Government Accountability Office to Investigate USCIS Processing Delays

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) processing delays have been steadily increasing for many years, but the backlog has reached new highs under the Trump Administration.

Earlier this year, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) issued a report on the USCIS long-delayed processing times. The report prompted 86 members of Congress to sign a letter to then USCIS Director Cissna expressing concerns over the delays, and inquiring about delay increases during the Trump Administration and efforts to reduce and eliminate the delays going forward.

Now, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has responded and says it will begin a study in about five months.

While USCIS has not taken direct responsibility for the backlog, it has acknowledged that some expanded measures have contributed to the delays. In April 2018, USCIS acknowledged the “increasing complexity and length of forms” and “increased security checks” amounting to the “increasing complexity of work” which “correlates to the decrease in completions per hour.” In April 2019, USCIS stated that the expanded in-person interview requirements “are reducing the completions per hour because of the additional time required for interviews, which is contributing to increased cycle times and the backlog.”

In FY 2018, the backlog of delayed applications and petitions totaled 5,691,839 cases. This is a 29 percent increase since FY 2016 despite an approximately 13% decrease in applications and an increased budget. The average processing time for all application types is up 46 percent since FY 2016.