USCIS Historical National Median Processing Times Highlight Historic Backlogs

It is well known that it is possible to check USICS case processing times online for each type of application; less known, however, is that it is also possible to check USCIS’s historic processing times. USCIS provides historical processing times for select forms from Fiscal Year 2012 to Fiscal Year 2022 on the Historic Processing Times webpage. The information on the page shows the median processing time by fiscal year (Oct. 1 – Sept. 30) for each type of USCIS application. The website’s information is updated on a quarterly basis, and the latest numbers show record-breaking backlogs. According to the USCIS Ombudsman, there were 8.5 million pending applications at USCIS as of April 2022, and over 5 million of those were pending beyond their deadlines. By comparison, the backlog was around 2.7 million in July 2019.

The Historic Processing Times webpage reveals unprecedented backlogs for some of the most common categories of USCIS applications:

  • An I-130 Petition for Alien Relative took 6.5 months to adjudicate in FY 2017, but 10 months in FY 2022.
  • The I-131 Application for Travel Document for an Advanced Parole Document, which an applicant can use to travel while their I-485 is pending, took 3 months to adjudicate in FY 2017 but is now taking 7.2 months in FY 2022.
  • An I-539 Application to Extend/Change a Nonimmigrant Status took 2.8 months in FY 2017 but is now taking 7.2 months in FY 2022.
  • An I-765 Application for Employment Authorization based on a pending Adjustment of Status took 3 months to process in FY 2017, but that same application is now taking 6.9 months in FY 2022.

Notably, the Historic Processing Times highlights that some of the longest backlogs affect applicants who may be in some of the most vulnerable positions:

  • Form I-730 Refugee/Asylee Petition for accompanying family members of a refugee or asylee took 7.9 months to adjudicate in FY 2017, but is now taking 27.4 months in FY 2022.
  • Applications for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers (Form I-601A) are usually necessary when qualifying relatives will face extreme hardship with the applicant’s deportation. While those applications took 4.6 months to adjudicate in FY 2017, they are now taking 30.7 months to adjudicate.
  • An I-918 Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status for foreign nationals who are victims of qualifying crimes now take almost 60 months to adjudicate, when they took less than a year in FY 2014!

How does USCIS calculate these historic processing times?

USCIS states that they use the median date of the first final adjudicate action (that is, approval or denial) to calculate processing times. The processing times include the time it takes to submit biometrics and for an applicant to respond to requests for additional evidence, as well as interview rescheduling. However, visa-regressed adjustment applications and premium processing are not included in the processing times shown on the website.

What is USCIS doing to address these backlogs?

USCIS has published Internal Cycle Time Goals in March 2022, which the agency plans to work toward. In May 2022, the agency also implemented an automatic 540-day renewal for any Employment Authorization Documents filed before they expire. Lastly, the agency is actively working to implement the option of online filings for many applications (currently 12), which should help streamline and expedite the application process for foreign nationals.

What can clients do if they are experiencing backlogs?

As addressed in our Summer newsletter, it may be possible to pursue a mandamus lawsuit in certain cases where the delay has become unreasonable. Even when USCIS claims that the case is within a normal processing time, historic data could potentially be used as an exhibit in the lawsuit demonstrating the egregiousness of the delays. It is important to first consult with an experienced immigration attorney when deciding to bring a mandamus claim in federal court.


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