USCIS applications and benefits processing delays may cause multiple problems for immigrants and their employers. Families may face long periods of separation and financial hardships while employers may have to wait for long periods of time to fill their vacancies. The USCIS has been known to greatly underestimate the time it will take to process applications. Because of the backlog of immigration applications, the USCIS started a pilot program to provide better estimates of how long the process might take for different types of visas.
Visa Processing Time Problems
The USCIS has been criticized for issuing processing time estimates for different types of visas that are grossly inaccurate in the past. The actual processing times that can occur may be much longer than the estimated times. Having accurate estimates of the time that it will take to process visa applications is important. Employers need this information so that they can have realistic expectations of how long the applications for their foreign national employees might take. Families and immigrants also rely on this information so that they know when to plan travel to the U.S. Inaccurate processing time estimates can make it extremely hard to know when to plan international travel or for employers to understand when their employees might be eligible to work. Because of these problems, the USCIS initiated a pilot program in March 2018 to change the way that the processing times are estimated for four of the most popular visa types.
The pilot program is using an automated processing approach to four types of immigration petitions, including the following:
- Applications for naturalization
- Applications for the replacement of permanent resident cards
- Applications to adjust status or to register permanent residence
- Petitions to remove conditions on residence
The USCIS now gives time-range estimates for each of these application types. The ranges are based on the length of time it took to complete the processing of similar applications in the previous month. The low end of the range is the time it took to complete half of the cases, and the upper end of the range is the time it took to complete 93 percent of the cases.
While these estimates are better, problems still remain. Other types of immigration petitions are not included in the program, and the processing times for those are not transparent.