Biden Administration Set to Speed Up Immigration Processing – On Tuesday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new measures designed to address a backlog of millions of immigration applications that have bogged down the State Department for years.
Speaking to CBS News, a senior official from USCIS said that the agency initially saw a drop in applications during the COVID-19 pandemic amid a shutdown of most international travel. A suspension of in-person interviews at U.S. consulates all over the world, however, exacerbated the problem and meant that the backlog couldn’t be addressed during that time.
As of February this year, USCIS had 9.5 million pending immigration applications.
USCIS Director Ur Jaddou said on Tuesday that the agency continues to be committed to providing “timely and fair decisions” to everyone who applies.
“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,” Jaddou said.
What are the Three New Measures?
Here are the three new measures announced on Tuesday.
Expanding Premium Processing
USCIS, which is funded largely by the fees paid by applicants, will also expand the “Premium Processing” option. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed a new rule on Tuesday that “aligns premium processing regulations with the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act.”
In simple terms, it means that more people applying filing different kinds of immigration applications will be able to pay for their cases to be processed more quickly. At the same time, USCIS says that an expansion of premium processing will not cause an increase in processing times for normal immigration applications, as per a congressional requirement.
Reducing Processing Backlogs
Processing backlogs will also be handled through new internal cycle time goals implemented in March. The agency already publishes average processing times that show how long it took for different immigration application forms to be processed over the last year. Under the new cycle time goals, applications that may have taken months previously could take as little as two weeks under the new premium application process.
USCIS will increase capacity, improve technology, and hire new staff to achieve its new processing time goals by the end of financial year 2023.
Improving Access to Employment Authorization Documents
The announcement explained how USCIS is making progress in implementing a temporary final rule that streamlines the Employment Authorization and Document process. Under the new rule, expedited work authorization renewals for healthcare and childcare workers will be allowed. The system will also ensure that foreign workers in the United States do not lose work authorization status as their renewal applications are still pending.
New Biden Budget Proposal Designed to Help Streamline Immigration On Southern Border
As well as expedited immigration applications, the Biden White House’s annual budget proposal will reportedly substantially increase funds available to the Department of Homeland Security while removing funding for enforcement policies put in place by former President Donald Trump./
In the latest budget proposal, President Joe Biden has requested $56.7 in discretionary funding for the department in 2023 – a 5.4% increase over the department’s 2021 spending. While funding for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will technically increase – from $14.7 billion to $15.3 billion and $8 billion to $8.1 billion respectively – the budget specifically requests that most of the funding be used to improve ports of entry.
“Notably, the Budget makes smart investments in technology to keep our borders secure and includes funding that will allow us to process asylum claims more efficiently as we build a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced on Tuesday.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.