- USCIS Director acknowledges importance of reducing wait times
- Officials say digitizing all processes will make agency faster
Tackling protracted wait times for immigration benefits remains U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ top priority in the Biden administration’s second year, agency leaders said Wednesday.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ur Jaddou acknowledged mounting visa delays, which have caused individuals applying to receive and renew visas and work permits to wait months, some losing their jobs in the meantime.
“Let me be very clear. Our processing times are too long. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it,” said Jaddou, who was confirmed to her post in July.
She emphasized the issue “is critically important to me and my colleagues,” adding that everyone who applies for an immigration benefit with USCIS “is entitled to a timely decision, be it yes or no.”
The agency, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, has added new staff, reduced the level of documentation required of applicants, and waived some interview requirements, senior leadership said during a virtual public briefing.
USCIS is also developing a new proposed fee schedule that it will seek public input on. And it’s aiming to fully digitize its processes, a shift that leadership said will make the agency more nimble in managing applications.
Jaddou also pointed to ways in which the agency has made progress in the past year.
USCIS eliminated a so-called “front log” of unopened immigration applications that built up during the pandemic, Jaddou said. The agency also reduced the fingerprinting appointment line from more than 1.4 million in January 2021 to a more “manageable” 83,000.
Jaddou also pledged to increase staffing, including by hiring nearly 200 new employees in the agency’s asylum division to focus on reducing the backlog.