown, the USCIS estimated their “net backlog” to be approximately 2.3 million delayed cases at the end of 2017. These delays greatly affect immigrant families. For instance, these delays frequently jeopardize the ability of individuals to work. At the end of 2018, the USCIS took an average of 4.1 months to process an individual’s Application for Work Authorization form.
Unfortunately, the delays also have an effect on humanitarian-based benefits. Domestic abuse survivors and abandoned children are now waiting an average of 13.5 months for the processing of legal immigration status in the U.S. That is up from approximately 4.8 months just two years ago.
In reviewing these statistics, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) issued recommendations for the USCIS’ handling of the applications and petitions in order to meet their goal of efficiency. The recommendations included the recession of “invisible wall” policies, strengthening Congressional oversight, and heightened USCIS transparency. The AILA and individuals everywhere are hoping that 2019 is the year that the USCIS makes strides towards their function of efficiently processing immigration-related applications and petitions.
While awaiting the uncertainty of the USCIS changes, the best way to expedite your immigration matter is to contact an experienced immigration attorney. In many scenarios, the experienced attorney will file a writ of mandamus in an attempt to speed up the process.
A writ of mandamus is an order from a court to a government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties, or correct an abuse of discretion. Although it is an extreme measure, filing a writ of mandamus is very effective when all else has failed.
By filing a writ of mandamus, the attorney will be asking the court to compel the government official, in this case, USCIS, to fulfill their duty of processing immigration applications. Once the mandamus is filed, the Assistant U.S. Attorney which will be representing USCIS will be required to answer the writ within 60 days. In almost all scenarios, the AUSA will request – and likely be granted – an additional 60 days to answer. However, in nearly all of these cases, a decision on the immigration application is made during that time. While the decision isn’t guaranteed to be in the client’s favor, the decision will be made in a vastly expedited manner.
If you are intending to file an application or petition with the USCIS, the first step should be to contact an attorney with experience in immigration matters. First, an experienced immigration attorney can help minimize errors that may further delay your application or petition. Second, the experienced attorney may file a writ of mandamus to expedite the process. The lawyers at Bretz & Coven, LLP are experienced in representing clients in visa, benefit, and petition matters including using writs of mandamus to expedite the process. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call our New York and New Jersey immigration lawyers at (212) 267-2555.