USCIS logo on building

USCIS publishes important updates regarding backlogs, premium processing and employment authorization documents

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced key policy updates this week aimed at reducing “burdens to the overall legal immigration system.”

The measures are intended to reduce processing backlogs, expand premium processing and improve access to employment authorization documents (EADs), the organization said in a statement released Tuesday.

“USCIS remains committed to delivering timely and fair decisions to all we serve,” USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou said in the statement. “Every application we adjudicate represents the hopes and dreams of immigrants and their families, as well as their critical immediate needs such as financial stability and humanitarian protection.”

The moves come just days after the Biden administration included more than $750 million in its proposed FY2023 budget specifically allocated for USCIS to decrease wait times and reduce soaring backlogs.

Premium processing

USCIS announced an expansion of premium processing to at least three new categories, following legislation on the matter passed by Congress in October 2020.

The new premium processing categories will open at least 60 days after the notice is officially published in the Federal Register and be implemented in a “phased approach,” according to the agency.

The new categories include:

  • Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status: $1,750 fee and a 30-day processing time window
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization: $1,500 fee and a 30-day processing time window
  • Form I-140, additional classifications: $2,500 fee and 45-day processing time window

USCIS said the phased approach will begin with expanded premium processing for applicants filing a Form I-140 under an EB-1 or EB-2 immigrant classification.

The organization has not released specific start dates for the expanded premium processing categories. Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm continues to monitor the situation closely and will alert clients when more information becomes available.

Time cycle goals and employment authorization documents

USCIS said in the statement it was implementing new “internal cycle time goals,” a metric the agency uses to determine how many cases are active and pending, as well as how long each application takes to process. The initiative is designed to reduce increasingly long wait times and backlogs, which stem from the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple other factors.

USCIS had more than 9.5 million pending cases as of February 2022, according to a report from CBS News.

“As cycle times improve, processing times will follow, and applicants and petitioners will receive decisions on their cases more quickly,” the statement from USCIS read. “USCIS will increase capacity, improve technology, and expand staffing to achieve these new goals by the end of FY 2023.”

Additionally, USCIS provided updates on its effort to “improve access to employment authorization documents.”

The organization said it was “making progress” on a temporary final rule that would increase the automatic extension period for certain EADs and renewal applications.

“In recent months, USCIS has begun streamlining many EAD processes, including extending validity periods for certain EADs and providing expedited work authorization renewals for healthcare and childcare workers,” the statement from USCIS said. “The temporary final rule aims to build on this progress and to ensure certain individuals will not lose their work authorization status while their applications are pending.”

USCIS did not state when the final rule would be released or what specifics will be included upon publication. The attorneys at Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm will advise clients when and if new information is announced by USCIS.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm at 704-442-8000 or via email with any questions.

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