AILA published a summary of the changes to the public charge rules at the various agencies, as recently affected by the unblocking of the hold on implementation of Trump’s horrible new public charge rules.
Increased Processing Times of Immigration Applications Under the Trump Administration
Why is my immigration application taking so long?
Under the Trump administration, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has significantly lengthened the processing time of immigrant applications, creating a backlog of millions of applications. These delays impact the lives of countless people seeking family-based benefits, employment authorization or employment-based benefits, naturalization, or travel documents, as well as applicants’ families and employers.
According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s analysis of recent USCIS data, the average case processing time for all application types has risen by 46 percent since Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. In FY2018 alone, a shocking 94 percent of all immigration petitions and applications had longer process times in comparison to FY2014. Notably, processing times have increased even in years where the number of new applications has declined.
Although many factors may delay an immigration application, the Trump administration’s policies and protocols bear significant responsibility for the increased backlog. For example, one new policy requires all employment-based green card applicants and their family members to have in-person interviews, a policy that floods local offices with more time-consuming work. Another policy requires USCIS officials to conduct a duplicate review of past decisions, again increasing agency workload and, worse, grave inconsistencies in adjudication of cases.
What’s being done about the problem?
The AILA describes the application backlog as reaching “crisis levels.” Families are being kept apart and suffering financial distress, people seeking refuge from danger are left exposed, and many U.S. businesses face uncertainty as foreign talent remains in immigration limbo for a year or longer.
Some immigration attorneys and their clients are turning to the courts for help in resolving this backlog. Congress created the USCIS to help efficiently process immigration-related applications and petitions, and the current slow processing times are making a mockery of its mission. Some attorneys are filing complaints against the agency to demand answers for their clients and force the USCIS to act per their mandate.
What can I do to expedite the process?
If you or a loved one have filed an immigration-related petition or application with the USCIS, and believe you have waited an unreasonable amount of time for a response, I recommend contacting me or another experienced immigration lawyer. I can help you through this process as quickly and efficiently as possible, or determine another course of action for getting the answer you need and deserve. I’ve worked with clients around the world to help make the immigration process smoother and less confusing, and I’d like to help you, too.
There is no better time to become a US citizen as we approach a critical presidential election in November 2020. In the Boston area, USCIS processes N-400 Applications for Naturalization (citizenship) in about five months. This means that if you apply soon (ex., January or February 2020), there is a great chance that you will be able to VOTE in the November 2020 election.
You can hire an attorney to represent you on your citizenship application. My firm represents clients with citizenship applications processing at USCIS offices around the United States.
There are many organizations and local government offices that provide free or reduced cost legal fees for representation or assistance with N-400 applications. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) recently published a list of organizations nationwide that will provide free or reduced cost legal services in celebration of Citizenship Day. You can find the information here: https://www.aila.org/practice/pro-bono/find-your-opportunity/citizenship-day/become-a-citizen-find-assistance-in-your-community?utm_source=Recent%20Postings%20Alert&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=RP%20Daily .
If you have questions about your eligibility for US citizenship, you can schedule a consultation with my firm. If you have any immigration court, criminal court, tax problems (late payments; no payments; no filings), or other legal problems, you should consult with an attorney before you decide to file Form N-400 Application for Naturalization.
Decreased Communication and Negotiation with the Government Under the Trump Administration
To those paying attention, it is clear that the Trump administration is working hard to decrease legal immigration to the United States. The applicant backlog at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently stands at around 2.4 million–a figure higher than it has been since 2013.
While an increase in applications has contributed to this bottleneck, immigration experts note that the Trump administration’s new policies have greatly exacerbated the problem. For example, thanks to a 2017 policy change, every applicant for a green card through an employer must now submit to an in-person interview. Another policy change now requires USCIS to re-adjudicate every application for an extension of status. Analysts also note that Requests for Evidence have also substantially increased.
The delays are further hampered by the government’s new policies that shuttered lines of communication between the applicant’s attorney and USCIS. Previously, USCIS offices were willing to communicate quickly and efficiently with immigration attorneys through walk-in Infopass appointments and even through phone, email and fax to supervisors. Through emergency or informal lines of communication, the attorney helped facilitate faster decisions or learn about issues in a case that needed to be addressed before a decision could be made.
Earlier this year, USCIS greatly reduced the number of Infopass appointments available to applicants and their attorneys. Also, USCIS increased the times that an applicant must wait before contacting USCIS to check on a case. The USCIS hotline number regularly has long wait times–even hours–to speak with hotline attendants and often requires the applicant to wait 72-hours for a call-back for answers to the questions. USCIS has called my office at 8pm–luckily I was able to take the call. If the applicant or attorney misses a USCIS call-back, the process–and waits–start again.
If you or a loved one has filed an immigration-related petition or application with the USCIS, and if you believe you have waited an unreasonable amount of time for a response, I recommend contacting me or another experienced immigration lawyer. I can help you through this process as quickly and efficiently as possible, or determine another course of action for getting the answer you need and deserve. I’ve worked with clients around the world to help make the immigration process smoother and less confusing, and I’d like to help you, too.
Increase in Requests for Evidence Under the Trump Administration
You completed your application for an H-1B visa, marriage-based green card, or another immigration petition. Now you’ve received a “Request for Evidence” from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Your stomach might be sinking, but stay calm. The request doesn’t necessarily mean that the USCIS will deny your application–just that you’ll have to keep fighting for approval.
What are Requests for Evidence?
Requests for Evidence (RFE) are exactly what they sound like: a request for more information or documentation to support or your claim. You may have forgotten to include certain documents, or the government believes that you haven’t provided enough evidence to show you qualify for a green card. In the case of marriage-based green cards, the government may think that you haven’t given enough proof to show that the marriage is real.
Recent Increase in Request for Evidence
RFEs are becoming increasingly common under the Trump administration. With respect to H-1B visas, for example, USCIS data shows that 38 percent of all Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 applications had RFEs–a 77 percent increase over FY2017. In the first quarter of FY2019, that percentage jumped to 60 percent.
USCIS data also shows that denials have doubled between FY2017 and FY2018, from 7.4 percent to 15.4 percent. The first quarter of 2019 shows an astonishing denial rate of 24.6 percent. Denials have tripled since FY2015 when the rate was 4.3 percent. Without a doubt, these unprecedented increases in RFEs and denials are due to President Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order. Keep in mind, however, that despite these increased denials, the USCIS does approve the majority of applications.
What should I do if I receive Request for Evidence?
Given the USCIS’s extreme scrutiny of immigration applications, you should consult a qualified immigration lawyer as soon as possible after receiving an RFE. You only get one chance to respond to an RFE, and you don’t want to make even a small error. I can help you understand exactly what the government is demanding of you and help assemble all the necessary documentation. My work with clients around the world and in the US helps make complicated procedures and paperwork go as smoothly and efficiently as possible.