The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released information about its processing times for the forms used to apply for permanent residency through employment and forms related to nonimmigrant visas. The processing times are an average of the processing times from USCIS offices throughout the nation. Therefore, some offices may have a longer lag than the national average. If you are concerned about nonimmigrant status, you may want to consult a Virginia immigration attorney about ways you might speed up the application process.

How Severe is the Increase in Processing Times?

The processing times for some immigration forms may be less than the previous fiscal year. However, many forms related to nonimmigrant status have increased processing times. For example, the processing time for a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (I-129) increased from 3.4 months to 5.4 months. If a premium fee is paid when filing the petition, the processing time can fall to less than a month.

The processing time for an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status – Employment Based (I-485) is now at 12.2 months. An Application for Employment Authorization (I-765) can take 4.6 months to process. The USCIS provides a detailed chart of historic processing times for many forms on its website.

Employees and employers may want to take notice of the delays in processing applications regarding nonimmigrant status. If an employee is facing a deadline, steps may need to be taken as soon as possible to prepare an application for filing. A careful review of the application and any supporting documentation by a Virginia immigration attorney may help avoid errors or mistakes that could extend the processing time beyond the average processing times reported by the USCIS.

Do We Know the Reasons for the Lag in Processing Time?

Delays in processing time and increases in processing times with the USCIS are common. A review of the chart reveals that the processing time for most nonimmigrant applications and forms has increased significantly during the past four years.

However, some of the current policy changes regarding visa applications and employment-based green card applications may have contributed to the increase in processing times for many of the USCIS forms and applications.

For example, the USCIS revised its policy related to processing applications for extensions of nonimmigrant status. According to a policy memorandum released by the USCIS on October 23, 2017, the agency no longer defers to previous decisions regarding visa eligibility when processing an application for extension. Because immigration officers cannot rely on prior decisions, it can take longer for them to review these applications. For employers and employees, this means they must prepare and file applications for extensions as if they are filing a new application. The petitioner must provide sufficient proof that the employee meets all current requirements for visa status.

Another policy change that could have contributed to the increase in processing times is the requirement for in-person interviews. The USCIS expanded the in-person interview requirements effective October 1, 2017, to comply with the requirements of President Trump’s Executive Order 13780 which increased the baseline for screening and vetting foreign nationals. Processing times have increased as applicants wait for their in-person interviews.

As the USCIS continues to change procedures to comply with policy changes, processing times may continue to increase to reflect the additional vetting procedures.

Contact a Virginia Immigration Attorney for Help

Dealing with the USCIS can be frustrating. The process for obtaining nonimmigrant status and other relevant matters can be complicated. A small error could result in an application being denied or delayed.

If you have questions about permanent residency or nonimmigrant visas, schedule a consult with a Virginia immigration attorney to get answers to those questions and provide legal counsel and guidance as you deal with the USCIS.

Posted in: Immigration