Visa backlog dissected

Processing times for visas have generally increased. The increases began before the pandemic, for instance by 2019. Go here for the USCIS’s own website for estimating processing delays by type of visa and USCIS office. (Example, Green Card award (form 485) in Texas: 14 to 42 months.)

Trump threw sand into the visa processing machine. Here is an April 22, 2020 executive order suspending all visa awards.

April 12, 2021 CNN reports: in February 2017, just after Trump took office, there was a backlog of 2,312 family-preference visa applications, according to Rebecca Austin, assistant director of the National Visa Center at the State Department. Each of the next three years, that backlog more than doubled and doubled again, reaching 26,737 by Feb. 8, 2020. Then, due to the pandemic closures, by February 8 of this year, the backlog leaped to nearly 285,000, she said in a declaration to a federal court in California.

May 24, 2021 Boundless reports: In recent years, overall application processing times have surged by 25%, despite a roughly 10% decrease in overall filings received by USCIS. “This incredible increase in processing times is directly tied to several policies implemented in the past four years by the agency itself,” wrote Boundless. To tackle the backlog, Boundless recommends that USCIS overturn inefficient policies and procedures, such as eliminating unnecessary interviews and rescind harmful regulations that serve only to penalize U.S. employers, non-citizens, asylum applicants, and unaccompanied minors.

October 15, 2021. Cato reports: The State Department remains a major barrier to reopening the United States to legal travel and immigration. As of mid‐October, 60 percent of consulates remained fully or partially closed to anything other than emergency nonimmigrant visa appointments, and 40 percent are completely closed to non‐emergency nonimmigrant visa appointments, according to the State Department’s website. Nonimmigrant visas are used by temporary foreign workers, students, business travelers, tourists, and others.

Worse still, the State Department has essentially stopped making any progress toward fully reopening nonimmigrant (i.e. temporary) visa processing with only 2 percent of consulates entering fully open status since August, and no decrease at all in the share (40 percent) that are fully closed to nonemergency nonimmigrant appointments. The fully open consulates (40 percent) are reporting wait times of, in many cases, six months or longer for some nonimmigrant visas.

December, 2021 State Dept suspends interview requirements for some visas.

January 1, 2022 Boundless reports that the USCIS had a net backlog of 2.5 million visa cases at the end of FY2019. Fiscal and staffing problems, pandemic-related office closures, and an inability to receive or process most application types electronically resulted 6.1 million pending cases by end of FY 2020. The backlog at grew to more than 8 million pending cases at the end of FY2021.


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