USCIS Releases Fourth-Quarter Data Showing Persistent Backlogs, Some Progress
This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Loan Huynh, Fredrikson Immigration Department Chair, is a member.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released fourth-quarter fiscal year (FY) 2021 reports offering a snapshot of statistics for the entire fiscal year. The agency noted:
- Employment-based adjustments: USCIS said it faced an unprecedented challenge of processing more than 237,000 employment-based permanent residence (green card) applications—which 122,000 immigrant visa numbers that the Department of State was unable to process in FY 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. By the end of FY 2021, USCIS had approved more than 172,000 employment-based adjustment of status applications, which the agency said was 50 percent above the typical baseline.
- Processing delays: Across the agency, the volume of pending cases increased as well as associated processing times. To address the backlogs, USCIS said it reused biometrics for 2.5 million applicants since March 2020; reduced the number of pending biometrics appointments from 1.4 million in January 2021 to 155,000 as of the end of September; and fully eliminated the “front-log” of cases awaiting intake processing (which was more than 1 million receipts in January 2021 and was eliminated in July) by expanding staffing and overtime at USCIS Lockbox facilities.
The USCIS table below shows approved employment-based petitions awaiting visa availability by preference category and country of birth as of September 2021. The grand total was 438,377, with the most from India at 357,720.