What Is the Problem? What Caused the Backlog? What Can Be Done to Solve the Problem?
According to reports published by the U.S. Department of State in October, 2023, there are currently nearly 300,000 eligible applicants for immigrant visas who are still waiting to have an interview scheduled. That’s almost four times as many who were pending an interview in 2019 (approximately 60,000). Officials say that the court backlog, which was just under 1.5 million cases in 2021, is now more than 1.9 million cases, and that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) currently has approximately 8.5 million visa applications pending, with significantly more than half (about 5 million) delayed beyond the average processing time.
What Caused the Immigration Backlog?
Though not the only cause of the backlog, the COVID-19 pandemic played an important role in driving up the numbers of immigration applications still pending. In response to the pandemic, USCIS shut down all operations for approximately three months and instituted a hiring freeze. Critics say that USCIS has been slow to move from manual to digital processing of applications, which only made matters worse when applications piled up during COVID. Furthermore, during the Trump administration, a number of new steps were added to the immigration process, all of which required more resources and led to longer delays. Simultaneously, the number of people seeking entry into the U.S. from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua sky-rocketed over the last four years as those countries (and Mexico) refused to accept deportees sent from the United States.
What Can Be Done to Solve the Immigration Backlog?
A number of proposals have been suggested to help alleviate the immigration backlog:
- Allow USCIS to issue more visas annually—Under current restrictions, the Department of State allows only 140,000 employment-based visas per year. The annual green card lottery is capped at 50,000. There does not, however, appear to be support in Congress for this proposal, which was introduced twice in 2021 and defeated both times.
- Remove the country cap for employment-based visas—Under current regulations, the number of visas issued to individuals from one country cannot exceed 7% of the total number of employment-based visas issued. Countries such as China, India and Vietnam could easily exceed this annual cap, if allowed. Again, support in Congress is lukewarm.
- Visa recapture—With the current backlog, it’s not uncommon for allocated visas not to be issued in a given year. At the present time, those unissued visas are typically “rolled over” into different visa categories. Visa recapture would have those visas added to the number allowed for the next year, so they wouldn’t get lost.
Contact the Proven Immigration Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we have extensive knowledge of the American immigration laws and have worked with thousands of people seeking lawful permanent residency or citizenship status in the United States. We will aggressively advocate for you in any immigration matter, from applications for a visa to the defense of deportation or removal proceedings. We offer a free initial consultation to every client. To schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable and thorough immigration lawyer, contact us by e-mail or 844-402-2992 call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.