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Visa Renewal Backlogs Continue; USCIS Announces New Strategies to Combat Overall Backlogs


Thousands of working professionals from other countries have legal authorization to live and work in the United States. These individuals work in different disciplines, from doctors to engineers to researchers. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these individuals are essentially “stuck” in the United States; they are free to leave the country, but they cannot legally reenter because their work visas have expired.

Many consulates and embassies closed during the pandemic, leaving a huge backlog of cases. For instance, an appointment at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi has a wait of approximately eight months, and an appointment in Istanbul can take two years. The only way these individuals can renew their visas is to get one of these coveted in-person appointments in their home countries. With no ability or guarantee of getting the necessary appointment, many workers have no choice but to remain where they are. This situation has left many workers unable to see their family members or relatives for the last two years.

Another potential problem with leaving the country on an expired work visa, even if an individual has an appointment, is the possibility of the appointment being canceled. The appointments still change constantly along with surges in COVID-19 in different countries; if the embassy or consulate cancels an appointment at the last minute when the individual already has left the U.S., they will have to remain in their home countries until another appointment opens. At this point, they might have to wait months, or even years, which undoubtedly will cause them to lose their jobs and homes in the U.S.

USCIS Announces New Actions to Reduce Backlogs

USCIS recently announced a series of new strategies designed to reduce backlogs in the overall legal immigration system. More specifically, USCIS intends:

  • Set new agency-wide backlog-reduction goals,
  • Expand premium processing to additional form types, and
  • Provide timely access to employment authorization documents

USCIS will establish new internal cycle time goals to guide the backlog reduction efforts of the USCIS workforce and improve the length of time that it takes for the agency to process cases. As cycle times improve, processing times also should improve.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a final rule that codifies certain aspects of premium processing regulations. The final rule expands premium processing to additional categories of forms that were not previously eligible for this service, including:

  • Form I-539-Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
  • Form I-765-Application for Employment Authorization
  • Additional classifications under Form I-140, beginning with individuals seeking EB-1 and EB-2 immigrant classifications

USICS intends to phase in premium processing of these forms in the fiscal year 2022, so long as it does not cause an increase in processing times for regular immigration benefits.

Finally, USCIS continues to work toward a temporary rule entitled “Temporary Increase of the Automatic Extension Period of the Employment Authorization and Documentation for Certain Renewal Applicants.” This rule aims to ensure that certain individuals do not lose their work authorization while their applications are pending.

We Are Here to Help You with All Your Immigration Law Needs

The attorneys and staff of Bashyam Global focus on providing legal assistance to individuals and businesses with immigration matters. As immigration law’s landscape continues to evolve rapidly, we pride ourselves on keeping up to date with regulation and policy changes as they occur. Together, we can work toward getting the legal relief that you are seeking. Contact our offices today at (919) 833-0840 and schedule an appointment to speak with us about your case.